"I just want to start by saying I'm awfully excited to be sitting in this chair," Garrett said.
No, Garrett wasn't being introduced as Phillips' replacement. He was merely explaining Thursday why he decided to pull out of consideration for coaching jobs with Baltimore and Atlanta to remain offensive coordinator in Dallas.
Still, the symbolism was hard to miss -- especially for a guy who has been viewed the coach-in-waiting since he rejoined the organization last year.
Garrett held a news conference to discuss his decision to stay, which included a promotion to assistant head coach and, presumably, a raise, perhaps approaching the $3 million per season made by Phillips. He insisted that he seriously considered the other jobs and didn't just see what was out there for the experience of going through the process.
Garrett gave thoughtful answers to all questions but one. Asked if he was promised he'd replace Phillips, Garrett said, "No," then turned his head to seek a question from the other side of the room.
League rules prevent team owner Jerry Jones from anointing Garrett as the heir to Phillips, but the way things have played out sure seems to indicate the likelihood.
After all, Jones hired Garrett before hiring Phillips last year. And when Garrett returned Wednesday night from visits with the Ravens and Falcons, he huddled with Jones to figure out his next move. Hours later, he opted to stay in Dallas, being part of a club that just went 13-3 and sent seven offensive players to the Pro Bowl.
"We're thrilled that Jason will be with the team in 2008 and moving forward," Jones said in a statement. "We believe that what we accomplished in 2007 is just the beginning of many productive years ahead. His vision and direction on the offensive side of the ball will only help us improve and get to where we want to be."
In Garrett's first year of building a game plan and calling plays, the Cowboys averaged the second-most points, third-most yards and fourth-most yards passing in the NFL. Tony Romo shattered team passing records, Terrell Owens set various receiving records and Jason Witten had one of the most prolific seasons by a tight end in league history. Running back Marion Barber even made the Pro Bowl despite being a backup.
"We made great strides this year," Garrett said. "We didn't achieve all of our goals, but we're heading in the right direction. When (wife) Brill and I looked at each other we said, 'Boy, we have a great chance here in Dallas."'
Phillips said the importance of having both coordinators back is something "I don't think you can emphasize enough."
"That familiarity allows us to build upon what we were able to teach last year and puts us so far ahead of where we were at this time a year ago," he said. "The players learned and accepted two new philosophies on both sides of the ball last year. We will now be able to build upon that."
Tony Sparano, who had been Dallas' assistant head coach and line coach, was hired as the Dolphins coach on Wednesday. He worked closely with Garrett last season, helping ease him into the coordinator's job. Replacing Sparano -- and, perhaps, other coaches who follow him to Miami -- is next on Jones' offseason to-do list.
Phillips said the hiring of a line coach would happen "real quickly." A front-runner is Hudson Houck, who had the job from 1993-2001. He became available when Parcells took over the Dolphins and swept out the assistants.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press