IRVING (CBS 11 SPORTS) – Jason Garrett made the most of his final season as an NFL player, and he’s benefiting from it nine years later.

In 2004, Garrett was an unrestricted free agent at the age of 37. He knew his days as a backup quarterback in the league were coming to an end. He also knew that coaching was in his immediate future.

So, when an offer to sign as a backup quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came along, Garrett jumped at the chance.  He knew this would be a great opportunity to take in as much football knowledge as possible to jump-start his coaching career.

As it turned out, Garrett spent the entire spring, all of training camp, and a month of the regular season with the Buccaneers.  He was cut just prior to the start of the regular season and was re-signed a month later when starting quarterback Chris Simms was injured.

Garrett spent the last two months of the 2004 season with Miami and became the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach before coming to Dallas in 2007.

However, that half-year “coaching apprenticeship” in Tampa has helped shape Garrett’s coaching staff in 2013.  That was when he gained a working knowledge of the coaching styles and expertise of new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, and special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.

“I had a chance to be around Monte throughout the spring and training camp and part of the season, and just to see him up close after competing against his team for so long was a great experience for me,” Garrett told me this week at Valley Ranch during the taping of the “Cowboys Year End Special” that will air on CBS 11.

“As a football guy and as a future coach, I learned so much from him,” Garrett said, “and to have the opportunity to have him on staff here to run our defense is really a great opportunity for the Cowboys.”

Garrett was quick to point out that he has great respect for departed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

“His loyalty to me, to our staff, to our football team, and the investment he made was really, really special, and something that I’m indebted to him for,” Garrett said.  “He’ll have a great future as a defensive coordinator.”

Garrett said a philosophical switch from a base 3-4 defense to a 4-3 scheme triggered the change in coordinators.

“As we evaluated our team after the season, we wanted to get our arms around whether or not our personnel could play (a 4-3 scheme).  Then once we decided they could, we felt like it was a great opportunity to add Monte to the staff to run our defense.”

When former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli decided to leave his defensive coordinator job in Chicago, re-uniting him with Kiffin in Dallas was a no-brainer.

“He and Monte were really attached at the hip during their time at Tampa, and they had great defenses for so long,” Garrett said.  “Again, I had the chance to be around Rod and see him operate.  He made such an impression on me as a coach, a guy that was all about team.  And, he had such a presence on that team there in Tampa.”

And that brings us to new Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.  Former Buccaneers 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks says he jumped at the opportunity to play special teams for Bisaccia despite the fact he was a starting linebacker.

Garrett praises the spirit that Bisaccia brings to coaching special teams.

“Sometimes, special teams can be a thankless job for a coach,” Garrett said.  “Guys don’t want to play it.  Guys see themselves as offensive players or defensive players, and it takes a special guy to kind of rally the group together.  Great confidence in him as a coach, got a great spirit, great expertise.  He’ll do a great job for us.”

In 2004, Jason Garrett thought signing with Tampa Bay would benefit his future coaching career.  Little did know then that, in 2013, those Tampa ties might serve to jump-start his head coaching career.

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