NFC East: Jason Garrett
IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips has the second-best winning percentage of any coach in Dallas Cowboys' history. Better than Tom Landry's. I think Phillips might know that.
On Thursday, Phillips tweeted this:
And later followed up with this addendum:
My surprise was that Jason and I had coached the same number of games. Not the record - time passes quickly -I wish Jason & Cowboys well— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) March 7, 2014
Like most things with Phillips, he lacked context.
When Phillips took over in 2007 as head coach, he inherited a team from Bill Parcells that was ready to win. QB Tony Romo was going into his first year as a full-time starter. The defense had DE DeMarcus Ware at his best. WR Terrell Owens was putting up big numbers.
The Cowboys went 13-3 and had the best record in the NFC. Phillips was the perfect antidote to Parcells and the players responded. Well, they did to a point. The Cowboys were not the same after beating the Green Bay Packers to move to 11-1 and effectively clinch home-field advantage.
They got lucky to beat the Detroit Lions the following week. They lost two of their last three games, but they were in shutdown mode against the Washington Redskins with nothing to gain from a win.
Other than momentum they had lost.
The Cowboys lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round at Texas Stadium, and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
That's basically when the Romo narrative started. Maybe you heard that Romo went to Cabo during the wild-card weekend. Did it affect the outcome of the Giants' game? Of course not, but the perception machine was rolling, and has been rolling ever since.
In 2008, the Cowboys acted as if they were predestined to not only make the playoffs but win the Super Bowl. Go back and watch the "Hard Knocks" episodes, and you see a team full of itself. They finished 9-7, missed the playoffs and were a mess late in the season.
Phillips could not pull it all together and looked inept as he attempted to deal with the fallout from the Adam "Pacman" Jones' incident. Phillips earned a reprieve in 2009 when Dallas posted an 11-5 record, won the NFC East title, and recorded a playoff win -- but that was the high point.
The Cowboys went 1-7 to start the 2010 season, including an embarrassing home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and a gutless loss to the Packers (45-7) the following week. After that game, Jerry Jones made the switch to Garrett, and the Cowboys are 29-27 since and have not made the playoffs.
Garrett did not inherit a team ready to win the way Phillips did in 2007. By the time Garrett took over, the Cowboys were growing old on the offensive line, and there were too many people (especially those in offices at Valley Ranch) who believed they had the best talent in the league.
The head coach of the Cowboys has tremendous sway with Jones. The Cowboys did not take Randy Moss in 1998 at least in part because then-coach Chan Gailey didn't want Moss.
On that premise, the 2008 draft -- with Dallas' two first-round picks -- was a mess because the Cowboys didn't even attempt to re-sign those first-rounders (Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins) when their contracts expired. The 2009 draft was a colossal failure in part because Jones was convinced that it could be a "special-teams draft," which is as ludicrous as the "draft for backups" the team had when Barry Switzer was the coach in 1995.
This is not in defense of Garrett. He has made plenty of mistakes on the field and in the draft.
Phillips has had a tremendous career in the NFL that has spanned decades. He is a terrific coordinator, but is he in the same conversation as guys like Dick LeBeau, or even Monte Kiffin? I'm not sure a Phillips defense scared offenses the way LeBeau's defenses in Pittsburgh and Kiffin's defenses in Tampa Bay did. Phillips was a good head coach but could not get his teams in Denver, Buffalo or Dallas past a certain point.
Phillips knows his resume inside and out. He can cite team stats and all the Hall of Famers he has coached.
He can claim his tweet was more about the number of games he and Garrett have coached, but it looked more like a passive-aggressive shot at the guy who replaced him, and a way for him to remind everybody of his record.
By the way, his winning percentage is .607. Landry had a .605 winning percentage.
Phillips has spoken to the people through Twitter with these comments:
Then we have this:
My surprise was that Jason and I had coached the same number of games. Not the record - time passes quickly -I wish Jason & Cowboys well— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) March 7, 2014
Cowboys reg season gms coached- Galley-32 Campo-48 Phillips-56 Garrett-56 Parcells-64 Switzer-64 Johnson-80 Landry-418— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) March 7, 2014
Recently, Phillips said his age, 66, was holding him back from another head coaching job. Phillips is a good coach who achieved some success with the Cowboys in his four seasons. He was the perfect hire for the Cowboys after four hard years with Bill Parcells’ demanding ways.
