Another Dallas December to Forget: Why Wade Phillips Must Go
Now that the absolute embarrassment has had some time to settle in, it's time to re-examine the Uncle Jerry-endorsed coaching situation in Big D.
To be fair, I had thought Wade Phillips was a poor choice for head coach, despite his decent performance last season. While he proved he could step up his responsibilities with solid defensive play calling in a few of the last games, ultimately, Phillips could not right the ship that is the celebrity cruiseliner in Dallas.
Andy Reid Just Beat Your Team
No team in recent memory has showed up for what was essentially a playoff game more unprepared, more unfocused, and less motivated than the Cowboys did yesterday. The were entirely outclassed by the Eagles in every possible way.
After a week of bitter murmuring that he wasn't featured in the offense enough, Roy "I'm the receiver, not the other guy" Williams pulled a TO: he didn't back up his mouth with his play on the field. Several drops, many uninspired routes, and an overall lackadaisical and underachieving performance. I'm glad you feel the need to back up a five-year contract worth three draft picks with that dud.
It all starts with the head coach, Wade Phillips. FOX cameramen were probably taking bets to see who could catch Wade with the most "duh" looks on his face. The motivation of a team, its preparedness, and general cohesiveness starts with the philosophy and environment that the head coach instills.
Alternative Fuel Sources (Other Than Twinkies)
Coaches like Bill Parcells, Mike Tomlin, Tony Sparano, and Tom Coughlin would fall under the generous category of "less player-friendly." But each of them have met the players half way, easing up to the point that the players weren't alienated, but discipline and cohesiveness were still a primary focus.
Eric Mangini had taken this to an extreme, alienating one of football's greatest players ever in Brett Favre. Although Brett is far past his prime, and most likely played yesterday's game injured, you respect his observations of the locker room as insightful and true.
When Brett says it's not fun to play for the coach, you can bet that 130 percent of the other players would agree.
Tom Jackson said yesterday, when your quarterback says he's having shoulder issues that might force him to [finally] retire, and you still throw the ball 40 times and only run 21, there are some communication issues...to say the least.
That, coupled with a season full of questionable play calling, culminated in the firing of the oft-overrated Mangenius this morning in New York.
Wade Phillips coaches at the opposite end of the hardass, er...hardness scale. The HBO series Hard Knocks showed us just what Camp Cream Puff was like in the offseason. On a team with many superstar personalities, natural leadership is needed. Ed Werder's Mystery Source™ said there was little leadership in the Cowboys' locker room, and bedlam ensued in another Dallas December meltdown.
Without the strong leadership of a few players, both on and off the field, the big personalities come into conflict, and the team fragments.
Talking the Talk Versus Walking the Walk
Tony Romo is one potential leader of the Cowboys. He seems to never be phased by pressure, at least in front of reporters, and has a friendly rapport with many of the players. The damning feature of Romo is that he has never won the big game. Until he does, he cannot be considered a leader of this team.
Think back to Troy Aikman. Do you think at any point Aikman would be smiling or laughing during a debacle such as yesterday's game against the Eagles? Romo did, on more than one occasion. Actually, I'll bet cash-money, in the words of Wilmer Valderrama, that Aikman wouldn't tolerate any bickering in his locker room, or on the field.
The dynasty teams of the mid 90s had just as many large and outspoken personalities—Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, and Emmit Smith, to name a few. But there didn't seem to be half as much dysfunction then as there is now.
Offensive and defensive personnel are like two separate teams. There isn't always a whole lot of interaction between the two groups in football, but on the Cowboys, they seem worlds apart. Strangely making the situation worse is that several defensive players seem to flock to Terrell Owens' defense, fragmenting the locker room more.
Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, and Bradie James are phenomenal talents on the field, but they intentionally try to avoid the spotlight with the press and in the locker room. They prefer to let their play on the field do all the talking, which is admirable—especially in this day and age and especially on this football team.
That still does not lend itself to one or two players who will keep their teammates in line off the field, and lead by example on the gridiron.
Who's Job Is It Anyway?
All of these issues with players not assuming leadership roles would not be anywhere near significant if the Cowboys had a strong head coach. My ideal candidate? Bill Cowher.
Cowher coached a Steelers team with several strong personalities/veterans: Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter, Larry Foote, and James Farrior come to mind. Did these guys cause the controversy that a Terrell Owens could cause? No, but Cowher's no nonsense attitude and defensive-minded, disciplined football team did come together to win Super Bowl XL, behind the youngest winning QB in Super Bowl history.
With rookie sensation Felix Jones coming back next year off of an injury, and the discovery of fellow rookie Tashard Choice, coupled with the skill set of Marion Barber, the Cowboys could have the team model of the New York Giants' "Earth, Wind, and Fire" running combination that has seen them dominate in the NFC the past year and a half.
Cowher liked to run the football and establish the ground game, making an effective play-action pass attack later in the game able to open up the offense to make big plays (sound familiar, Giants fans?).
Anyone who thinks that featuring the run more would not placate Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, and make their statistics dwindle, see Randle-El, Antwaan and Ward, Hines.
Finally, Cowher emphasized strong defense, which would match perfectly with the solid defensive team the Cowboys have (led 2008 regular season in sacks). With a healthy secondary—something the Cowboys haven't had all year—this Dallas D can be dominant.
The stellar pass rush of the Super Bowl Giants team in 2007-2008 showed that when under pressure, opposing QBs could make even the Giants relatively bland secondary look solid, and create multiple turnovers by way of interceptions.
Sadly, I do not see any of these changes being implemented if Wade Phillips remains at the controls (notice: I didn't say "in control") of the Cowboys.
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