Extending Phillips’ contract right decision

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Cowboys have signed head coach Wade Phillips to a contract extension that will run through the 2011 season. What this essentially means is that owner Jerry Jones picked up Phillips’ 2010 option and added another year onto the head coach’s contract.

Some fans may disagree, but this was a smart decision by Jones. He didn’t want to go into the offseason trying to convince free agents to come to Dallas when he can’t even make a decision about who his head coach will be. But now that Phillips is under contract through 2011, the Cowboys have stability at their head coach position, at least for the time being.

Another reason this makes sense is because a potential lockout is threatening to wipe out the 2011 season. Chances are a new CBA deal will be struck by then, but it doesn’t make sense for an owner like Jones to pay a new head coach millions of dollars for doing nothing in 2011. (Especially if that new head coach was a big name like Bill Cohwer.)

Don’t forget that the Cowboys improved this season under Phillips. They still came up short of Jones’ expectations, but there are 30 teams that fail to reach the Super Bowl every year and half of those teams aren’t close to reaching the title game. The Cowboys at least won a playoff game and are seemingly moving in the right direction.

Is Phillips the right man to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl? Who knows, but at least Jones didn’t make a rash decision based on Dallas’ loss to Minnesota last Sunday. If the Cowboys implode next season, then Jones can re-visit the situation again but at least right now he has a head coach that has already proven he can lead a team to the playoffs.

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What’s next for Romo, Phillips?

If recent history was any indication, a Cowboy postseason defeat was inevitable. They had played well throughout December and had gotten the playoff monkey off their backs with a first round rout over the Eagles last week. It figures that Tony Romo and Wade Phillips were due to fail, which they did in Dallas’ 34-3 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.

Romo didn’t play well today, but blame could hardly be put solely on his shoulders. He was under constant pressure because his offensive linemen couldn’t block a statue and he also received little to no help from his running game. That said, there was no excuse for him to turn the ball over three times. His fumble in the second quarter set up a Vikings’ field goal and his brutal interception late in the second half sealed any comeback attempt by the Cowboys.

The turnovers didn’t help, but what killed the Cowboys most of all was the fact that they couldn’t finish off drives. Several times throughout the game Romo led Dallas into Minnesota territory and failed to generate points. Of course, if the Cowboys had anything resembling a kicker they would have sported more than a field goal on the scoreboard. Shaun Suisham missed two field goals and essentially sealed his fate in Dallas this offseason.

As for Phillips, there’s not much more he could have done in terms of play calling. His defense just failed to execute and the big play doomed them in the end. Phillips was able to drum up some pressure and Dallas did a great job containing Adrian Peterson, but they couldn’t come up with that big stop to turn the momentum in their favor.

The question now becomes: Will Jerry Jones keep the combination of Romo and Phillips in the offseason? There’s no doubt that the ‘Boys failed to live up to Jones’ expectations, but Romo and Phillips each turned in a great season. I would have to imagine that Romo will be around in 2010, but there’s no guarantee for Phillips. People said he had to win a playoff game to keep his job, and he did that. But after they played so poorly today, that may not have been enough.

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Taylor: Jones doesn’t want to fire Phillips

Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News made several good points about Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips (more specifically, Phillips’ job status) in one of his recent articles.

No one is rooting for Wade Phillips to succeed more than Jerry Jones.

If Phillips succeeds, then it justifies Jerry’s decision to hire Phillips instead of Norv Turner, and it justifies his decision to go with a players’ coach after Bill Parcells left.

Besides, Jerry loves working with Phillips because the coach allows him to be himself. He can be part of the process instead of feeling like an intruder when he wants to address the team after a game.

Jerry doesn’t want to fire Phillips.

Frankly, he’s looking for reasons to keep Phillips around. His 32-15 is a good start, but Jerry wants some playoff success. You can’t blame him, considering the Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since 1996.

That’s why Jerry hasn’t been shy about saying what needs to happen for Phillips to keep his job.

