Rejoice college football fans. The season starts this weekend with Navy vs. No.13 Notre Dame kicking off Saturday in Ireland at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Former NFL coach Jason Garrett will be part of a revamped broadcasting team for the Fighting Irish along with play-by-play voice Jac Collinsworth.
Awful Announcing recently caught up with Garrett to discuss his new gig and expectations for Notre Dame.
Awful Announcing: Why should fans tune in on Saturday?
Jason Garrett: “Notre Dame has had this rivalry with Navy for a long time. It has been lopsided. Notre Dame has dominated for years but look back to last year. Notre Dame was dominant in the first half, then Navy flipped it around in the second half. I do think the fact that this game in Dublin makes it even more interesting.
“From a football standpoint, it’s interesting to me to see Navy and the triple option and the challenges it presents. And how an offense like that can level the playing field a little bit. I think Notre Dame felt that last year.”
What will be different for Notre Dame in Year 2 of Marcus Freeman?
“It’s going to be fun to see what will be different. I think they grew a lot over the course of last year. You lose at Ohio State in Week One. There’s no shame in that. But then you come back and lose to Marshall (at home), and it’s rocky at the beginning. It takes them them little bit to get going. But anybody who followed that team closely saw them progress. I think that improvement doesn’t (always) happen necessarily in Year 2. But you’d like to think they’ve been intentional in some of the moves they’ve made. Some of the decisions they’ve made about the coaching staff, and also bringing players in.”
How much of an impact will Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman make?
“I don’t want to compare players, but the Notre Dame quarterback situation last year was a number of guys who hadn’t played a lot of football. There was an injury to Tyler Buchner early, and Drew Pyne steps in. To me, Drew Pyne played well. You saw him get better. He had a lot of big performances under (former offensive coordinator) Tommy Rees.
“Nothing disparaging about last year, but all you need to do is look at what Sam Hartman has done at Wake Forest. He started a lot of games. He has thrown a lot of touchdown passes. He has had a lot of success. We visited with him. He’s 24 years old. He’s a mature guy. He’s a natural leader. I think it’s exciting to have a guy like that. I think the team has a lot of confidence in him.”
How will you be a better broadcaster this year?
“I think like anything else you learn as you go. One of the best things about NBC has been how they coach you, and how they teach you. I said this to some of the people I was working with: ‘The only thing I’m going to be mad about is if you guys don’t tell me if I’m screwing up. Just tell me. I’ll try my best to get it right the next time. Don’t wait two months.’ To me, they’ve done an amazing job of that. It’s a very supportive environment. They’re very positive. But they’re also instructive. We’ll go back after the game and watch it and talk about the things I said or didn’t say. How I said it. Hopefully, over time, you get better week after week.”
How close were you to taking the Stanford job?
“That was a great experience. I had a couple of really good conversations. I went out there and spent some time with them. I was honored to be a part of that process. But when we dug into it, it wasn’t the right decision for me right now.”
It sounds like you don’t think you’re done with coaching. Is that correct?
“I’m really just focused on what I’m doing right now. I’m about to jump on a plane to go to Dublin to call the Notre Dame-Navy game. I’m excited about that. I love football. I love coaching. I love coaches. I love players. I love building teams. But this is what I’m doing now. I really enjoy it, and NBC has given me amazing opportunities.”
Have you been to Ireland before?
“I’ve been there one other time. When I was coaching for Nick Saban at the Miami Dolphins a bunch of guys on the staff went over there with Nick and Wayne Huizenga for a 3-day golf trip at the end of our off-season program. It was one of the most amazing 72 hours that I have spent. We played at three incredible golf courses and had great dinners and evenings at the Irish pubs. This will be a different trip than that. I have some Irish blood in me. I’m excited to go to Dublin. I’ve never been there. It’s going to be a fun week.”