Parcells, a Hall of Famer with two Super Bowl rings, has a style that grinds on players.
Phillips is more of grandfatherly type of coach whose style is the opposite.
Garrett probably needs to grind on the players more, and while there is a healthy respect level for the man, his philosophy is not leading to positive results: meaning playoff appearances.
It was just interesting to see Phillips come out of nowhere to discuss his record with the Cowboys. I remember Jerry Jones saying a few years ago that Phillips never had a honeymoon as the head coach with the Cowboys.
Phillips' reign was always questioned about whether he had command of the team and if the respect was there.
If you look at core group of players, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, the most success they obtained was under Phillips.
There was the 2009 playoff win, the two division titles with a No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC in 2007, all under Phillips.
Yet, we had the Pacman Jones suspension, the 44-6 loss at Philadelphia, Terrell Owens’ antics and finally the 1-7 start to the 2010 season, which led to Phillips’ firing.
Maybe Phillips is just being passive aggressive with his Twitter thoughts about what he thinks of Garrett. The current coach of the Cowboys is entering the final year of his contract and there’s no guarantee he’ll receive an extension. (Phillips, by the way, received one extension from Jones).
Maybe Phillips is trying to remind everyone that his time in Dallas brought better results than Garrett’s. At least Phillips got to the postseason.
And in some ways Jones is mindful of this and probably can’t give Garrett the contract extension he wants until he can break the Cowboys cycle of 8-8 seasons.
If Garrett can’t do that, the tenure of the son of the late Bum Phillips will always have been a more successful period in Cowboys history.
Twelve players suffered strains of varying levels and missed either game or practice time in 2013: Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Bruce Carter, Danny McCray, Barry Church, Dez Bryant, Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams.
The shortened offseason conditioning program could play a factor in the increase in injuries, but it has not affected every team. The Cowboys have studied other teams’ approaches and injury numbers to come up with a solution.
Coach Jason Garrett said one possibility is cutting back on the time spent on the field, especially early in the offseason.
“It is valuable to do the football stuff. We don’t feel like there’s a lot of football stuff right now,” Garrett said. “We want to be careful about how much we take away from that. But there’s a couple weeks prior to all that stuff starting. We’ve talked about tweaking the daily schedule and what we’re doing those first couple weeks as we start to lay the foundation for the offseason.”
While many players train on their own before the official offseason program starts in April, there is only a two-week period of training before players get on the field for teaching sessions.
“[Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik] I know is certainly not happy with it,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “[Athletic trainers] Jim Maurer and Britt Brown0 are not happy. I know Jason’s not happy with it and I damn sure know Jerry [Jones] and I are not happy with it. So we’re looking at ways to try to work on that.”
One way might be doing less instead of more.
Stories go on and on and sometimes never reach an end. Statements are made to a point, but sometimes there is no conclusion. Proclamations are made that completely counter proclamations made minutes earlier.
It sometimes sounds as if the general manager is talking out loud to the owner as he answers questions.
Listening to Jones on his bus at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, it was as if GM Jerry sat on one shoulder and Owner Jerry sat on the other. You have the feeling that whoever has the last speech wins.
As is their custom, the Cowboys coaches and scouts have dinner at St. Elmo Steak House in downtown Indianapolis, eating the spicy shrimp cocktail and expensive filets while sipping on the even more expensive Caymus Select wine.
The dinner lasts hours before eventually they leave in drips and drabs.
Jones recounted one discussion he had with his coaches.
"They were telling me about how guys with some experience, they just get it quicker," Jones said. "You don't need to make it complicated. They said how important it is to have free agents on your team. They just come in, and they know what to do where these rookies don't. Well, I'm talking to coaches when I'm listening to that. They want guys that immediately come in and do a better job but yet won't be probably by the end of the year."
That is the answer of a perfectly sound general manager. The GM has to always keep the future in mind. It is never about one season because a team is never one player away. The GM has to know that a draft is never just for the current season but for two, three, maybe four years down the road.
But during the course of the two-hour discussion with local media, Owner Jerry took over for a little bit.
"We need to try everything we got to compete and win next year," Jones said. "We don't have time with Romo, the stage he's at in his career. We don't have time to sit here, build for three or four years from now. And there's the challenge. So if we get it done, I know you guys will say that was a helluva job."
