Fire Wade Phillips

I wrote my first Fire Wade Phillips post over at OTB Sports on October 6th, on the heels of a narrow escape against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals at Texas Stadium.

Jerry Jones needs to fire Wade Phillips. Today. The Dallas Cowboys are undisciplined and lackluster, a perfect reflection of their head coach.

Phillips doesn’t mind losing. Lord knows, he’s had a lot of practice. He’s 0-for-career in winning playoff games as a head coach. When a 13 win team with 15 Pro Bowlers loses at home to a team it beat twice in the regular season, it’s fine. After all, they made it to the second round of the playoffs after a bye week. That counts as 14 wins!

When the team loses at home to a Washington Redskins squad with a depleted secondary, getting thoroughly outcoached along the way, it’s no biggee. Lots of season left! When the team nearly loses to the 0-5 Cincinnati Bengals, whose quarterback is playing hurt, “Everybody’s happy!

This team is too talented to play this sloppy so often. They seem to be going through the motions. And relying on owner Jones to give them pep talks! Jean-Jacques Taylor says the Cowboys “need more fire from their head coach.” But Phillips simply doesn’t have any fire. And it’s not like he’s liable to get any at this point in his career.

Needless to say, Phillips was not fired.  Not even after a loss at Arizona the next week.  Or an absolute drubbing against the pathetic St. Louis Rams the following week, after which Tim Cowlishaw wrote a column titled “Loss should be Wade Phillips’ last with Dallas Cowboys.”  Or a blowout against the Giants two weeks after that.  Not when they collapsed against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game they had won on December 7.  Or when they did it again last week, giving up the two longest touchdowns by an opponent in Texas Stadium history on the last game ever played in that venue on back-to-back plays.

Today, faced with a win-and-you’re-in game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillips’ team came out as flat as I’ve ever seen them.  Surely, Phillips can’t still be employed after this.

Of course, this outcome was not only predictable but predicted.  In a January 2007 piece on the mere speculation that Jones was thinking about hiring him (“Wade Phillips Top Choice to Replace Parcells?“) I wrote:

The man has had four NFL head coaching jobs, including two interim stints, going back to 1985:

    Saints (Interim) 1985
    Broncos 1993-94
    Bills 1998-2000
    Falcons (Interim) 2003

Guess how many of those teams he took to the Super Bowl. If you guessed Zero, you were right.

Now, guess how many playoff wins he had? If you guessed Zero again, pat yourself on the back.

He has a career coaching record of 48-39 and is 0-3 in the playoffs.

Wade Freakin’ Phillips?!

He’s since upped his record to 0-4 in the playoffs and navigated a team with 15 Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl expectation into 10-6 mediocrity and missing the tournament altogether.

By all accounts, Phillips is a decent fellow.  He’s also a terrific defensive coordinator.  But he’s not a quality NFL head coach.  He’s had five chances and failed five times.  It’s time for him to retire or accept what the Peter Principle has clearly demostrated and stick to coaching defenses.

Regardless, it’s long past time for Jerry Jones to clean house and find someone who can get the most out of the talent he’s assembled.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. tom p says:

    Please Dallas, don’t fire him, if you do the Rams just might hire him!

  2. markm says:

    It’s all about perspective. 9-6 looks pretty damn good from where I sit.

    markm in Michigan

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Presumably, NFL head coaching jobs are like Fortune 500 CEO jobs: the best predictor of landing one is having had one before regardless of previous results.

  4. James Joyner says:

    9-6 looks pretty damn good from where I sit.

    Sure. And if Phillips had taken over a lousy team, I wouldn’t have expected him to weather a lot of key injuries and go better than 9-7 against a touch schedule. But this team was in the playoffs two years in a row and 13-3 last year (granted, also under Phillips).

  5. tom p says:

    Oh, and “10-6 mediocrity”? Me thinks thou dost protest too much. Try the Lions, or the Lambs, or the Clowns…

    Oh wait a minute, at least those guys get a high draft pick (assuming they haven’t already traded it away) for their mediocrity… Dallas? They miss out on the playoffs, AND get the 27th pick in the first round….

    HAHAHAHAHAheeheeheehee…. There is justice in the world after all.

