Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The More Things Change...

Wade Phillips is gone.

The man who is apparently the reason for all of the troubles in Dallas during this miserable joke of a season has finally been shown the door. In his place is the Ivy League offensive genius, Jason Garrett. The problem is that Garrett has been under fire as well this year since the Cowboys haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard. Forget the fact that Garrett was offered head coaching positions at Atlanta and Baltimore two years ago, most fans seem to assume that Garrett will be no more than an interim head coach to ride out this year before Jerry goes out and gets someone else.

Someone else.

That seems to be the battle cry of the modern day Cowboys. The franchise that gained the America's Team title while having only one coach in 29 years now has seven coaches in the 20 following years. Of those coaches, only Jimmy Johnson has managed to win more than one playoff game.

And therein lies the problem with the Cowboys. You can rehash this coaching change until you're as blue in the face as that star on the Cowboys helmet, nothing is going to change much.

We thought that Jerry Jones had learned his lesson in 2003 when, after several 5-11 seasons where the only thing worse than the Cowboys' play on the field were the decisions made in the draft room, he finally relented and hired a "football guy" in Bill Parcells. The Tuna didn't win playoff games here, but what he did do was change the losing culture of the franchise. He didn't accept excuses and he made shrewd draft choices (mostly) that brought in hard working players that you build a team around. The top players on today's Cowboys squad: Romo, Witten, Ware, Austin, all appeared during the Tuna's turn here. At the very least, this team was poised to make a championship run.

And then Jerry destroyed it.

Jones has made it clear that he hated things when Parcells was here. He had to give up his power and exposure. He was just another owner and that wasn't okay with Jerry.

So Jones went out and reverted back to his old habit of getting a mild mannered coach who would never dare steal Jerry's spotlight. Wade Phillips is one of the nicest guys in the National Football League, but he's not a leader who demands respect. All of a sudden, no one was accountable for their actions like they were under Parcell's reign.

The Cowboys still won because they were talented. But you saw disturbing signs all during Wade's tenure here. The drafts weren't nearly as fruitful. The players didn't have to worry about hungry younger guys coming in the compete for jobs. Wade kept making excuses for his team.

Then came this past off-season. The Cowboys somehow thought that winning one playoff game before getting their doors blown off in Minnesota meant that they should be Super Bowl favorites. Training camp was nicknamed "camp cupcake" by some due to it's lackadaisical nature. Jones was busy marketing his new stadium to anyone and everyone whether it was for college football, boxing, or concerts. It's like everyone was busy doing anything except playing football.

And that leads us to today. Wade is gone, Garrett is in, but it doesn't matter. The damage was done over a course of several years. The accountability Parcells instilled in this team to make them winners again is buried under a soft head coaching tenure where it was once again clear that the owner is in charge.

The Cowboys are back at square one. Jerry can either remember what it took to save his team the first time, or he can be stubborn (as he famously is) and insist on hiring puppet head coaches who's aura never intrudes on his own. Jones' decision is the difference between a return to the title hunt, or another string of losing seasons and long off-seasons.

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