Jones gives more support for Phillips

Updated: December 30, 2009, 6:08 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones gave coach Wade Phillips more support for a return in the 2010 season Wednesday.

Phillips is in the last year of his contract, which includes a team option for next year that has yet to be picked up.

With the Cowboys having already clinched a playoff spot with last Sunday's victory over Washington, there was thought Phillips might need to win in the postseason to get that extension.

"That's too succinct," Jones said before Wednesday's practice at Valley Ranch. "Especially since the best thing to do for the future for us other than to get to the Super Bowl is not have any coaching changes. That's the best thing to do."

Phillips is 32-16 in three seasons with the Cowboys, but he's failed to win a playoff game in his coaching career (0-4). In three head coaching jobs, Phillips has finished with at least a .500 record or better.

Phillips also has struggled in December/January (15-18), but has built a two-game winning streak this month with the Cowboys. The Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday with the NFC East title on the line.

Phillips' calm demeanor and one-game-at-a-time theme has rubbed off on the players and pushed this team into the playoffs for the second time in his three seasons.

"The way you minimize [a firing] to some degree: a result ... a score," Jones said. "It's a broader picture for me than that, and I'm really proud of him."

Another key for Jones is Phillips' prowess with the defense.

Under Phillips, the Cowboys have seen improved development of young players such as outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, cornerback Mike Jenkins and nose tackle Jay Ratliff improve.

Ratliff was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday night. Jenkins leads the team with five interceptions, and Spencer has been a strong complement to outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Spencer has just four sacks, but is second on the team with 34 quarterback pressures.

Overall, the Cowboys have the No. 12 defense in the league and are fifth against the run.

"There is no question that if you had to pick the most valuable player on defense right now, it needs to be Wade Phillips," Jones said. "There is no question about that. It's a team thing over there. ... He should be recognized and is being recognized for that, I think."

Phillips has said in the past he can't control his job status even if he wins because of previous firings in Buffalo and Denver, where he thought he did a good job.

"I think he's as tough as a boot," Jones said. "You see how he has handled his criticism. You see frankly that he's never had a honeymoon since he's been here, and he's handled it well. The players see that. I see that."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. 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.