since the 1995 season.
"He's a guy who coached half the offense - five of the 11," Phillips rationalized, meaning his offensive line. "And he called the plays and they were winning games. And he had a good feel for the personnel."
There was more, and these are the types of things kept hidden because of Parcells' Cold Shoulder policy when it came to assistant coaches.
"I knew about him from the other people here I talked to," said Phillips, who really had no previous association with Sparano. "And once I talked to him . . . and the players knew it, too. Several players told me how much he helped them."
Thus Sparano, denied the chance to achieve his goal as NFL offensive coordinator when he was not allowed to talk with Cleveland or San Diego about their OC jobs, was retained as offensive line coach and assistant head coach with a contract bumped through the 2009 season. But as important to him, a voice in the offense.
That's OK with him, and that's definitely OK with Garrett.
So whose offense will it be? What type of offense will it be?
"I was talking to Jason today, and he said, 'We're just getting out of the huddle,'" Phillips said.
The offense is in the planning stage, but let's just say it will be a cross between what the Cowboys did last year, a play-action, run-oriented operation, and the style Garrett learned while working with Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese. So chances are, there won't be a tidy little name. Nothing like West Coast.
But remember, as Sparano points out, their no-name offense of last year wasn't exactly broken, so there is no need to start from scratch. Just use the best parts of that system, and "then add what Jason feels comfortable with," Sparano said. "We'll have some flexibility to get to some things."
Plus they will have many more experienced voices. Wade Wilson, newly-named quarterbacks coach, brings 19 years of playing experience and another six of NFL coaching experience into the equation. Then add running backs coach Skip Peete, a eight-year NFL coach, along with 19-year coaching veteran Ray Sherman, who once served as an offensive coordinator himself.
Best thing going? No one seems to feel threatened.
Garrett is ecstatic over the addition of Wilson.
"Wade is one of the smartest guys I ever met in football," said Garrett, who saw through Wilson's sort of East Texas, golly-gee personality that downplayed what he really knew. "When we were here together, I tried to ask him as many questions as I could without bothering him.
"I think the chemistry will be very good. There is nothing I believe in more in life than team."
Though a tad younger - Garrett is 40, five years younger than Sparano - you just get the feeling the two main offensive coaching cogs will see eye to eye, Garrett somewhat startled when even asked, saying, "He's a New Haven (Conn.) guy for cryin' out loud." Remember, Jason is a Princeton guy. They know the same pizza joints.
Now Garrett has a little saying, and you might better get used to it. Got a feeling you are going to here it a lot. It goes: "You got to stay in the today . . . squeeze the blood out of the rock." Pretty self-explanatory.
And you get the idea where he developed some of his football philosophy, because after all, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree, and what a tree he had . . . and still has.
"I always lean on my dad," Garrett said. "He was my first and best coach."
He talked about having thrown a couple of football scenarios at his dad a couple of months ago. Well, a couple of days later, here comes the FedEx package, an envelop holding sheets of yellow legal paper with the answers spelled out - according to Jim, of course.
"He doesn't have all the answers, but he loves the discussion," Garrett said.
And he loves to still teach, Jason saying his dad to this day holds some teaching sessions in the backyard back home for the high school kids in his Jersey neighborhood. Jason smiles proudly when he tells the story.