The Dallas Star. One of the most recognized brands in pro sports. The symbol for America’s Team. It’s an honor to wear the Star on one’s helmet. Only seven coaches had the opportunity to don a cap with the Star on the front.
There will be an eighth. Wade Phillips achieved Cowboys infamy Monday for being the first Dallas head coach fired during the season. Will two other head coaches with Dallas roots be joining him in the NFL unemployment line?
Buffalo’s Chan Gailey had a brief two-year stint leading the ‘Boys. Norv Turner built his reputation as an offensive mastermind as Dallas offensive coordinator/QB coach for three years. He parlayed his success into three head coach jobs with Washington, Oakland and currently San Diego. Both are on shaky ground.
Clearly having Cowboys roots were beneficial for Gailey and Turner. Neither graduates to new opportunities without coaching at Dallas. But their branches from the Cowboys coaching tree appear to be withering.
Turner’s tenure still has signs of life after a 2-5 start, but it is in critical condition. San Diego needs another strong finish just for a chance to reach the playoffs.
The teams on the remaining schedule have a combined record of 21-28, so it’s very possible to add to their current two-game winning streak.
But regular season wins aren’t the problem. The diminishing playoff results are the concern. January’s Divisional Playoffs exit after a 13-3 season was particularly embarrassing as San Diego was worn down by the New York Jets.
Who is the next coach to be fired?
If San Diego doesn’t advance deep into the playoffs, GM A.J. Smith might hand Turner a pink slip that doesn’t represent breast cancer awareness.
Smith fired Marty Schottenheimer for playoff failures in 2007. Smith would do it again if the Turner-led Bolts go nowhere in the second season.
The Cowboys are a mirror-image of the Chargers. Both teams are loaded with talent with franchise quarterbacks, All-Pro tight ends, explosive offensives, and star-laden defenses. Even the playoff failures are identical.
Both Phillips and Turner were awarded NFL versions of winning lottery tickets. These rosters were stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. But neither got the most out of their teams.
The coaching job turned in by Phillips this year was abysmal. Dallas collapsed under the expectations to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. They can thank egotistical owner Jerry Jones for that.
After the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996, Jones invited the 800-pound gorilla. For a team that didn’t handle success well, boasting for a home Super Bowl as a goal doomed Big D from day one.
Dallas was sloppy and undisciplined, as the enormity of the challenge distracted the team from a "one game at a time" approach.
Every game carried self-imposed supreme importance and they couldn’t handle it. Phillips was unable to settle the team down and season snowballed to 1-7.
It would be nice if the coaching change meant the pressure was off the team. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett takes over a listless team and has eight games to restore confidence.
Even before the new era begins, Jones has threatened consequences if the Cowboys don’t play better. The gorilla has been replaced with an elephant in the corner.
Buffalo would be overjoyed with a 1-7 record. Instead they are halfway to tying the 2008 Detroit Lions at 0-16. Rebuilding is always tough, and Gailey is trying his best to turn the Bills in the right direction in his first reconstruction job.
Maybe the Bills aren’t as bad as their record. Six of their eight losses were by 10 points or less. They’ve played well of late, with the last three losses by three points each.
In two of those defeats, they pushed Baltimore and Kansas City, two teams in the hunt for the playoffs, to overtime.
But this isn’t a business for moral victories. The Bills haven’t reached the playoffs since Phillips coached the team in 2000. Buffalo is on track to finish with fewer wins than last year, a third year in a row if that happens.
Gailey doesn’t have a stacked team like Phillips and Turner. Gailey arguably is turning in the best coaching job of the three this year. But even low expectations find 0-16 unacceptable.
The Bills have Detroit and Cincinnati up next, a pair of susceptible teams. The road gets tougher after that. As of right now, Gailey has half a season to crack Buffalo’s goose egg.
With one branch from the Dallas coaching tree already cut off, it’s a nervous wait to see if Turner and Gailey meet the same fate as if infested by Asian longhorn beetles. All three wore the Dallas Star proudly, but even Stars fall.
Randolph Charlotin writes a New England Patriots blog at www.randolphc.com.