Commentary

Wade Phillips, Cowboys are lost causes

Coach says he has no idea how to fix broken team, and nothing he's tried has worked

Updated: November 1, 2010, 9:59 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The head coach of the Dallas Cowboys says he's lost.

He doesn't know what to do.

Nothing Wade Phillips has learned in his 30 years of coaching has worked, as his team sits with a 1-6 record after a 35-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

"I'm at a loss right now, certainly," Phillips said. "If I knew what to do I'd have already done it."

The team that plays in a $1.2 billion palace hasn't won there in 2010. (At least it has won in the state, with its only win coming at Houston.)

[+] EnlargeWade Phillips
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanWade Phillips watched his team fall to 1-6 and remain winless in four home games this year.

When asked if he'd lost the team, Phillips said, "Well, I hope not."

The players will tell you they haven't quit on Phillips. As Phillips walked out of the locker room Sunday afternoon, defensive end Marcus Spears patted him on the back and Jason Witten gave him the head nod.

The players say they support Phillips and that a coaching change isn't necessary.

"He gets his point across," cornerback Terence Newman said. "I don't think to change coaches will do us any good, especially when he's not on the field."

Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager of this embarrassing product, has been saying he will not make an in-season coaching change. Jones will tell you he has no options.

He can't promote Jason Garrett, the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator, because he's not ready. Or more likely, his players don't respect him enough to follow him out of this hole they're in. Dave Campo, the secondary coach, ran three straight Cowboys teams to 5-11 seasons. Hard to move him up. Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni has never been an NFL head coach, though he led Syracuse from 1991 to 2004.

Jones said his organization is on Plan B.

"I've seen it done with other teams and I've seen it done successfully," Jones said regarding teams making structural changes not involving the head coach. "I haven't liked the results I've seen when they come in and changed out coaches."

Phillips said his team embarrassed itself and didn't have a chance Sunday.

Receiver Miles Austin and tailback Felix Jones mishandled passes that led to interceptions. Safety Alan Ball failed to consistently make plays on the ball. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware was out of position on a pitch and a reverse. New left guard Phil Costa was slow at the point of attack, leading to some issues with running the ball. Marion Barber failed to get into the end zone twice from inside the 1-yard line toward the end of the first half.

Phillips said he made a mistake by playing Newman, who has torn cartilage in his ribs. The doctors, trainers and Newman told Phillips he was OK to play. But Phillips said Newman hurt his team by playing.

The decision-making process of Phillips is flawed. He should make changes right now.

He should bench one of his inside linebackers for rookie Sean Lee. He needs to sit Ball and replace him with Barry Church at safety, start Felix Jones over Barber and sit Austin when he drops another pass. As good as Dez Bryant is, if he doesn't know the offense to the point where the team can't trust him, he shouldn't play on offense.

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is struggling to return kicks. He doesn't play with a burst -- it's like he's playing a sports video game and doesn't use the turbo button. This isn't Division II, where Owusu-Ansah averaged 25.9 yards a return in his career and 29.7 yards last year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It's time to put Bryant or possibly Tashard Choice in there.

Changes are necessary maybe even with Phillips' demeanor, but he said that won't happen.

"We got things going the previous three years without doing that," he said. "I don't think cussing a guy out is necessarily going to make him play better right now, especially the way they feel. We will tell them if they made mistakes, what mistakes they made and what they need to correct [them]. That's what you do coaching, and how you get it across to them is different with all coaches."

That's true, but the way Phillips is going about his business now is not working.

"Dude, I don't know what to say," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "I have no answers, no [expletive] idea of what the [expletive] is going on. I don't know."

And he's not alone.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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