NFL: Wade Phillips should be rewarded for changes he has made
By Jean-Jacques Taylor
The Dallas Morning News
ARLINGTON, Texas — Winning record after Dec. 1? Check. NFC East title? Check.
End wretched streak of 12 consecutive seasons without playoff win by smacking the hated Philadelphia Eagles? Check.
I’m not really sure what else Wade Phillips must do to get Jerry Jones to sign off on the team option that officially makes him the coach in 2010. Actually, Phillips’ performance this season should earn him the same three-year deal with a club option he received when he arrived, though it should include a fat raise.
Phillips has earned it.
Especially after the Cowboys whipped Philadelphia, 34-14, Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Who knows what excuses we’ll hear out of the City of Brotherly Love this week since the Eagles supposedly held back their offense and defense in last week’s 24-0 butt-kicking because they didn’t want to show too much in case there was a rematch.
A year ago, Phillips was the man in charge of the most gutless performance in franchise history when the Cowboys shamed themselves in a 44-6 loss with a playoff berth on the line.
I figured that would be his legacy forever in Dallas.
So did you. Don’t lie.
You know what they say about payback.
“Things have changed for Wade,” Jerry said. “He doesn’t have the same set of circumstances anymore. His record and his resume have changed. It’s a different place for Wade Phillips now.”
Give Phillips the credit for this season. He deserves it. Every bit of it because he vowed to change after the debacle in Philadelphia — and he did.
When Bradie James heard Phillips vow to change at the end of last season, he chuckled at the notion.
We all did.
But Phillips did it.
Phillips fired his protege, defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, and took over every aspect of the defense himself. He also fired special teams coach Bruce Read and replaced him with fiery Joe DeCamillis, whose language at times would’ve made Richard Pryor cringe.
Now the Cowboys’ special teams are among the best in the league instead of the worst.
While Phillips is never going to be an in-your-face coach, he has become tougher.
He changed some fines from $100 to a game check for transgressions such as missing bed check. Players in the NFL don’t care about losing $100, but none of them wants to lose a six-digit game check.
None of that, however, compares to the job Phillips has done with the Cowboys’ defense.
In three games against Philadelphia, which finished the season ranked 11th in the NFL in offense (357.9) and fifth in points (26.8), Phillips kicked Any Reid’s butt.
Every single time.
The Eagles scored a total of 30 points in 12 quarters against Dallas this season.
Philadelphia had one fluky touchdown pass — a 76-yard catch-and-run by Jeremy Maclin — that Phillips said was his fault because he figured the Eagles would be running, not passing with Mike Vick in the game.
Other than that, the Eagles did virtually nothing against the Cowboys’ defense.
Donovan McNabb, who finished with a 68.5 passer rating, was sacked four times and never found a rhythm. Running backs Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy were nonfactors, as was tight end Brent Celek.
Let’s not even talk about Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who vowed to sting the Cowboys’ (expletive) this week in an Internet video.
Jackson produced the same thing he did in the first two games: nothing. Oh, he scored a touchdown on a 4-yard pass early in the fourth quarter, but that only cut Dallas’ lead to 34-14.
He finished with three catches for 14 yards, with a long of 6 yards. Rarely has a guy talked so much and produced so little.
Reid had never lost a first-round playoff game before Phillips ended his streak. In the process, Phillips won his first playoff game as a head coach.
He goes for No. 2 next week. Maybe, Jerry will pick up the option by then.