Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips has been fired, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has been promoted to the head coach position. The initial reports were first confirmed by the CBS-TV affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. In his 3½ years as the Cowboys' head coach, Phillips amassed a 34-22 regular-season record, and a 1-2 mark in the postseason with a team built by Bill Parcells. The tipping point in a horrible 1-7 season was the "Sunday Night Football" game against the Green Bay Packers.
It was one of the worst defeats in Dallas Cowboys franchise history -- a 45-7 Sunday night loss at Lambeau Field in which the score didn't really indicate how lopsided the game was. The Pack outgained the ‘Boys by more than a 2-1 ratio (415 to 205 net yards), had 71 offensive plays to Dallas' 48, and converted 67 percent of their third downs to 40 percent for Dallas.
The difference in rushing yards was the real embarrassment -- once again, Dallas' prized backfield was an afterthought, as the Cowboys gained just 39 yards on the ground. That was in part a result of how far ahead the Packers were early, but it's been a problem all season. More and more, people are looking at offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the alleged future star and next Dallas head coach, and wondering why he can't get a consistent running game going with Marion Barber(notes), Felix Jones(notes) and Tashard Choice(notes) in his backfield.
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Among those wondering what has gone wrong on a team with so many positive preseason projections, count owner Jerry Jones right at the top of the list. After the Packers embarrassment, Jones was as vocal as he's been about a situation that has steadily declined since Week 1. But at the press conference following Phillips' departure, it was a more contrite and subdued Jones meeting with the media and focusing on the team's plans going forward.
We are grateful to Wade and his contributions to the Cowboys. We also clearly understand we are not where we want to be at this time, and that's an understatement. We share the responsibility - all of us.
An in-season changing is something I was reluctant to consider. I recently addressed the team and my comments with them were very brief and pointed. I told them they should not think this an admission of defeat or finality in this season.
Jones then talked about the prospects for the 44-year-old Garrett, the former Cowboys quarterback who has never been a head coach before. "He does have the opportunity to get the job long-term," Jones said. "I do believe Jason has the temperament and disposition to affect a culture change. I think this is important. We know men's styles are different. His style, I think is one that can be effective."
Because Garrett is officially the interim head coach, the Cowboys are not required to fulfill the Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate before naming Garrett to the position at this time. They would need to do so before naming a permanent head coach.
Phillps' defensive coordinator position will be taken by Paul Pasqualoni, who will be promoted from defensive line coach. Pasqualoni was the Miami Dolphins' defensive coordinator through the 2008 and 2009 seasons; he was fired in March of 2010 and replaced by Mike Nolan.
In an overall structural sense, Phillips is just the fall guy here. The fact that Jones is doing the work is the common denominator to every part of his ownership in which his team has suffered disappointments. When he steps aside, keeps his considerable ego in check and lets people like Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells build his teams, things tend to go very well. But as it is with his inner Steinbrenner, Jones can't help but tinker with, and take credit for, the work of others. Yes-men like Phillips and ex-head coach Dave Campo are little more than doorstops. Garrett will likely fit that same profile, given half a season to prove himself with a lame-duck team and an offense he already has trouble running.
"I can't put my finger on it because I don't have enough fingers," Jones concluded after Sunday night's game. The quote was an attempt at humor, but there's some hidden insight there as well. Jones and his son Stephen are not currently capable of assembling an NFL team. Their last two drafts have been horrible, the Roy Williams trade is still hurting the team, and the current administration sends too much time and money on flash positions. This is a team with $30 million in guaranteed money for 2010 invested in its top three receivers, but little semblance of an offensive line. Inside linebackers Keith Brooking(notes) and Bradie James(notes) are getting abused in coverage, but second-round pick Sean Lee(notes), who excelled in coverage at Penn State, can't seem to see the field even after he has recovered from early injuries.
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The Cowboys face the New York Giants next Sunday at the new Meadowlands. Phillips' only quote about the upcoming possible disaster to a team that beat the Seattle Seahawks, 41-7 on Sunday, was that he wasn't aware of who the team was playing next -- he was focused on the current game. Phillips is a fine defensive coordinator who is completely and totally out of his element as a head coach. It's been proven before, and it's the case now.
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The equation is simple, but Jones has to want to see it. Phillips did not survive the week, and Garrett's prospects have dimmed severely in the last two seasons. These guys are incidental, and the next guys Jones hires under the current structure will be equally incidental. Until Jerry Jones allows someone with a more qualified hand to take control of his team, he can hire and fire 100 different coaches, and it won't mean a single thing.
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