Wade Phillips has his Dallas Cowboys sitting rather pretty. They are 8-3 after 11 games and leading the NFC East by one game over the Philadelphia Eagles. After a slow start, their defense has come on strong, proving themselves to be among the best in the league. The offense has sputtered here and there, but has found a spark with Miles Austin as the featured receiver and has a stout three-headed running game.
All of that is good. It may not be good enough for Phillips to keep his job with the Cowboys come the 2010 season. His boss, owner and general manager of the Cowboys Jerry Jones, when asked whether it was important for Phillips' team to finally post a successful December campaign and finish well, answered:
"I don't know that it's any more so for Wade than it is for anybody else on this team. You're in coaching and then there's a lot of pressure to win, so that's there. But what we do here and how we get into these playoffs and get in with an advantage, have a game here [Cowboys Stadium], get a bye, all of those are things that look good for Wade."
Granted, Jones did not out-and-out admit that if the Cowboys fold like a cheap lawn chair Wade is canned. He did, however, seem to send a less-than-subtle message that goes something like this: "Hey, Wade. You like pretending to be the coach of the Dallas Cowboys? Win a playoff game, or playtime is over for you."
Confronted with Jones's comments at his daily press conference, Phillips tried to laugh it off at first, but then, more than a little irritated, gave this response according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News :
"If you want to go on records, I don't know what the determining factor is, I've never known. I didn't know when I was in Buffalo and we were 29-19 in three years that I was going to get fired. I thought I did a heck of a job.
"All I do is try to do the best I can as a coach. I work hard at that. I don't think I get a lot of respect for that, but that's the way it goes."
I know. Sounds like a Rodney Dangerfield quote. "I tell you, I get no respect. My only friend is a dog. I told my wife a man needs at least two friends. She bought me another dog."
Wade's insistence on always defending himself, his every move, every decision, every loss, every little controversy,gets annoying and sounds like nothing more than a good deal of whining. He feels like he never got a fair shake anywhere.
Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I am going to eat worms.
People say Wade Phillips is a nice guy. I guess he is. But nice guys are a dime a dozen.
Great NFL head coaches are few and very far between. Wade does have a nice record as a head coach. He has a nice 30-13 record with the Cowboys. Obviously, he is as good a defensive tactician as there is in the game, but that step between great coordinator and greatness as the main man, is a treacherous one. Just ask Cam Cameron, or Butch Johnson, or Charlie Weis, or...
Wade Phillips is good, he is not great. The reason he is not great is that he lacks the leadership skills to be great.
Bill Parcells defends himself at a press conference and the questioner looks and feels silly. Jimmy Johnson would deflect tough questions with a stare that seemed to ask, "Did your mother have any children that lived?"
Phillips, on the other hand, defends himself and it's like he yanked his own arm off to fend off bloodthirsty sharks; it becomes a feeding frenzy.
It seems that everyone Wade Phillips meets has a stronger constitution than he does. That doesn't bode well for a man who would lead a band of hardened warriors through treacherous battles, devastating setbacks, debilitating injuries, nay-saying critics, and on to glory.
I think Jerry's message could be summed up as follows:
Stop whining. Start winning the games that matter most—e.g. late-season, deal-sealing and playoff games;or else...start packing.