He played quarterback. He coached quarterbacks. His reputation was made as the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator from 2007-10. He continued to call the plays as head coach from midway through the 2010 season to the end of the 2012 season. With Scott Linehan on the staff in 2014, Garrett is out of the offensive game planning.
“The thorough indoctrination in that will really advance his cause being the head coach,” Jones said.
Because of his offensive background, Garrett could not give up all of the responsibilities. His trust in Linehan helps make that easier this year, so now he will spend time with Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin.
“Jason with Monte and the staff over there that we've got and his capability of understanding anything that we want to put down there, plus … with an offensive perspective on defense, the way he would attack the defense, his focus on defense is going to make him better.”
The transition to walk-around coach that Jones has talked about before with Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells would seem to be complete.
“He's the boss,” Jones said. “The deference to him is critical by his coordinators of Monte, so he can have the knowledge, the experience with those guys that he wouldn't get if he were a graduate assistant or if he were one of the assistants. He can sit there and ask the total picture or he can ask the specifics of a picture. This is all predicated that you've got to have an intelligent, capable person to do what I'm talking about. In Jason, we've got it.”
The Cowboys have posted a 29-27 record with Garrett and have finished the last three seasons with 8-8 records, missing the playoffs with Week 17 losses to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
“It should be a frustration for me to be sitting here with Jason Garrett having been the head coach for three and a half years and having been here (seven) years and be 8-8 the last three years,” Jones said. “So I'm just saying that's a careful evaluation. Does that mean I don't want Jason? I think I want us to have the opportunity and that's why he's staying, to have the opportunity to benefit from this experience over the period of time.”
“There are millions of people that are getting up this morning and walking out and working and if things don't go well for them this year will not be where they want to be next year,” Jones said.
Jones said the incentive is there for Garrett to perform.
“He's got a high tolerance for ambiguity,” Jones said. “He does. That's very important with this situation.”
Of the coaches brought in after he took the job on a full-time basis in 2011, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan, running backs coach Gary Brown, secondary coach Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack did not have a previous association with Garrett.
New passing game coordinator Scott Linehan worked with Garrett for a year with the Miami Dolphins. Derek Dooley got to know Garrett when he was an assistant coach at SMU and worked together for a year with the Dolphins. Garrett spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he got to know Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin and Rich Bisaccia. Assistant secondary coach Joe Baker was Garrett's teammate at Princeton.
Tight ends coach Mike Pope is the latest assistant in which Garrett dipped into his past.
Garrett was a backup quarterback with the New York Giants when Pope coached their tight ends.
“He’s really as good a coach as I’ve been around in my career,” Garrett said. “I saw him up close and personal with a lot of different guys, established players and young players and he’s a great friend. He’s a great addition to our staff and [Jason Witten] is the kind of guy who’s always trying to get better. Each and every day [Witten] comes in he’s always looking for ways we can help him, how he can help himself become a better football player. That’s why he is the player he is. To add Mike Pope to the mix and having a different perspective on how he gets coaches, I think Witt’s really excited and I know Mike Pope is as well.”
Pope’s main task, however will be to develop Gavin Escobar, but Garrett begs to differ slightly.
“I can go in my office right now and pull out his Saturday night tip sheet for the tight ends for four years with the Giants that I would fall asleep with in my bed that was 25 pages long and in Pope’s handwriting,” Garrett said. “He and I have known each other a long time. He’s a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. He’s worked with different kinds of tight ends, veteran tight ends. He’s worked with young guys, he’s developed guys who were college free agents. The fact that we have an investment in Escobar and have a young guy in James Hanna, we feel those guys will benefit, but Witt’s going to benefit as well.”
Just about every mock draft so far has the Cowboys selecting a defensive player, be it Pitt defensive end Aaron Donald or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Or some defensive end. Or defensive tackle. Or maybe a different safety.
Defense, defense, defense.
After allowing the most yards in franchise history and the second-most points in a season, it is not a mystery.
But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys must draft defense in May.
It is a yearly question around the draft: Take the best player available or draft for need?
The two are always linked. Need can’t be avoided. The draft is the best way to build a team. You have to take need into account when selecting players, but like anything it is about degrees.
Too often teams will elevate certain players at a position knowing they need help.
“Just grade them like you see them,” Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said, “then we’ll talk about them and adjust accordingly. Just because we need a defensive end, we’re not going to bump him into Round 1 if he’s a third-round talent. We’ll figure it out.”
