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Firing Phillips not the answer for Cowboys

October 18, 2010

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— These Dallas Cowboys don’t play like a team whose season should be over.

Except for a few plays every game.

And for that, we can only believe that another Cowboys season has ended here at the Metrodome.

Like most Cowboys opponents, the Minnesota Vikings did not come close to outgaining Dallas on Sunday afternoon. And, as is the custom, the Cowboys managed to offset that with a sizable edge in penalty yards (91-45).

So after Tony Romo’s second interception set up a 38-yard Ryan Longwell field goal, the Vikings saved their season — for now — with a 24-21 victory over the hapless visitors.

At 1-4, the Cowboys trail New York and Philadelphia by 21⁄2 games.

Even though the Giants are coming to Arlington, Texas, next week and the Cowboys have two dates with the Eagles late in the season, you can’t help but think that Dallas’ season cannot be saved.

Asked what keeps him optimistic, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “I’m not.”

If you’ve ever so much as heard Jones speak, you know that statement is out of character.

“We’re running out of opportunities to make this season what we want it to be,” Jones said.

But in his mind, a coaching change would do little to address the Cowboys’ problems.

Even when Jones was asked what if he made a change and the team started winning, Jones said, “You’d never know what saved it. That’s totally subjective.”

One point that needs to be made about why Jones won’t fire Wade Phillips is all about money. You and I don’t care about it, but Jerry does, and it would cost him millions to bring in new coaches and to keep paying Phillips and anyone else he might want to fire.

You can’t think that 16 assistants are doing great jobs and it’s just Wade that’s killing this team.

Throw in the uncertainty of the looming lockout and that’s another reason that losing coaches across the league won’t be getting axed.

Now let’s weigh Jerry’s options.

Fire Wade and promote Jason Garrett?

I was all for that two years ago after an ugly loss to the Rams in St. Louis. But can you watch the Cowboys’ offense misfire on so many cylinders and say that Garrett’s elevation would inspire a trip to the playoffs?

I think Garrett has head coaching potential. I can’t imagine promoting him to that position based on his 2010 body of work.

And if Garrett’s not the answer, well, it only gets worse. The big names that excite fans — Bill Cowher or maybe even Jimmy “Survivor” Johnson — cost millions and millions, have no real interest either in coaching for Jerry (that’s Cowher) or coaching period (that’s Johnson) and couldn’t put new systems in place for the last 11 games, anyway.

Terrible ideas.

As for the penalties that plague the Cowboys, yes, Phillips deserves a significant share of the blame. His refusal to hold players publicly accountable creates a disturbing air of comfort.

But are the two game-changing kick returns the Cowboys have surrendered the last two weeks on Phillips? How many of Romo’s five interceptions the last two Sundays fall on Phillips? Are the awful draft of 2009 and the Looking-More-Overrated-by-the-Week draft of 2008 on Phillips?

Fixing those problems — which realistically can’t begin to happen until 2011 — would require a culture change that Jones would have to lead. A simple coaching change wouldn’t do more than placate the Wade-haters who want one man to bear the burden for 45 players’ mistakes and a twisted philosophy that limits the head coach’s authority to begin with.

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