Awash the good feelings of a "successful" campaign, the Boys’ head into the offseason with a sense of stability as Wade Phillips was rewarded with a contract extension through 2011 after guiding the Cowboys back to the playoffs.
Silenced are the December swoon critics. Gagged are the “can’t win in the playoffs” detractors. Dallas charged into the playoffs winning the NFC East by taking their last three regular season games and destroying the reviled Eagles in the first round of the playoffs before succumbing to the Minnesota Vikings.
Boys’ fans feel a sense of encouragement that Dallas is back on the road to that elusive Super Bowl. Surely there was a lot to build on this season. Offensively, the continued maturity of once reckless Tony Romo, finding a true #1 WR in talented Miles Austin, seeing what fragile Felix Jones can do if he doesn’t shatter after 15 carries were amongst the highlights.
On the other side of the ball, OLB Anthony Spencer became a true bookend across from All-Pro standout DeMarcus Ware, Mike Jenkins seems to be taking his place amongst the top tier CBs in the league, and Jay Ratliff continues to wreak havoc in the middle.
Spirits are so high in Dallas that I can hear the Super Bowl bandwagon starting its engine now. Yet something lurks beneath the surface like the grimy undertow of Flozell Adams’ jock strap. I sense some foreboding dark cloud that sits, waiting upon the horizon.
As I admire the Cowboys’ past season and then analyze the prospects for next year, I’m left with a feeling of discomfort that despite the slaying of our December demons, we may be suffering from yet another big D-- denial. In short, I still have my questions about whether or not Wade Phillips is the right man for this job.
Every time I try and get excited for the 2010 season, my mind seems to wander back to a 2006 presser by the Big Tuna. The Tuna, that’s Bill Parcells to y’all regular folk, was brought aboard in 2003 to right the collective ship of fools that had become the $$ Jerruh. He took over an organization that had just endured three consecutive 5-11 seasons (hey, at least we were consistent).
The team was an assortment of overpriced FA pickups, underachieving draft picks, and aging veterans. Parcells, through sheer force of will shaped that bunch into a 10-6 playoff team. The Tuna made them into a team that sported the #1 defense in the league, played ball control, and minimized mistakes.
You guys remember the Q-Dawg years, don't you? Alas that team proved to be fool’s gold as the team fell apart as quickly as Quincy Carter’s career and suffered the indignity of successive 6-10 seasons. Parcells, looking back, admitted, “This (The Dallas job) was probably the toughest job I’ve ever had… not because of the cooperation or the effort or the wherewithal…. It’s just where it was, and then where it went, and then we had to take a step back to get some things squared away.”
In other words, Parcells overestimated that team and didn’t continue to overhaul the roster and rebuild the organization because he was duped into thinking they were a legitimate Super Bowl threat. It took three years to finally recover from that miscalculation and the Parcells era in Dallas ended in 2007 as the worst stop of his storied career.
I have some similar concerns today. I question if we’ve misjudged our situation. Although this updated version in Dallas doesn’t share the exact situation, my fear is that overcome by the euphoria of our playoff success (that’s sad in itself, it was one freakin’ game), we have duped ourselves into thinking that the continuity of keeping Wade is the right course of action for this team?
Now Wade Phillips is a good and noble man. He treats people with respect, is polite and gracious. Maybe we should invite him over for bridge with my grandparents. He certainly can coach up a defense, but does he have the force of will to sculpt a big time winner out of team without a dominant or transcendent leader in the locker room like Ray Lewis or Peyton Manning?
We all know the knocks on the guy. Almost 63 and just won his first playoff game (maybe he’s just a late bloomer like Susan Boyle), 1-5 in the playoffs, penchant for losing big games often in spectacular fashion. His teams are often undisciplined (bottom half of the league in penalties the last 3 years) and maddeningly inconsistent. Is this coach the leader of men that we need to win a Super Bowl?
Now, many a bad coach can get to a Super Bowl. Bill Callahan, Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, and Forrest Gregg are just a few of the ridiculously mediocre head coaches that have made it to a Super Bowl. Heck, Barry Switzer even won one. In defense of Barry, he wasn’t used to having other teams pay for players too. So obviously having a great coach isn’t a mandatory prerequisite to getting to the big game, but windows are small in the NFL, time is precious, and the NFL annals are filled with many more stories of teams crashing and burning with unfit leadership rather then being able to overcome the situation.
We have many of the essentials for making a deep run. Playmaking QB- check. Dominant pass rush- check. Physical running game- check. Is having Wade continue to captain this ship the way to get back to the Promised Land or are we going to have to look back in anger 3 years from now admitting to ourselves that we mistook our situation?