    Sorry James, as a long time St Louis fan with relatives from Dallas, I have had to suffer some 45 yrs (since I became cognizant of football)of torment… The best thing that ever happened to St Louis was exporting Bill Bidwell to wander in the desert for 40 yrs…

    My only hope is that with the recent coups ousting Jay Zygmunt and John Shaw, and putting Bill Devaney firmly in charge, we can have an actual football game in the EJ dome that isn’t college or high school.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Sorry James, as a long time St Louis fan with relatives from Dallas, I have had to suffer some 45 yrs (since I became cognizant of football)of torment… The best thing that ever happened to St Louis was exporting Bill Bidwell to wander in the desert for 40 yrs…

    Well, the Rams did win a Super Bowl in 2000 and went to the big game in 2001. If you’re talking about the Cardinals, who left for Arizona 20 years ago, I’ll grant that they’re a perennially bad team. But they don’t have high expectations, either, since their owner doesn’t spend money. Jerry Jones may be a lousy GM but he’s an aggressive owner who spends what it takes to bring in talent.

  7. tom p says:

    Well, the Rams did win a Super Bowl in 2000 and went to the big game in 2001.

    NO FAIR, James!!! As if 2 yrs of excitement can make up for 45 yrs of unrealized expectations!

    My favorite years were in the mid 70’s, the “Cardiac Cards”, watching Dierdorf, Dobler and crew trashing defensive linemen and linebackers left and right (Hart only got sacked 11 times that one yr…74?) and their opponents kept complaining about how “dirty” they were (“He BIT ME! HE WAS CHEWING ON MY LEG!!!” (speaking of Dobler)) They never got past the first round, but they were NEVER out of a game, somehow you always thought they could still pull it out.

    2000 for the Lambs was just plain… magical. I remember after they beat the Giants (game 8, I think) I was coming out of a hardware store and had a conversation with a guy about the game (I had listened to it on the radio) and he was just so convinced. I was still very doubtful, I had been thru too much of this before. But still, he was so sure, and you had the whole Kurt Warner story going, and Marshall Faulk, and Isaac Bruce, and Tory Holt… I started paying real attention after that. And it really was magical

    Imagine for a minute, the star quarterback is knocked out in the preseason. The back up (who was stocking groceries 2 yrs before) comes in and becomes the catalyst for the “Greatest Show on Turf”???? You can’t write that kinda sh*t.

    And it all ended with Mike Jones making “the tackle”… a no name guy making the most important play to end the most exciting Super Bowl in history…. Magical.

    But St Louis is St Louis, and we all know where it went from there. Kurt Warner got discarded like an old worn out shoe after a couple of years, Mike Martz never got the credit he deserved, Isaac Bruce…. I don’t even wanna talk about that. And it only got worse from there. (and I haven’t even brought up London Fletcher)

    Here’s to the 2nd pick in ’09!!!

  8. tom p says:

    Oh and one more fav story from ’74… it was a goal line stand, they gave the ball to Jim Otis for a pound up the middle, he made it, but it was flagged for a personal foul… seeme Dierdorf got p’d off and turned a linebacker upside down and was pile driving his head into the turf… After the whistle.

    Now why would that upset anyone?

  9. markm says:

    But this team was in the playoffs two years in a row and 13-3 last year

    It’s a parody league…there are bunches of teams that were bottom of the barrel that turned it around in a year or two…and there are many that went from the top down. I just can’t wait to see who the Lions get with the Dallas pick…and how long it takes to ruin his career.

  10. Drew says:

    If misery loves company……….

    Lovie Smith inherited a team good enough to go to the Super Bowl a couple years ago on the strenghth of one of the 1-3 best defenses in the league.

    Not satisfied with (that’s code for “too arrogant to retain”) Ron Rivera as D coordinator he brings in his buddy Bob Babbich. Now the mighty Bear defense looks like Boo-boo and Yogi more interested in pik-i-nick baskets than defense, giving up 31 points in a do or die game.

    Babbich has got to go, and if Lovie doesn’t know it, he’s got to go too.

    Of course, if you like the intracacies of the bend-then-break defense………tune in some time.

  11. Anderson says:

    Not to change the subject or anything, but …




  12. Dodd says:

    Phillips is what we call a “player’s coach.” Player’s coaches rarely do well consistently — even without T.O. in their locker room.

    Sometimes a player’s coach can appear to do well taking over for a hardass who’s already whipped the team into shape, as Phillips did last year. But it usually doesn’t last. Especially not with a T.O. in the locker room.

    That team needs another hardass in charge post haste.

  13. Paul Letteri says:

    My New years resolution is to try not to care that Jerry Jones is that mentally deranged that he is willing to throw his team down the toilet just to prove that it is his team and he can do what ever he chooses in a stuper of stupidity.
    Hey Jerry How about thinking about the facts and the horrible state the team is in mentally.
    All they are looking for is for someone to lead them to the promised land ! Bill Cowher Please !!