Commentary

Dallas Cowboys should fire Phillips

A team considered a Super Bowl contender is 1-6 and getting worse by the week

Updated: November 3, 2010, 12:10 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Memo to Jerry Jones: Now is not the time to be stubborn.

You've got your heels dug in with this whole Wade Phillips fiasco. You've never fired a head coach midseason and you've said countless times that Phillips won't be the first.

Considering the lack of in-house interim coaching candidates and Phillips' success as a defensive coordinator, that actually made sense when the playoffs were a faint possibility. Not anymore.

Nobody imagined a team as talented as these Dallas Cowboys could be this bad. A team considered a Super Bowl contender is 1-6 and getting worse by the week. And the self-appointed Mr. Fix-It's defense is in total disarray, allowing 76 points in the last two games.

Why shouldn't Phillips be fired this week?

"Because I think we can get something done," Phillips said. "I think we'll get better."

Well, golly, that sure does inspire confidence. Can it get much worse?

Jones, whose thinking is clouded by the labor uncertainty that could lead to a lockout next season, isn't willing to take a long-term view yet. He's still worried about trying to win as many games as possible this season, as if managing to beat the Lions in a few weeks or the Cardinals on Christmas night will serve as a deodorant for this stinker.

"I'm trying to evaluate what our best chance is, not only for our team but to leave the taste in our mouths that the fans deserve," Jones said.

Please, Jerry. At this point, fans would rather show up to Valley Ranch to help Phillips move out than pay to watch the Cowboys compete for the rights to the top overall pick in the draft.

There is no saving this season. It's as lost as Phillips was when he was trying to figure out what the heck he should say to the media after the Cowboys looked like a complete joke at home against a mediocre Jacksonville team Sunday.

[+] EnlargeJoe DeCamillis
Kirby Lee/US PresswireAs a head coach, Joe DeCamillis would bring a fiery attitude that the Cowboys so badly need.

After a lengthy film session, Phillips figured out that the Cowboys are awful at the football fundamentals. Gee whiz, what an epiphany. Too bad he ignored that obvious fact during a horrible preseason, much less six regular-season losses. Too bad he let his team get so full of itself after a whopping one playoff win.

Game-planning is no longer a priority for the Cowboys, making Phillips' X's and O's expertise pretty much meaningless. The focus is on the things they failed to establish during a five-week marketing tour that masqueraded as a training camp. Perhaps they could hire some local Pee Wee coaches as consultants to help Phillips teach a bunch of millionaires how to tackle, block, catch and throw. Unlike Dan Reeves, the Pee Wee coaches would probably agree to punch a time clock for Jerry.

The remainder of the most disappointing, disgraceful season in Cowboys history -- topping the 2008 debacle under Phillips' watch by a wide margin -- needs to be a nine-week seminar in accountability. King coddler Phillips, whose team has taken on his soft personality, simply can't be allowed to be in charge. That'd be akin to asking Tiger Woods to lead a retreat for couples counseling.

The suggestion here is to give Joe DeCamillis the interim gig. Sure, his special teams have been a big part of the problem, but he's the only real butt-kicker on the Cowboys' staff. At least he'd challenge the Cowboys' long list of underachieving veterans. More importantly, he might light a fire under the rears of regressing young potential stars such as receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Mike Jenkins, outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and running back Felix Jones.

But who really cares how many games the Cowboys win the rest of the season? It's time to weed out the players who aren't mentally tough enough to be part of this franchise's foundation in the future.

"With change, guys might go in the tank," right guard Leonard Davis said. "They really like playing for Wade."

Davis was actually trying to make a case for Phillips remaining in charge at Valley Ranch. That was his response when asked what harm firing Phillips could possibly do to the Cowboys. Of course, the Cowboys looked a lot like a team in the tank while getting blown out by Jacksonville last week.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireA coaching change could light a fire under regressing young stars such as running back Felix Jones.

Tight end Jason Witten and linebacker Keith Brooking, a couple of team captains and longtime vocal Phillips supporters, were among those who said the players deserve the brunt of the blame for poor execution. But Witten and Brooking, who are both straightforward guys, danced around questions about why Phillips should continue as the head coach.

That's quite a contrast from December, when Brooking's fiery pro-Wade rants were echoed throughout the locker room the week that the Cowboys began their late-season charge by beating the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints.

The Cowboys saved Phillips' job with that run, claiming the NFC East title and ending Dallas' dozen-year postseason win drought. In hindsight, that simply delayed the inevitable -- that this team would fall apart under its pampering head coach.

"I just hate it for Wade because his job is so hard now," linebacker Bradie James said. "One thing I can truly say is he's been positive and consistent as far as how he approaches the team meetings and us, altogether."

It sure is sweet that Phillips has made the Cowboys as comfortable as possible while they became a punch line. If the players really respected Phillips, they would have paid him back with attention to detail instead of being the most undisciplined team in the NFL.

We know firing Phillips can't make matters worse for the Cowboys. It's time to find out whether it would make things any better.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Mr. Fix-It.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

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