Whether or not Wade Phillips was the big problem in Dallas, no head coach can expect his team to look like the Cowboys looked against the Packers on Sunday night and still have his job 24 hours later.
So Wade's neck had an unpleasant encounter with Jerry Jones' axe Monday, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will step in to assume coaching duties in the meantime.
Is Garrett going to step in and right the ship? I'm skeptical, for a couple of reasons. First, Garrett was already in charge of the offense -- Wade had nothing to do with anything on the offensive side of the ball -- and the Cowboys' complete inability to run the football this season has been crippling. In fact, I can't see much of an argument that Jason Garrett should have even kept his job at all, let alone be promoted while Wade took the fall.
Secondly, I come back to a point Cris Collinsworth made on NBC Sunday night: The Cowboys have been at their best when Jerry Jones has had a strong, experienced, authoritative head coach who will stand up to him and insist on running the organization his own way. Jason Garrett is not that.
With that in mind, here are nine guys whose names you might hear in connection with the possible job opening in Dallas for next season.
The big names:
Bill Cowher. Cowher's just about the ideal candidate. His Super Bowl rings give him the right to walk into any organization and act like he owns the place. He's intense, he'll get in a guy's face, and he's in a position to demand that Jones allow him all the autonomy he wants. Cowher takes a blue-collar, defense-and-big-men first approach to team building. That's what the Cowboys need.
Jon Gruden. I call this guy "The Saddle" because the Cowboys might want to ride him into a new era of football. In a lot of ways, Gruden is very similar to Cowher. He's got a ring, he's a big, bright name, and he'll also energize people and sell tickets. Fortunately, he is also much smarter than the character he plays on Monday nights.
The hot candidates who would be first-timers:
Perry Fewell. He's currently the defensive coordinator for the Giants, and is on everyone's short list right now. Clearly, he knows how to engineer a high-pressure defensive scheme.
Leslie Frazier. Has been a well-respected candidate for years now, but has never landed a head-coaching job. The biggest obstacle here is that Minnesota's probably going to need him next season.
Jim Harbaugh. Hasn't been a head coach at the NFL level, but he was an assistant with the Raiders, and is currently overseeing a brilliant turnaround as head coach at Stanford of the semi-pro league. He'll be a hot NFL candidate next year.
Rob Ryan. His brother Rex's success with the Jets probably helps his cause quite a bit, as does the job Rob is doing in Cleveland right now. But, like everyone else on this list, his lack of NFL head-coaching experience, and thus, likely subservience to Jerry Jones, might not make him the best choice.
The names that are also big, but probably less likely:
Brian Billick. Billick has a Super Bowl ring and wants to get back into coaching, but he isn't the fiery type that gets people excited, like a Gruden or a Cowher.
Marty Schottenheimer. If Cowher doesn't want the job, Schottenheimer would be my next choice. Everything the Cowboys lack right now -- work ethic, togetherness, discipline, toughness -- are the things Schottenheimer has stood for and never failed to instill at any of his coaching stops. No, he's not a wizard in the playoffs, but the Cowboys are 1-7. Perhaps the playoffs are a worry for another day.
Tony Dungy. Dungy says he's retired and has no interest in unretiring, but who knows what can happen when Jerry Jones opens up the wallet. He's also a Super Bowl champion, and commands as much respect as anyone ever has in the league.