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The irony, of course, is that former Cowboys assistant Kris Richard was the first candidate to interview with the Giants following the firing of Pat Shurmur.
And Mike McCarthy was the fourth.
Joe Judge was the fifth.
The Giants let McCarthy out of the building and continued their search.
They ended their search when Judge blew their doors off.
And here we are, nearly a year later, the Giants and Cowboys both desperate to survive and advance … to 8:20 p.m. Sunday, when the Washington Football Team wins and ends their seasons, or loses to the Eagles and hands one of them the NFC Least title.
Sunday at 1: The rookie coach against the Super Bowl-winning coach.
The Super Bowl-winning coach who replaced Jason Garrett was expected to win the division.
The rookie head coach was expected to be better than Shurmur.
And while it is true that you are what your record says you are, no one around the Giants should believe that this game will be lost on the sidelines.
Judge showed against the Browns that he will play to win the game without fear of the consequences when he decided beforehand that he was not going to beat Cleveland kicking field goals … with Freddie Kitchens the play-caller because Garrett was in the COVID quarantine. Right philosophy, wrong execution.
He nearly beat the Cowboys in Week 5 kicking field goals, but neither Daniel Jones nor Big Blue had learned how to finish back then, and that game means nothing now.
“We’re a much improved team on all levels and all positions in how we’re operating as one unit, and that’s encouraging,” Judge said. “That being said, they’re a much better team too so we’ve gotta go out there and play our best game on Sunday.”
“We had a lot of growing pains, we’ve had a lot of peaks and valleys throughout the season,” McCarthy said. “I’ve always felt that those tough times will pay forward to successful times.”
If the Giants lose this game, it will not be because they have the rookie coach and Jerry Jones has the Super Bowl-winning coach.
If the Giants lose this game, it will not be because they were outcoached.
It will be because they were outplayed.
The Cowboys have won three in a row.
The Giants have lost three in a row.
McCarthy has a trusted offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, the more explosive receivers, Ezekiel Elliott and an experienced and trusted backup quarterback in Andy Dalton who is engineering an offense that has scored 108 points over the last three games with one turnover.
Judge has a trusted defensive coordinator in brainiac Patrick Graham and a defense that was at its best against Russell Wilson and must keep the game from getting out of hand with Logan Ryan as the master of disguise.
“We’re not playing Lamar Jackson triple-option football that we played last week with the scheme, so we might as well burn that tape, throw it out the window, it’s not gonna help us this week, and we gotta prepare to make it difficult on Andy Dalton to figure our defense out and make it tough on him,” Ryan said.
Moore won’t have left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zach Martin is unlikely to play.
Graham will have a defensive line that must win the trench warfare.
Judge has an offense that scares nobody except Giants fans.
McCarthy has a defense that for most of the season has scared no one except Cowboys fans, but during this late surge has 10 takeaways.
“They’re playing fast in the pass rush coming around the edge, they’re affecting the quarterback … they’re hustling to the ball, they’re attacking the ball … and then, on the back end, the DBs do a great job of reading the quarterback’s eyes,” Judge said. “Ball security’s definitely a priority for our team this week.”
This would be a good time for Judge’s offensive coordinator, Garrett, to be better than McCarthy’s embattled defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan.
Only the Lions (482) and Jaguars (464) have allowed more points than the Cowboys (460).
Only the Jets (229) have scored fewer points than the Giants (257).
Garrett shockingly opened up the playbook in his much-ballyhooed return to Jerry World and will again dismiss the revenge angle when he meets the media Thursday.
Garrett will be asked to design and coordinate the most quarterback-friendly game plan of the season for Daniel Jones. Who sounds as if he still feels hamstrung from reaching back into his arsenal for his dangerous RPOs and zone reads.
Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey will be on high alert against Cowboys special teams coach John “Bones” Fassel.
“The bigger the game, the more gadgets you see, and that ties in with McCarthy’s own personal history as well,” Judge said.
Judge hasn’t been perfect, of course. But he never flinched in the face of the pandemic. He has built a buy-in culture. Giants fans have every reason to believe that he will put his players in positions to succeed.
The Super Bowl-winning coach struggled early on with his new team. He lost Dak Prescott and against the Giants. He smashed a few watermelons and steadied the ship. It is a 6-9 ship. The rookie coach lost Saquon Barkley in Week 2. The rookie coach’s ship is 5-10. A fourth straight loss would leave Giants fans with a sinking feeling. But given the expectations, the rookie coach has done more with his new team than the Super Bowl coach has done with his. No fear on Judgment Day.
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