FRISCO, Texas -- At last week’s coaches breakfast from the NFL owners meetings, Jason Garrett’s table was filled with four local reporters for most of the hour. A few camera operators came and went. A smattering of reporters came by asking a couple of quick questions before moving on.
About 10 feet away, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson spoke. For most of the 60 minutes, he had a two-deep crowd of reporters and camera operators wondering what life has been like since winning Super Bowl LII.
For the Dallas Cowboys to become relevant in 2018, they need to close the gap on the Eagles. On Monday, NFL Nation reporters were asked if anything that has happened so far in the offseason has closed the gap.
Last week, Garrett was asked about the gap.
“Winning your division is important. Being competitive with the teams in your division is important. You got to win those games,” Garrett said. “If you want to win the NFC, you've got to start by doing everything you can to win the NFC East. Then you have to take the next step beyond that. So, it’s a process that you go through. For me, teams get in trouble when they are so focused on somebody else. Focus on yourself and the kind of team you want to build. ...
“We want to build the kind of team we want to build. We want them thinking about us. And obviously they did a great job this year. They won a lot of games. They won the critical games in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Hats off to them. They did a fantastic job. But we are focused on the Cowboys and the team we think we need to build.”
Before winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles finished 13-3, running away with the NFC East. The Cowboys finished second with a 9-7 record. They lost, 37-9, at AT&T Stadium to Philadelphia but won the season finale at Lincoln Financial Field, 6-0, with the Eagles resting a number of starters for parts, most or all of the game. The win allowed the Cowboys to finish with a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time under Garrett but ultimately cost them a couple of spots in the first round of the draft.
To help close the gap so far in the offseason, the Cowboys have added two offensive linemen (Cameron Fleming, Marcus Martin), two wide receivers (Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson) and a linebacker (Joe Thomas). They placed the franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. They put the second-round tender on defensive lineman David Irving.
The Eagles traded for defensive end Michael Bennett from the Seattle Seahawks. They signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Mike Wallace in free agency. They were able to keep a key defender in linebacker Nigel Bradham. They will also have Carson Wentz returning from his knee injury.
In 2015 and ’16, the Eagles finished 7-9, moving on from Chip Kelly and giving the power back to Howie Roseman, who made a number of shrewd personnel moves to position Philadelphia as a Super Bowl contender, including hiring Pederson.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked how Philadelphia figured out how to become a Super Bowl team in two years as Dallas looked for its first championship since 1995.
“Well, Philadelphia had been trying to win a Super Bowl the 30 years I’d been in the NFL and got it this year. Not two [years],” Jones said. “So, they’ve been trying a long time to win a Super Bowl and other teams have, too. So, it wasn’t just a two-year run for them to go to the Super Bowl.”
In order to close the gap, there must be a definition of the gap. Jones sees more similarities between the Eagles and Cowboys.
“They’ve got a team that mirrors us in a lot of respects,” Jones said. “I like a lot of things that we have that they have. We’ve got a running game, offense and quarterback [Dak Prescott] that I’m so proud of for looking ahead and building off of. They probably have more, to say the least, they probably have more names on defense. When I say names, just say they probably have what we’d like to continue to get to. But we’ve got some guys that I think we can get to there.
“I’d like to think that Philly closed the deal of where we had an opportunity to do it the year before.”
The Cowboys finished 13-3 in 2016 and the Eagles finished second in the division and out of the playoffs. The Cowboys, however, were not able to capitalize on home-field advantage in the postseason, losing to the Green Bay Packers.
“I think that if the gap is defined as them winning the Super Bowl and [us] not even getting in the playoffs, then we've got to close the gap,” Jones said. “I think that we should've been in the playoffs. We weren't. But I don't believe that us not being in the playoffs this past year is the size of the gap.”