Cowboy Up: Wade Phillips' Tall Order in Dallas

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Cowboy Up: Wade Phillips' Tall Order in Dallas

IconWade Phillips is no Bill Parcells' and that's exactly why the Dallas Cowboys hired him.
Parcells' tenure with America's Team was pocked by unmet expectations and playoff failures. Many grumbled about the Tuna's coaching style. Some even went so far as to wonder whether the veteran coach was burned out.
A change could do the Cowboys good. 
Unfortunately, Wade Phillips is still Wade Phillips.
The former head coach of the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills has yet to show any sign of being able to get a team over the hump. Never in his career has Phillips made it to the second round of the playoffs—a destination the Cowboys have been chasing for more than 10 years. 
His resume proves Phillips is a serviceable NFL head coach...but serviceable won't get the job done in Dallas. 

The only major upgrades the team made in the offseason were the signings of Leonard Davis and Ken Hamlin. Neither is good enough to push the Cowboys to the next level, so it would appear that the responsibility falls to Phillips and his 0-3 postseason record.   Phillips' shortcomings are apparent. His Broncos teams underachieved. His Bills squads followed solid regular seasons with flameouts in the playoffs.  

Sound familiar? Sounds like the Cowboys. 

The Phillips hiring was, frankly, an odd one. Dallas brought in candidates with great potential, including Bears D-coordinator Ron Rivera and 49ers linebackers coach Mike Singletary,but they went with Phillips for his experience and defensive knowledge.  
The team's defense became an area of concern late in the season, and Phillips' success with the 3-4 must have been enough to sell Jerry Jones.
Whether it's enough to sell Cowboys fans, or to produce wins, remains in doubt.

One thing's for sure: Talent won't be a problem. Phillips led one of the league's staunchest defenses in San Diego, and he has every opportunity to work the same magic in Dallas.  

DeMarcus Ware is a beast off the edge, and should fit the mold of Shawne Merriman in Phillips' 3-4. Terence Newman may be the best corner this side of Champ Bailey, and Roy Williams remains one of the biggest hitters in the league.  

Indeed, the parallels between Dallas 2007 and San Diego 2006 are everywhere—from man-mountain nose tackle Jason Ferguson (in the role of Jamal Williams) to blitzing linebackers Ware and Greg Ellis (as Merriman and Shaun Phillips).  

That said, the Hamlin signing is unlikely to help the secondary—especially because the team already has, in Williams, a hard-hitting safety who doesn't play the pass.   If Phillips can fix the free safety problem, though, this defense will have few holes. 

The offense also looks strong on paper. Parcells found a gem in Marion Barber III, and if Julius Jones continues playing nice with a split backfield, the running game will be in good shape. Tony Romo exceeded expectations in 2006, and earned himself an even higher bar in 2007. 

Romo faded down the stretch after a great start last season, but a year of experience, and Carrie Underwood whispering sweet nothings in his ear, should fix that. 

Terrell Owens returns at wide receiver and remains a threat in both the passing game and the tabloids. T.O. has been quiet this offseason, which is either a sign of maturity or dormancy.  

Terry Glenn, underrated, and Jason Witten, overrated, round out a solid aerial arsenal.   As usual, everything seems well with the Cowboys—but they've still got to find a way to make good on their preseason potential. More than anything, in fact, Dallas needed to find a coach this winter who could translate talent into playoff success. 

Instead, they found Wade Phillips.

For better or for worse, the Cowboys fortunes in 2007 are tied to the man taking over for the Tuna. If Phillips can pull it off, if he can get the Cowboys to play to expectations and make a run through the playoffs, he wouldn't just be doing what Parcells never could. 
He'd be doing what he's never done himself.

Projected finish: 9-7, 2nd place NFC East

Keep an eye on
: LB Akin Ayodele—poised for a breakout year in the middle opposite Bradie James.  

Take your eyes off
: OT Flozell Adams—a contract year won't offset a complete lack of lateral movement.

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