Taylor: Sorry Wade, but status quo just isn’t good enough anymore
COLUMN By JEAN-JACQUES TAYLOR / The Dallas Morning News
IRVING – The time has come for Wade Phillips to start acting like a head coach – not just a really good defensive coordinator.
If he doesn’t, it’s just a matter of time until Jerry Jones fires him.
Coaches don’t get a lifetime pass to lead underachieving teams that rarely play to their potential. Phillips survived the Cowboys missing the playoffs in 2008, but he won’t survive another year of missing the postseason.
Whether you blame the players or the owner, who moonlights as general manager, doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, Phillips gets the credit or the blame, which is the nature of pro sports.
If Phillips doesn’t get this team deep in the playoffs, which seems beyond the realm of possibility after Sunday’s 34-27 loss to Tennessee, then there will be a new signature at the bottom of his paychecks next fall.
Understand, change is never easy.
Not for me. Or you. Or Phillips.
And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about losing weight, texting while driving or leading a football team.
This isn’t about using four-letter words. And it’s not about tipping over the players’ lunch buffet. It’s not even about calling out players at his daily news conference.
All of that would be phony.
Making every player accountable for his performance is not, though it might make some players angry.
Phillips might even need to make some assistant coaches angry. Again, so what?
When I was a kid, my dad often said, “If someone is going to be upset around this house, it ain’t gonna be me.”
Phillips should feel free to borrow that line, and the accompanying mind-set.
The reality is that if Phillips doesn’t figure out how to get this team and its bloated payroll – Jerry Jones spent more than $100 million in salaries and signing and roster bonuses – to play better on a regular basis, then a lot of people are going to lose their jobs.
The status quo is no longer good enough.
Phillips can start his change by ending the sham at running back. A team that’s 1-3 shouldn’t be worried about making sure Marion Barber’s feelings don’t get hurt.
Against Tennessee, Barber started, but Felix Jones entered on the game’s second play. He finished with 15 carries to Barber’s six.
Jones is faster, more elusive and more capable of generating big plays than Barber.
It’s no longer even worth debating after Jones ripped off two runs of more than 20 yards and recorded the Cowboys’ first 100-yard game of the season.
There’s no good reason for Jones not to continue to get two carries for every one time Barber totes the ball.
Phillips should also keep Leonard Davis on the bench until he outplays Montrae Holland and earns his starting job back.
Davis has admittedly struggled this season. There’s not a player or coach on the roster who doesn’t know that, if they’re honest.
On good teams, the best players start regardless of salary, draft pedigree or the general manager’s whims. Faux head coaches let outside factors dictate playing time.
During training camp, Phillips removed players for one play after they committed penalties. He should reinstate that rule.
If Jason Witten commits a penalty, then he should stand next to Jason Garrett for a play. The same goes for Miles Austin, Andre Gurode and anyone else.
And if DeMarcus Ware commits a penalty, then he should stand next to Phillips. The same goes for Keith Brooking, Mike Jenkins and anyone else.
It’s extreme, for sure, but these are extreme times for the Cowboys.
These Cowboys have no chance to make the playoffs if they lose at Minnesota on Sunday and fall to 1-4, even though they won’t be mathematically eliminated.
We all know it. So do they.
This is the time for change. Phillips can’t wait another day.
Or Jerry will soon be looking to hire his sixth head coach since 1994.