As if it wasn't clear in last Monday's loss to the Giants, turning a 10-0 lead into a bashing by the Giants, the Cowboys confirmed on Sunday that they are a team that will lose a lot of games this season. Falling hard to the Jaguars in a game in which the opponents openly questioned the Cowboys' toughness and desire to be on the field was a statement of where this talented but seriously flawed team sits. The Cowboys are 1-6 with no real hope of making the postseason, coached by a man in Wade Phillips who has no idea what to do to motivate his players.
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It became painfully obvious in the span of six days that the Cowboys are not a self-motivated outfit. So if Phillips can't get it done, who can? Owner Jerry Jones admitted to being "disappointed" and "surprised" with the results, but he appears too bent on protecting his record of not firing a coach during the season. It's a noble mark, but it's one that has to change. If for no other reason than to spare Phillips, for whom the players are not playing hard. He is a good coach who is only partly to blame for this mess, and he deserves to be set free.
Jones has said he won't do that — yet — but his position has softened on the matter with each successive loss. His postgame chat with the media vacillated between adamantly saying he didn't want to make a move with Phillips and then leaving the door wide open. Like many, Jones is having a hard time explaining why things have gone awry so quickly.
Phillips' biggest flaw as a coach is that he protects his players too much. He genuinely likes this group, and he has gone too far out of his way to shield them and take the blame for their mistakes.
"Everyone knows we have a lot of talented players, and that's the problem," he said. "I have talented players, and I'm not getting them to play well enough. To me, that's the root of the problem."
He's only partly right. The players themselves bought into the preseason hype and truly believed they would waltz to another division crown. Jones put together this team that is woefully short of grinders and special-teamers, the kinds of players who make up a successful 53-man roster, and long on fantasy-football-esque talent that leads to inflated egos and expectations.
Jones has made tough decisions before, and he has gone against his grain. He did it by hiring Bill Parcells. He did it by releasing a still-viable Terrell Owens and sending away franchise figurehead Emmitt Smith. Jones needs to change course on his record again and let Phillips go. What will it achieve? It will let every player on the roster know that their poor play cost a good man his job. It's not as if Phillips is going to come back next season. Why put the man through more torture?
There might be a hidden factor at work here. Jones, with his finger on the pulse of the fellow owners in their battle to get a new CBA that favors them, knows a lockout is looming. He openly has spoken about how that unsettled situation could be the reason a lot of teams don't make coaching changes this offseason. But instead of parlaying that knowledge into saving a few thousand dollars, Jones should save face and promote Jason Garrett to head coach.
Why, when Garrett has struggled as offensive coordinator, should he be the Cowboys head coach? Not as a method of punishment but as a true barometer for the man Jones truly believed would be Phillips' successor. If Garrett really has any coaching chops, he could grind out 4-5 wins with this group. Of course, it's entirely possible that Jones already knows Garrett is not his future choice, either.
There are very few pretty or easy solutions in his situation. But changing head coaches, if for no other reason than to spare Phillips the continued misery of banging his head against the wall over and over again, would be the most humane option. At this point, that's about all you can ask of a man.