The words “disappointing” and “embarrassing” have been used to describe the Cowboys’ 1-4 start to this season. Fingers have been pointed everywhere from the head coach, Wade Phillips, to the field goal holder, punter Mat McBriar. Dallas now leads the NFL in penalty yardage per game, which is my opinion of the Cowboys’ Achilles heel. Nine out of ten radio and television analysts have said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones needs to fire Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett at the end of this season if not immediately. Many have blamed Phillips for a team lack of discipline, claiming that has led to all the penalties. Dallas thought it was ridding itself of the penalty monster when it released left tackle Flozell Adams in the offseason. However, the current offensive line is being flagged for plenty of false starts and holding calls without Adams on the team. The debate has begun; to fire or not to fire Phillips and Garrett?
Rumors swirled after the Cowboys’ 0-2 start that Jones was going to fire Phillips following the Houston game. After Dallas marched into Reliant Stadium and dominated their intrastate rivals, those rumors vanished and everyone thought the Cowboys were cured. Now the comments about Phillips being on the “hot seat” are flying around more than ever. Obviously, the hot seat in Dallas is much worse than in other cities because of the Cowboys’ history and wide fan base. As much as it pains me to say it, The Cowboys and the Yankees of football and everyone knows it. Not in the sense that Dallas takes all the good players and pays them absurd amounts higher than other teams can, but the fact that both teams have fans all over the nation and the world. When everybody from fans to color commentators says the Cowboys are “the NFL’s most talented team,” it leads to them to say it’s Phillips’ fault they aren’t winning. ESPN analyst Chris Carter said it’s simple; if the league’s most talented team isn’t winning, then it must be the head coach.
[picappgallerysingle id=”9858616″]I’m a firm believer that a team should not fire its head coach during the season. It doesn’t matter if your team is 0-whatever; changing coaches in the middle of the season almost never works. The Houston Oilers of the mid ‘90s are the only team that has ever changed coaches during the season and made the playoffs. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Cowboys would not make the playoffs if Phillips was fired today and replaced by whoever (fill in the blank). I would say Dallas could use a new offensive coordinator, though. I believe Garrett is killing this team almost as much as the penalties. You can argue that with comments about both Garrett and Phillips, but you have to face it. Although his play-calling has improved over the last two games, Garrett still is not his brilliant, aggressive self that we saw in 2007. Just like the team, Garrett shows flashes of that brilliance, but something is different; something is wrong.
Cowboys’ defensive end Marcus Spears said after Sunday’s loss at Minnesota that the team is more than capable of “ripping off seven or eight games.” He is exactly right; Dallas has lost its four games by seven points or less in each contest. The Cowboys have had multiple touchdowns erased by penalties during these four losses, suggesting Dallas would be at least 3-2 if not for game-changing penalties on crucial scoring plays. I know I’ve harked and harked on the penalties, but I don’t think everyone realizes exactly how big a role the fouls have played in the Cowboys’ poor start. I thought the Boys would fix the problems against Minnesota and really get back on track, but it didn’t happen. Miles Austin’s 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown was wiped out in the second quarter and Dallas was forced to punt one play later. The Cowboys are that close to breaking through and starting a winning streak and a run at another division title. Just be patient, fellow Boys fans. We all know Phillips is gone at the end of the season, anyway.