Time to take a breath. It's been a long ride from Romo's "Uh-oh moment" to today. We had to wait out the Tuna Watch, which took longer than most of us expected, and it ended in a way that was a surprise to most. I mean, how many people would go in and work two weeks in the office preparing for another season, and then abruptly walk away? It just didn't seem logical, unless you believe like I do that Parcells was using those weeks as a test. He decided to continue his regular routine as a coach to see if he had the energy and enthusiasm to go through another 12-month cycle. In the end, my guess is he found himself less-than-ready to take on the task, and did what was best for all involved, and that was to walk away instead of trying to fake his way through another season.
Once Parcells had removed himself from the equation; we had to wait out the process for Jerry Jones to select a successor. And that process went on for longer than I thought it would - prevailing opinion was that Jones would hire someone before the Super Bowl commenced. But Jerry wanted to be thorough, and he interviewed 10 different candidates before making that decision. I applaud Jones for being thorough, and as far as candidates were concerned, I thought he interviewed a nice cross-section of what was available at so late a date. Let's face it; there just weren't a lot of high-profile, knock-`em-dead choices available. Jeff Fisher, Bill Cowher or anybody else of that stature were in reality not an option. It was just bad timing for the Cowboys. In the end Jerry went with the most logical route available. He wanted previous head coaching experience because he believes, and rightly so, that this team is talented and ready to contend next year. He needed to fix the Cowboys biggest problem, a 3-4 defense that collapsed down the stretch, so he went out and got a 3-4 guru. He wanted someone who had experience, but had also won before as a head coach. Finally, he wanted to change the atmosphere at Valley Ranch, he wanted someone who might connect with the players on a different level. All of that led to the hiring of Wade Phillips.
Of course, there are people in the media who are not happy with this direction. It's been noted that the old-guard media in Dallas wanted Norv Turner. Their reasons may be valid, but it always comes across in their writing that Norv was their friend, and he represented a return to the glory days of the 90's. They couch it in terms of tutoring Tony Romo, and he does need some more tutoring, especially in the area of ball security, but the argument comes up short for me. For an example of the soft-touch, but underlying loyalty to Norv, read this Jim Reeves article. He's reached the conclusion that Wade is just a yes-man and that Jerry is really back in charge. My first question is - Would Norv Turner been any different? Not really, he would've been in the same boat, but wouldn't have fixed the 3-4 defense. In fact, he probably would've scrapped it in favor of Ron Rivera's 4-3 preference. While Norv would've been good for Romo, is there anything else he would have been better for on this team? Even the argument that he could improve the offense is questionable. Last year's offensive unit was very good, if Norv came in and implemented his offensive philosophy, it's very possible that it could take a year or two before the Cowboys really adjusted to it. Instead, Wade Phillips seems content to let the combo of Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano run the same basic offense we had in place last year. Combined with his emphasis on fixing the 3-4, everything about the Phillips hire says win next year, not re-tool the team for future success.
As for the other candidates besides Norv, there were some excellent ones that brought various strengths to the table. But they all lacked one important thing - a track record as an NFL coach. Ron Rivera, Mike Singletary, Jim Caldwell and the rest might one day be big-time head coaches in this league. But Jerry wasn't ready to turn over this roster to a coach that would be learning on the job. He might've hit the jackpot with one of them, but he also may have crapped out. You never know how long it will take a first-time coach to get things up-and-running in a way that will translate to wins on the field. With Wade Phillips, there's no learning curve, there's only the pressure to win in 2007 with no excuses.
Then there's the Jason Garrett factor. Much has been made of hiring Garrett before a head coach and then forcing him on the new head coach. Sure it's an unusual move, but one that might be Jones' crowning moment in this whole process. I don't believe that Wade Phillips is a place-holder; I think he has a legitimate chance to do something great with this collection of talent on the roster. But the hiring of Jason Garrett - who earns nothing but rave reviews from NFL coaches and players - may end up being the long-term answer for Dallas. I have no idea how he'll turn out, but Jerry, and a lot of other people, think he has huge potential in this league. Jerry was under a time-limit on Garrett and he made a decision. That decision was to grab talent when you can and worry about how to use it later. Many businesses operate on this principle, and the smart business-owner knows that your product is only as good as the human resources you employ to get the job done. Garrett was too good of a resource to pass up.
Overall, I think Jerry did a very good job in this whole search process. Of course it helps that he selected the candidate that I had backed from the beginning, but there are solid reason for choosing as he did. That doesn't mean Jerry is off-the-hook from criticism. The smartest thing Jerry could do for the Dallas Cowboys is to fire himself as GM and put someone else in that position. I love Jerry for the passion, energy, and money he expends on making the Cowboys a Super Bowl team. But I do question his judgment in acquiring football players. The Quincy Carter debacle is my most glaring example. That was a move that crippled us for a few years. But Jerry isn't going to fire the GM, so we have to live with that part of his ownership. But outside of evaluating a football player's talent, he does an excellent job for the Cowboys. No owner in the league works more tirelessly than Jones does to improve his team. He's not all bad in hiring coaches either. He did bring us Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells. He also somehow got a Super Bowl win out of a very suspect Barry Switzer.
But as JJT noted in a recent article, the goodwill and free pass given to Jones for those three Super Bowl victories has pretty much expired. The Dallas Cowboys fan base wants to win now and so does Jerry. That's why he hired Wade Phillips. Only time will tell if he was right in doing so.