Irving, Texas Wade Phillips is sticking around as coach of the Dallas Cowboys for two more years. Dallas won the NFC East for the second time in Phillips’ three seasons. The team also won its first playoff game since 1996 and the first in Phillips’ head coaching career. The Cowboys are 34-17 over his three seasons in charge. Only three NFL teams have won more games in that span.
“We want to build on the foundation we have put in place over the last three years,” team owner Jerry Jones said Thursday, when announcing Phillips’ new two-year deal. “I want to take advantage of the continuity.”
Jones could have picked up an option for 2010 that was part of the three-year deal Phillips signed when he replaced Bill Parcells following the 2006 season. There also was speculation Phillips would get another three-year deal, but Jones said he opted instead to only go through 2011 because “two years in the NFL is an eternity.”
“There’s no comfort zone about it,” Jones said. “It addresses the urgency of where we want to go from here.”
Jones would not give any specifics about the financial terms, although he made it clear there would be a hefty bonus for reaching a Super Bowl.
“Is he being overpaid? Not one penny,” Jones said. “Is he being underpaid? Probably, for what I think he is. The bottom line is we have something that works. He has great incentive to doing what he wants to do anyway.”
Phillips had been among the league’s lowest-paid head coaches at around $3 million per season. This past year, he also took on the role of defensive coordinator, and Jones called him “the MVP of the defense.”
Jets lineman returns
Florham Park, N.J. — New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis has returned to practice on a limited basis with a broken left hand. Ellis, one of the Jets’ top pass rushers, was injured early in the team’s victory at San Diego on Sunday. He missed practice Wednesday, but was on the field in a cast Thursday and is expected to play in the AFC championship game against Indianapolis.
Marty gets game ball
Florham Park, N.J. — Jets coach Rex Ryan sent a game ball to Marty Schottenheimer after last weekend’s playoff upset of the San Diego Chargers, the team that fired the father of New York’s offensive coordinator following a 14-2 regular season. Brian Schottenheimer said he was touched when he learned of his boss’ gesture Tuesday — and joked that it didn’t even occur to him to do it.
Marty Schottenheimer was fired in February 2007 after the Chargers lost their first playoff game despite having the NFL’s best record that season. He had 35 wins and two AFC West titles in his last three seasons in San Diego, where his son was quarterbacks coach from 2002-05.
Tigers’ Cabrera treated
Detroit — Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has spent three months in a treatment program for alcoholism following a much-publicized drinking binge during the final weekend of the regular season.
Jenkins not convinced
New York — Ferguson Jenkins says Mark McGwire owes an apology to all those pitchers who gave up his home runs. The Hall of Fame ace sent an open letter to The Associated Press this week, telling the former home-run king: “You have not even begun to apologize to those you have harmed.”
“How many pitchers do you think he ended their careers by hitting numbers of home runs of them?” Jenkins said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
Fifty-one pitchers gave up a total of 57 homers to McGwire in what turned out to be their final major league seasons, according to STATS LLC, among them Bert Blyleven, Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Charlie Leibrandt and Donnie Moore.
Coffey, Brewers agree
Milwaukee — Right-hander Todd Coffey and the Milwaukee Brewers have avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to a $2,025,002, one-year contract. Coffey became a key reliever in Milwaukee’s bullpen last year after being claimed off waivers in September 2008. He went 4-4 with a 2.90 earned-run average in 78 appearances last year and led NL relievers with 832⁄3 innings pitched.
Pirates sign Dotel
Pittsburgh — Octavio Dotel agreed Thursday to a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the only club that offered him the chance to be a closer. The 36-year-old Dotel hasn’t been a closer since 2007, when he had 11 saves for Kansas City. He had one save the past two seasons as a setup man for the Chicago White Sox.
Blanton, Phillies reach deal
Philadelphia — Joe Blanton and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a $24 million, three-year contract that avoided a salary arbitration hearing next month. The 29-year-old right-hander was 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA last year.
Safina rolls in Australia
Melbourne, Australia — Dinara Safina advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open today, winning her first match on the major’s marquee court since her lopsided loss to Serena Williams in last year’s final.
Second-seeded Safina beat Britain’s Elena Baltacha, 6-1, 6-2, in her return to Rod Laver Arena, and eighth-seeded Jelena Jankovic was upset by No. 31 Alona Bondarenko, falling 6-2, 6-3 for her first loss in 10 meetings with the Ukraine player.
Both Safina and Jankovic have held the No. 1 ranking, but neither has won a Grand Slam singles title. Only Safina, who has been a runner-up three times, can make that breakthrough here.
Rain plagues Hope Classic
La Quinta, Calif. — Heavy rains forced the postponement of the second round of the Bob Hope Classic on Thursday, wiping out a day of competition at the tournament for the first time in 30 years.
Woods recordings released
Orlando, Fla. — New audio recordings are being released from the Tiger Woods car crash investigation. In one recording released Thursday, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Josh Evans tells a dispatcher that the golfer wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t have been doing. The trooper also says that Woods had only minor injuries. The patrol already has closed its investigation into the Nov. 27 crash.
Leach mediation ordered
Lubbock, Texas — The judge in Mike Leach’s lawsuit against the university has order the sides to try to work out a resolution. State District Judge William Sowder on Thursday ordered Leach, Texas Tech and their attorneys to complete mediation by Feb. 5. He also placed gag order on the talks.
The university fired Leach on Dec. 30, two days after it suspended him amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. His suit includes allegations of libel and slander and breach of contract.
East Carolina taps McNeill
Raleigh, N.C. — East Carolina has turned to former Texas Tech defensive coordinator, and Pirates alum, Ruffin McNeill to replace Skip Holtz. The school announced the move Thursday after members of the board of trustees approved McNeill’s hiring and an outline of a contract. The contract won’t be finalized until a regular meeting of the board next month.
Dakota decision delayed
Grand Forks, N.D. — The fate of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname has gone into triple overtime.
North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education voted 5-3 Thursday to delay a decision on retiring the nickname and Indian head logo so the state can find out if it can speed up an appeal to the state Supreme Court by some Spirit Lake Sioux members who sued to keep the moniker and symbol. The board hopes to have an answer in 30 days on the progress of the appeal.
The board is trying to drop the nickname and logo before a November deadline set as part of a settlement with the NCAA.
NASCAR to relax rules
Concord, N.C. — NASCAR is relaxing some of its rules this season, and encouraging drivers to show more aggression and emotion, in large part to answer a growing fan sentiment that the sport had gone stale. The first change will be evident when the season opens next month at Daytona International Speedway, where restrictions on bump-drafting will be lifted and horsepower will be increased by the use of the largest restrictor plate since 1989.