In 2006, Chester Taylor ran for 1,216 yards but the Vikings took Adrian Peterson in the first round of the 2007 draft, which was a no-brainer. But in 2011, the Vikings took tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round even though Visanthe Shiancoe had three straight seasons with at least 40 catches. Rudolph was the MVP of the 2012 Pro Bowl.
The Vikings had Kevin Williams, but drafted Sharrif Floyd (maybe you’re aware the Cowboys had him rated highly only to pass on him at the No. 18 pick) with a nod to 2014 if not 2013.
“We’ve been very cognizant of sticking to what our draft board says,” Spielman said. “That guy you may not need this year, but two years from now or in his second year that guy might be a heckuva player for you.”
The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past four years. Core players such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware are on the back ends of their careers. Jason Garrett is in the final year of his contract and needs to win. But the good of the franchise trumps any short-term gain by filling needs.
“I think you’re always trying to accomplish two things: I think you’re trying to bring guys in who can help you now and then help you in the future,” Garrett said. “You want to bring in the right kind of guys in. The way you evaluate players is you want to make sure they have the right physical measurables to play his position at this level so that’s a starting point for you. You also want to make sure they have the right intangible qualities regardless of what their position is, the kind of guys you want to bring to your football team. So that hasn’t changed.”
A draft is not a one-year proposition. The Cowboys are not drafting only with 2014 in mind.
They need defensive linemen, especially if Ware is a salary-cap casualty or if Jason Hatcher leaves in free agency. They need linebackers too with Bruce Carter in the final year of his deal. They need a safety opposite Barry Church. They need cornerback help too because you can never have enough cornerbacks.
But Dez Bryant is entering the final year of his contract and Miles Austin likely won’t be back in 2014, so they need receivers too. Doug Free is in the final year of his contract, so they need a right tackle. DeMarco Murray is entering the final year of his contract, so they need a running back. Romo turns 34 in April, so they need a quarterback.
“There’s a natural deal there and we’ve talked about it with our scouts,” Jones said. “We don’t want to see it. We want the guys to get the grades they should get and not try to start liking a guy just because we may need a position.”
It's just part of the process teams go through when evaluating talent.
When it comes to the quarterback position, the Cowboys live and die with Tony Romo as the starter. Kyle Orton is the backup, and at some point a developmental quarterback will be found whether as an undrafted free agent or drafted.
Romo is older, yes, older than New York Giants QB Eli Manning, who turned 33 last month.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he can't invest a first-round pick on a quarterback because he's got so much financial interest with Romo, who is signed through 2019.
It doesn't mean the Cowboys can't look at other places in the draft to snag a quarterback.
Jimmy Garoppolo, AJ McCarron, Logan Thomas and Zach Mettenberger are some second-day draft picks the Cowboys can add to the roster. But the problem stems from coach Jason Garrett's contract status.
He's in the final year of his contract and his uncertain status after 2014 raises questions.
Do you want to draft a quarterback, only to have him learn the timing-based offense in 2014 and then learn a new offense in 2015 if Garrett is fired?
Say you draft a quarterback in the fourth round, then you let Garrett go, does the quarterback fit the system of the new head coach?
Romo will go through the same situation, but he's been a starter since 2006, so he can adjust to most offenses.
The Cowboys' quarterback situation is interesting -- but what to do for the future for a franchise that's missed the postseason the last four seasons makes you think about it now.
"I think like with any position there is a lot of different factors that go into it," Garrett said at the combine on Thursday when asked about evaluating quarterbacks. "You certainly need to have the physical traits to play. I do think quarterbacks come in different shapes and sizes, though. Drew Brees has been a great quarterback in this league for a long time. He’s six-feet tall. Russell Wilson is in that dimension. Some guys are prototype guys. I do think all of the great ones have similar traits though, similar intangible traits. They love the game and work very hard at it. They’re mentally tough. They’re physically tough. You have to have the physical traits of being able to move around enough and throw the football at this level."
Garrett added: "I think all the great ones have those as well. Instincts are really important to play this game, really important to play that position. And I think the great ones, the guys that are successful in this league, certainly have very good instincts for the game. I think those are the traits you are looking for. Like you said, sometimes they are hard to identify those traits. They show up in college and for some reason they don’t translate to the NFL for some guys. Sometimes that has to do with the environment they go into. Some guys go to a friendlier environment than others and they have a lot of success as a result of that. Others go to a more challenging environment and they don’t have success early and it’s kind of hard for them to undo that. But it’s a challenging position to evaluate. There’s no question about it. But I think the really good one have a lot of the same kind of traits."
