Cowboys have a defensive keeper in Phillips
If Jerry Jones makes a change after this season and decides to hire a new head coach, be it anyone from Mike Shanahan to Bob Stoops, I’ve got a great defensive coordinator candidate for the Cowboys.
Phillips is a heck of a defensive coordinator, and his defense certainly shined Saturday night in ending New Orleans’ dream of an unbeaten season. Dallas beat the Saints 24-17 and held New Orleans to 336 total yards. Drew Brees took the Saints to two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the game interesting, but Dallas’ defense got a stop in the final few seconds when DeMarcus Ware stripped the ball from Brees and Jay Ratliff recovered for Dallas.
The Cowboys’ primary problems this season have been offensive. Dallas’ defense has been solid. Which is no surprise. Phillips long has been a fantastic d-coordinator, and when he took over the defensive duties for this season, it marked an upswing for the Cowboy defense.
Dallas’ two losses to the Giants were games in which the Cowboy defense struggled — 33-31, 31-24 — but otherwise, Dallas’ defense has been salty. The Cowboys’ other losses were 17-10 to Denver, 17-7 to Green Bay and 20-17 to San Diego.
Dallas is sixth in the league in scoring defense and sixth in the league in run defense.
Dallas’ upset of New Orleans puts a new shine on the Cowboys’ playoff hopes. They lead the Giants by a game-and-a-half, going into New York’s game at Washington on Monday night. if the Cowboys don’t win the division, they need to finish ahead of New York, since the Giants swept the season series. So the playoffs aren’t assured, even with the upset in New Orleans.
To keep his job, Phillips likely needs to do more than get to the playoffs. Dallas hasn’t won a playoff game in 13 years, since January 1997, when Barry Switzer was coach. Jerry Jones is ready for that drought to end, and if it doesn’t, Phillips seems likely to be jettisoned.
Dallas probably could use a new head coach. But a new defensive coordinator? The Cowboys have one of the best in the business.
Of course, it’s silly to think that a head coach would take a demotion to the team he had been leading. But I think it’s possible, for two reasons. 1. Look who’s on Dallas’ staff. Dave Campo. The Cowboy secondary coach was the Dallas head coach from 2000-02, but he returned last year to Jones’ employ, where he worked from 1989 through 2002. I think Valley Ranch is a pretty good place to work. Switzer always said so. 2. Phillips has little ego. It’s really remarkable that a guy like that could ascend to NFL head coach (good NFL head coach; 79-54 record, a .594 winning percentage that is 32nd-best in league history among coaches with at least five years as a head coach). But it’s true. Phillips is what Steve Spurrier likes to think he is, just an ol’ ball coach.
I don’t think a new coach would want to keep Phillips. But he could do a lot worse and almost surely will.
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