Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, must feel like the little kid who just had his ice cream fall off the top of his cone and topple to the ground. He has a long off-season to think about what happened to his 2008 football team. The team went infamously one and three during the final stretch of the schedule including a season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles to send the boys home. There seems to be several problems with team chemistry on both sides of the ball, but it boils down to one central piece of the puzzle: coaching and head coach, Wade Phillips.
Keep in mind, though, Jerry Jones created this mess at Valley Ranch. Now, he has to find something to clean up his ice cream. Until then, does he have the right head coach in place for next season? The problem with answering that question is that he already publicly committed to Phillips, so he may have some issues with integrity if he decides to ultimately dump Phillips.
It seems apparent there is a lack of head coaching to guide this team. This past season, the Cowboys led the NFL with 119 penalties for a total of 952 yards. This is inexcusable. There were too many false-start penalties, and the defense had plenty of yellow flags to go around, too. This is a lack of concentration and accountability on the players, and that comes down to coaching. Phillips appears not to have the necessary fire to mentally prepare his players. A head coach with some fervor would not allow this many penalties to continue week in and week out. The penalties were probably just the start, as the lack of accountability probably spilled over into the locker room as well.
It’s hard to believe this team finished the 2008 season with a 9-7 record. After the first win of the season, the media essentially had the Cowboys in the playoffs as a no-brainer. Those were famous last words. How can a team with so much firepower on offense consisting of Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, Jason Whitten, Marion Barber, and Tony Romo (and others) miss the playoffs? Perhaps there is a chemistry issue, but that argument shouldn’t carry the day. It’s a lack of game preparation, and that comes down to coaching. Phillips didn’t get his troops together, and it showed. Without mentioning some of the earlier losses, the team’s offense laid eggs against Pittsburgh in week 14 (only one touchdown), Baltimore in week 16 (only one touchdown in the first three quarters) and Philadelphia in week 17 (no touchdowns).
The other argument is the Cowboys were hindered with several injuries throughout the season. Just to name a few, Tony Romo’s pinky finger, Jason Whitten playing with a broken rib, and Marion Barber playing with a troubled toe all slowed the team at one point or another. However, it’s a fact all teams have injuries. Championship teams step up when the occasion calls for it and fill in when another is down. The head coach needs to rally the troops and get the job done. Also, why Romo seems to make big mistakes at inopportune times is a mystery yet to be revealed, but someone has to assist him with better game preparation. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, that in part, comes down to coaching, too.
The Cowboys made the playoffs in 2007, but they were an early exit as they lost in the first round. This means in two seasons at the helm, Wade Phillips has a ranch full of talent, but no playoff wins. At this point, it appears Phillips will be returning as head coach, and sources say he promises change. As Dallas enters their beautiful new stadium next season, will we see the same old same old? Stay tuned.