It’s also why he hasn’t yet signed the club option that will guarantee Phillips another year.

This was a very simple way of looking at the situation and I thought Taylor hit on several key points, none bigger than the fact that Jones wants Phillips to succeed. If Phillips fails, then Jones looks bad for hiring him, so why wouldn’t he want the head coach to succeed?

It’s easy to get caught up in how Jones wants to make flashy decisions. Many people (myself included) somewhat expect him to go after Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan in the offseason because that just seems like a Jerry Jones thing to do. But the fact of the matter is that Jones is in Phillips’ corner – he just wants to see his team win or else he’ll have to make a change because in his mind, the Cowboys have a Super Bowl roster.

This Sunday will tell a lot about Phillips’ future in Dallas. If the Eagles crush the Cowboys and Dallas gets bounced in the first round of the playoffs next week, Jones will likely make a change. But if the ‘Boys can muster a win against Philly and make a run deep into the playoffs, then there’s no guarantee that Jones will cut Phillips loose in the offseason.

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Cowboys right on time with another December collapse

I know this is such a cliché, but I’m going to use it anyway, so eat it: There are three things we can count on in life: Death, taxes and the Cowboys collapsing in December under Wade Phillips.

The Chargers won their eighth straight game on Sunday by knocking off the Cowboys, 20-17 in Week 14. Vincent Jackson turned in a banner performance by catching seven passes for 120 yards, which should appease fantasy football owners because he had just nine grabs for 147 yards in the previous four weeks.

But getting back to Dallas, the ‘Boys have started off the month of December by dropping their first two games. They’re now 3-7 under Phillips, but it’s hardly fair to blame all of the Cowboys’ struggles in the fatal month on the head coach.

In December and January, Tony Romo is 5-12 as a starter and the defense is allowing 25.1 points per game. So if owner Jerry Jones is getting an itchy firing finger again, he might want to clean house because it’s been a collection of things that have lead to the Cowboys’ woes in the final month of the season.

Of course, Romo wasn’t that bad today. The Cowboys went run-heavy in the first half and he still managed to throw for 249 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. (Granted, he was helped by a last-second touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton.)

That said, neither he nor the defense did enough to earn a win. There’s no shame in losing to a good Chargers team that can throw at will most Sundays. But the bottom line is that Dallas put together a lackluster effort at home in crunch time of the season. It doesn’t matter who’s most to blame – they just need to win.

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Jones says Phillips’ job safe for now

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that head coach Wade Phillips’ job is safe for the remainder of the season, according to a report by ESPN.com.

This isn’t surprising news. The Cowboys aren’t lighting the world on fire, but they do have a winning record and there’s no reason to make a dramatic coaching change when it isn’t necessary.

That said, Phillips would be naïve to think that his job is safe past 2009. If he doesn’t get the Cowboys to the playoffs, there’s no way Jones is going to keep him around with Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden waiting on the sidelines ready for another opportunity to be head coaches. In fact, just getting to the playoffs might not be enough for Phillips to hold onto his job.

Despite their winning record, the Cowboys are a mess. Jason Garrett’s offense looks like a shell of its former self and Tony Romo has seemingly regressed as a passer. Making matters worse, receiver Roy Williams hasn’t stepped up to fill the void that the team created when it released Terrell Owens this offseason and Marion Barber and Felix Jones can’t stay healthy.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom for Phillips and the Cowboys. The team is on a much-needed bye week and Austin Miles exploded against Kansas City last Sunday. If he can build off that success, he’ll take the pressure off Williams, who doesn’t seem capable of being a No. 1 receiver in this league. Miles has all the physical talent in the world, but had yet to breakout before last week.

This bye week is crucial for Phillips and the Cowboys. If they don’t come out like gangbusters and build some momentum, then chances are they’ll continue to fall further behind the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East. Phillips knows that the next 11 weeks are pivotal to keeping his job.

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