Sunday is going to be weird.
Jason Garrett, the longtime head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and current offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, is set to make his return to AT&T Stadium. Garrett’s Giants are 0-4, coaching the league’s worst offense through the first quarter of the season.
Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys haven’t been doing much better, though, and the first four weeks of 2020 have some Cowboys fans wondering if the grass really is greener on the other side of Garrett. (It will be, by the way).
In many ways this is a must have game for both teams.
The Giants desperately need a win to calm the wolves that are the New York fans, and what better way to get off the schneid than with a road win over the hated Cowboys? Dallas themselves are still dreaming of a playoff birth despite their 1-3 start, and could really use a divisional win to keep pace with the suddenly first place Eagles.
But even as both team’s stumble their way into this game it’s impossible not to focus on what may be the biggest matchup: Jason Garrett vs. Mike Nolan.
Neither coach has been successful at all this season.
Garrett’s offense ranks dead last in DVOA through four games, and is averaging just over 11 points per game. In a year which has seen offensive explosion everywhere, the Giants have scored just three offensive touchdowns. They’ve been pathetic offensively, and Garrett’s conservative nature plays a big part in that.
Mike Nolan’s newly implemented defense has fallen flat as well. The Cowboys are 24th in defensive DVOA, and have allowed a whopping 36 points per game. Blown coverages, missed assignments, and (at times) questionable effort have defined their 2020 season. While their offense consistently scores the football, this defense has gotten absolutely run over the last three weeks.
Each side must be looking at the other as a chance to get right, but Jason Garrett comes with even extra motivation. Garrett was constantly blamed for slow starts, poor game management, and head-scratching offensive play calling. The offense has soared without Garrett to be sure, but those slow starts and questionable in-game decisions have not disappeared.
Garrett would love to walk out of Dallas with a winning strut, and if the Cowboys want any hope of becoming a playoff contender this season, they need to shut him and this weak offense down from the start.