Quarterback isn't a position of need, at least right now, but you do have to address it.
On the defensive side of the ball, only linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett remain from Garrett's first full season in 2011. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson arrived in 2012.
Rich Bisaccia, who is entering his second year on the staff, is Garrett's second special teams coordinator.
"I think if you look around the league, staff changes are a part of this league," Garrett said. "Just as there's turnover on your football team with your roster, there's turnover on the coaching staff all around the league. The teams that embrace that, that embrace the change, are the ones with the most success. You always have to be ready with a guy you're thinking about if someone leaves. I think relationships in the past that you had in your career with different coaches, you rely on those and you bring in the right kind of people. Thirty two teams around the league are going through the same kinds of things and there's staff changes everywhere and you have to embrace them and find the positives in them. A new guy coming in, what can he add to our team to make us better? Certainly we're in the process of doing that."
Garrett added Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator, taking away the playcalling duties from Bill Callahan. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns were denied permission in speaking to Callahan this offseason, which the Cowboys acknowledged did not please Callahan.
"We're a team and every decision we make we believe is in the best interest of our football team," Garrett said. "Every decision we make in regards to players and coaches [is that way and] everybody understands that. That's the first thing out of my mouth and everyone has to understand what they're role is after those decisions are made and embrace those roles. We've changed things up a little bit last year. It was a different structure to what we had and now we're going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired. That's just something we all have to embrace. It's going to take a little time to work through that and that's what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we've got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team."
The Cowboys ran it a lot better with DeMarco Murray rushing for more than 1,000 yards and earning a Pro Bowl spot, but they did not run it more.
In 2013, Dallas ran it 336 times for 1,507 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The season before, they rushed for 1,265 yards on 355 carries with eight touchdowns.
On Thursday Garrett said the Cowboys must run it more in 2014, however, the new playcaller, Scott Linehan, ran the ball even less than the Cowboys when he was the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.
"Scott's been around teams that have run the ball really well, if you look at his track record back to Minnesota, they were a top five rushing team," Garrett said. "All those years when they had Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, they always ran the ball very, very well. You like to get to a point where you can do that, where you have that kind of balance. You can be really productive in the passing game, but you can control the game by running the football."
As head coach of the St. Louis Rams, Linehan had Steven Jackson rush for 1,528 yards but the team finished ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing. In three years as the Vikings' coordinator he oversaw the NFL's ninth, fourth and second ranked run offenses form 2002-04. In five years with the Lions, Linehan's rush offense's best finish was 17th.
With a developing offensive line, highlighted by first-round picks Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and Murray, Garrett said the Cowboys simply have to trust the running game more.
"We're stronger up front than we've been in the last few years, and hopefully we can continue to add to that, control the line of scrimmage more," Garrett said. "The best teams in the league are able to do that, and we're hoping to be able to do that, have the kind of balance we want for our team."
Ware had a career-low six sacks in 2013 and missed three games with a quadriceps injury while dealing with a few injuries, like a stinger and the elbow issue. Garrett reiterated he wants Ware to practice more. Of the 96 practices the past two seasons in which a daily injury report was filed with the league, Ware was limited or out 43 times because of injuries.
Despite the injuries and the lack of production in 2013, Garrett believes Ware can be an elite pass-rusher.
“He was dealing with a number of different things throughout the course of the season,” Garrett said. “So he’s been a great football player for us. We still feel like he’s a young player. We’ve got to get him healthy and get him back to the form we’re all used to.”
But Garrett stopped short of guaranteeing Ware would remain with the Cowboys. Executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged on Wednesday Ware cannot carry that $16 million price against the cap. The Cowboys could restructure, ask Ware to take a pay cut or simply release him before March 11.
“We don’t want to get into all of these roster discussions right now,” Garrett said. “But I had a great meeting with him [Wednesday]. What we anticipate all of the guys on our football team to do is get ready to play in 2014. In DeMarcus’ case, he’s got to get himself healthy, get that elbow cleaned up, the other things he’s had to deal with and get himself ready to go and be his best version.”
Change was needed among the offensive coaches, so Garrett discussed things with Jones and a compromise was met: Bill Callahan would get demoted and Scott Linehan would take over calling the offensive plays.
