- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- The news about their head coach's return gave the Dallas Cowboys a reason to smile on an otherwise gloomy day at Valley Ranch.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones made the decision to retain Wade Phillips for the 2010 season, a high-ranking team source told ESPN's Ed Werder. Jones had strongly indicated for several weeks that he would exercise the option in Phillips' contract for next season.
The Cowboys have yet to make an official announcement, but several players praised Phillips on Monday, saying it was in the team's best interests for him to return a day after their season ended with a 34-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC divisional round.
"His record speaks for itself," quarterback Tony Romo said. "He's done a great job, kept the team together through a lot of tough times this year. He's done a fantastic job as coach of the Cowboys."
The Cowboys are 33-15 in three regular seasons under Phillips, twice winning the NFC East title. They are 1-2 in the playoffs, ending a 13-year postseason win drought this season.
Phillips vowed change after Dallas' disappointing finish last season, which ended with a 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with a playoff berth on the line. One of the biggest changes occurred when he fired defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and assumed that title, making him the only head coach in the NFL to also serve as the defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys allowed the fewest points in the NFC (15.6 per game) this season. The defense peaked late in the season, posting the first back-to-back shutouts in the franchise's 50-year history.
"It just wouldn't make any sense to let him go right now, with just the way that we played, the way that we ended the season," said linebacker Bradie James, a defensive captain. "I don't think that's broken."
The Cowboys answered doubts about Phillips' ability to motivate players with the way they finished the season.
The Cowboys reversed their recent trend of fading down the stretch by winning the final three games of the regular season to claim the NFC East title. That streak started with a road win over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints, which came on the heels of the Cowboys' only back-to-back losses of the season.
"He does a great job of keeping everybody positive, keeping everybody's confidence high," strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. "He does a great job of coaching. You've seen the strides this team has taken from the beginning of this season to the end. He's a great coach. It's good to play for a guy like Wade."
16mMichael C. Wright