Commentary

Dallas Cowboys shouldn't fire Phillips

Immediate coaching change wouldn't change a culture that has gotten out of control

Updated: November 3, 2010, 12:09 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

There is growing sentiment that the Dallas Cowboys should fire coach Wade Phillips.

Critics are correct in blaming most of the problems of this 1-6 team on Phillips. But there are other issues that must be rectified if things are to change -- regardless of who the coach is.

Talk to agents, players, scouts and front-office people around the league and ask them about the Cowboys. The list of responses is long.

[+] EnlargeWade Phillips
AP Photo/Mike FuentesOwner Jerry Jones has stood by Wade Phillips, hoping the coach could turn things around -- even with a family-type environment that has resulted in a lack of leadership.

No structure. No on-the-field leadership. Arrogant. Worn down from training camp. Not enough character guys. Poor decision-making on the field and by the front office. No fear of players losing their job because of poor performance.

That's what you'll hear. And none of the opinions is flattering.

So the problem Jerry Jones faces is that it's just too late to make a move that would correct these issues.

Firing Phillips and replacing him with anyone on the current staff won't get the Cowboys into playoff contention.

It won't change the culture that has gotten out of control.

Jones should have made the move when the Cowboys were 0-2 and still had a chance at the postseason. But he stood by the premise that Phillips could turn things around.

Keith Brooking said the team didn't practice its best at the start of the season. Terence Newman said it, as well. It was a chance for Phillips to crack some heads. He didn't. Patrick Crayton, who is now in San Diego, said recently that he wished Phillips had been a little tougher on the younger players, who get their cue from the head coach and from the veterans.

The Cowboys walked around as if they owned the NFL. How many rings does this current group have again? How could this be the case?

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliJason Garrett's blunder at the end of the first half against the Washington Redskins might be giving the Cowboys pause about elevating him to head coach.

If Jones makes a move now, the in-house candidates are part of the culture Phillips has established. There is nothing wrong with a family-type environment, which was vastly different from the previous four years. But there has to be more leadership.

The top candidate to replace Phillips is assistant head coach Jason Garrett, who doesn't command the respect of the players in the locker room.

Garrett is a nice guy, but one of his key decisions in an early-season loss was perceived as a colossal failure.

Late in the first half against the Redskins, the Cowboys should have taken a knee. But Garrett called for a pass play to Tashard Choice. The running back was stripped of the ball, and the fumble resulted in a touchdown that set the tone for the season.

Phillips took the blame for not overruling Garrett's call.

Garrett should have had the presence of mind to see that the chances to score on first-and-20 with four seconds remaining in the half weren't worth the risk. Garrett also took the blame for the miscue, but it gives you pause about his decision-making skills.

The next best interim candidate is defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, who was a head coach at Syracuse from 1991 to 2004. He's a strong-minded coach who commands respect, but he's never been a head coach in the NFL and his most recent work -- defensive coordinator with the Dolphins last year and defensive line coach for the Cowboys this year -- hasn't deserved much praise.

[+] EnlargeDave Campo
Kirby Lee/US PresswireSecondary coach Dave Campo has already had his chance at coaching the Cowboys, compiling three 5-11 seasons.

Secondary coach Dave Campo is another possibility, but three consecutive 5-11 seasons in his previous stint as Cowboys head coach doesn't give anyone hope that he can fix things.

Joe DeCamillis is the special-teams coordinator who is the disciplinarian of the coaching staff. He has the ear of the head coach and the owner, but he also hasn't been a head coach. He has the voice for it, but you wonder whether he would be the guy to stop a poor decision by his offensive coordinator.

Jones doesn't have any options on the staff that make him feel confident that a coaching change is the right move. With a possible work stoppage in 2011 meaning a coach might not have a chance to implement a new system because the players are sitting at home, what's the point of making a change?

There are nine weeks remaining in the season. All the Cowboys can hope for is a late-season run.

That appears as unlikely as scoring from your own 36-yard line with 4 seconds remaining in the half. Regardless of who the coach is.

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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