Callahan would be upset, but Garrett pointed out that he expected the veteran coach to be professional and still be the offensive coordinator and offenisve line coach and do an excellent job at both.
Garrett was showing he still had command of the football team despite the fact that he's entering the final year of his contract. Garrett said the business side of things will take over regarding his contract, and that means wins.
Garrett knows he has to reach the playoffs. He's got to win the division and if it takes 10 wins or maybe nine, then that's fantastic.
The playoffs are all that matter to Garrett.
It's the same with Jones, who is making changes to help Garrett maintain command of the team. Jones made changes to the personnel staff, moving Will McClay in to run the draft room with the hope that a different voice will mean new results.
One thing that Garrett never lost is his command of the locker room, no matter what was going on with the team. The players respect and like Garrett. The players liked previous coach Wade Phillips, but quit on him when he needed them most.
Garrett won't allow this team to quit on him, despite Jones mixing up the coaching staff. Garrett is making sure his last stand holds up well, so the Cowboys can reach the postseason.
If they don't make the playoffs, Garrett will at least be able to say that he did it his way.
“I feel when I practice more or just practice in general I do play better,” Ware said. “When you’re out there, you do your reps, you’ve seen it, but there’s nothing like simulating going against full speed.”
“My mentality is if there’s anything, I’m going to play through it,” Ware said. “If you want me to play in a game, I’m going to give all I got. What I would do in practice, the contact stuff I wouldn’t make it through it so I wouldn’t do it. Let me get a couple of run plays in here so I can see the runs, see the plays and what they do. With the pass rush, if we’ve got some stunts, I want to go through that so I got the timing right.”
Garrett believes the time off impacted Ware’s numbers. In 2012-13, Ware was on the daily injury report 57 times. He has been listed as a full participant 14 times. He has been listed as limited 22 times and as did not practice 21 times. Of the 96 practices the past two seasons in which a daily injury report was filed with the league, Ware was limited or out 43 times.
In the last two seasons Ware has recorded 17.5 sacks. In 2010-11, Ware was on the daily injury report 18 times. He was listed as a full participant twice, limited 11 times and did not practice five times. In those seasons he had 35 sacks.
"He's missed a lot of practice time over the last couple of years because of all these injuries and that's something that can impact a player, even a player of his caliber," Garrett said earlier in the offseason. "You need to practice. You need to make sure you have the skills necessary to play your best come Sunday and he's done an amazing job from a mental and physical toughness standpoint of playing in these games. We've got to get him to the point where he's healthy and he can practice and get himself ready to play the way he's capable of playing."
After a third consecutive 8-8 season, you have to say age isn't a factor with the Dallas Cowboys.
The average age for the Cowboys in 2013 was 26.1, and that two veterans who didn't finish the season in Will Allen (31) and Brian Waters (36). In 2012, the Cowboys' average age was 25.9.
Coaching and a lack of quality depth hurt the Cowboys in most cases the last two seasons. You can blame Tony Romo's late interception against Washington in the 2012 regular-season finale or Kyle Orton's pick in the 2013 finale against Philadelphia as other issues.
If anything, the Cowboys should rebuild around some young pieces which include Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, DeMarco Murray, Orlando Scandrick, Dan Bailey and Barry Church.
Core veterans in their 30s such as Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten, and other quality vets in their late 20s like Brandon Carr and Doug Free, are worth keeping around.
Finding quality backups is the key for 2014. When you have guys such as Corvey Irvin, Frank Kearse, Jarius Wynn and Everette Brown as backups along the defensive line, it doesn't bode well for success.
The Cowboys have to fix their issues with finding undrafted players who can't play consistently, which was the case with safety Jeff Heath, at key backup positions.
Drafting quality players in the middle rounds should also help the Cowboys. It was something Todd Archer pointed out but the reality is age isn't and shouldn't be a factor for this team.
You can worry about Romo and his age -- 34 when 2014 regular season starts -- and health, recovering from back surgery, but the quarterback has young players to help him move the offense.
Coaching is a problem at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys currently have three -- head coach Jason Garrett, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, and new play caller Scott Linehan -- who have been head coaches and play callers.
Too many cooks in the kitchen? Team officials will say no.
But can these coaches, offense and defense, get the young core of this team to the next level?
If they can't, the numbers of not reaching the postseason will move to five years and counting.