The Dallas Cowboys have been in a funk all season. After getting the playoff monkey off their back last season and winning their first postseason game in over a decade, the Cowboys have turned in an abysmal 1-4 record. If things don't turn around in a hurry, the Super Bowl party Jerry Jones planned in his own stadium will be a serious bust.
After last season, the Cowboys were a trendy pick to win the division and challenge for the Super Bowl. The Eagles were supposed to be rebuilding, an improved Redskins team was expected to fall to mighty Dallas, and the Giants were the only real threat to defending the divisional crown. New Orleans and Minnesota certainly stood in the way, but the acquisition of Dez Bryant and continued dominance by Miles Austin would pave the way to a home Super Bowl.
Fast forward six weeks and the Cowboys have tripped and landed flat on their face. There is time to turn this team around in the next couple of weeks, but their window of opportunity is rapidly evaporating. If they begin 0-2 in the NFC East and 1-5 for the season—with road games against divisional foes Philadelphia and New York looming—in addition to matchups against the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, and the Green Bay Packers, it's difficult to see the Cowboys clawing out of a deep hole. In the past this Cowboys team hasn't handled adversity particularly well, and with a leadership vacuum in the locker room, it's hard to imagine that changing.
Cowboys supporters have suggested that this team is just a few plays away from a winning record, and its hard to disagree. But good teams don't commit 62 penalties in five games, don't throw costly picks in their half of the field, or make huge mistakes in special teams (long returns and missed field goals).
The Cowboys have the 3rd ranked offense and 4th ranked defense, and yet manage to lose games. Clearly the talent is there, the scheme is there, but the discipline is not. Discipline and leadership start with the head coach. Sure, emotional locker room leadership can galvanize a team. Guys like Peyton Manning, Antonio Pierce (before his injury), and Drew Brees hold teammates accountable and demand excellence. Unfortunately, the Cowboys don't seem to have an emotional leader and the head coach must fill that role.
Rex Ryan, Mike Shanahan, Mike Tomlin, Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick, and John Harbaugh are all fiery coaches who demand excellence from their team. Wade Phillips, the architect of a training camp nicknamed "camp cupcake" does not. Sure, he's hamstrung by a meddling owner, but a little more fire, and a little more accountability would go a long way with this team. He should also think about some new pump-up music.
Let's face it, if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, Jerry is going to send his head coach packing. But why wait until the end of the season? The Cowboys sideline isn't exactly filled with head coaching candidates (former wunderkind Jason Garrett's stock has plummeted as the offensive mistakes have piled up). But if by Week 11 the Cowboys are somewhere under .500, Jones should fire his coach.
Firing Phillips would be an admission that the season is a bust. But let's be honest, why wait until a week after the season to admit that? Clearly at this point the soft-coaching style of Philips will have failed and they will be looking for new leadership. Why prolong the inevitable?
Firing Philips is good for a variety of reasons. First of all, you won't have to listen to him stumble around for answers during press conferences.
Second, it will make players painfully aware that they must perform at a higher level or their job is on the line. Jerry Jones can use the last several games of the season as a tryout for next season. Romo, Austin, Witten, Ware—guys like that—certainly won't be under too much pressure, but guys on special teams, backups, players that do the little things that help win games, will have to play well to secure their future.
The interim coach and future head coach (hopefully a guy like Brian Billick or Bill Cowher) will hopefully make clear that mental mistakes and stupid penalties are inexcusable and directly contribute to wins and losses. Clearly Philips hasn't instilled enough discipline in his locker room to make this clear.
In the offseason, Jones should look for a coach with a change of philosophy. Jones needs to take a step back and look for a coach that takes pride in discipline. The core of this team was assembled by such a coach—Bill Parcells. Their relationship frayed because of Jones' penchant for intervention. If he can take a step back, and let a coach really control the team, they have the talent to be a contender going forward.
So Jerry, here's my plea, if the Cowboys are looking at a losing record through ten games, fire Wade for me and the rest of the suffering fan base.