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Phillips vs. the gambler

Interesting stuff from Pro Football Weekly. In a discussion of the NFC East, they turned to Wade Phillips and his past history with QB's. Their analysis leads to some interesting thoughts on Tony Romo and how Phillips will handle him this season.

Wade Phillips is, has been and always will be a defensive coach. But that certainly does not mean, as the new head coach, that he doesn't have a significant say in what the offense does, and more specifically with the quarterback. So, for those looking for a few story lines this offseason, scoot "Tony Romo's development" a couple of notches up the list. A look at Phillips' experience with QBs in his two full-time head-coaching jobs is somewhat intriguing, if not telling. First, he helped turn around John Elway from one of his worst seasons in 1992 to career highs in completions, yards, completion percentage and TD passes, not to mention his fewest interceptions (he later surpassed the TD mark). But clearly, Phillips made a more conservative QB of Elway, too. In Phillips' two seasons with the Broncos, Elway's yards per completion fell from 12.7 in his career under Dan Reeves to 11.5. And following Phillips' career to Buffalo, the coach favored the more conservative Rob Johnson at the end of the 1999 season and in 2000 over the more unpredictable Doug Flutie, who was coming off a Pro Bowl effort in '98. Romo, who shares some traits with both Elway and Flutie, might find out quickly that he'll have to cut down on his ratio of one interception every 25.9 attempts.

I've been advocating ball security for Romo all offseason as the number one priority for his development. It was a teaching lesson watching the rise and fall of Tony Romo's season last year. When he first started, he showed great presence in the pocket, knowing when to move in the pocket, knowing when to get rid of the ball, and most of all, not putting the football in jeopardy. As the season progressed, his attention to that particular aspect of the game seemed to falter. He threw too many interceptions, some that were just bad throws. He was holding the ball too long looking to make a big play - reminding me of Bledsoe's faults - and he was holding the ball like a loaf of bread low by his side. He has to learn to keep the ball up high in a position to throw, unless he decides to run. Then he needs to tuck it up under the arm and get whatever yardage he can.

Now, there is a line you shouldn't cross with QB's like Romo - who come from the Brett Favre gambler school - and that line is between ball security versus taking away their creative instincts that allow them to create big plays. Hopefully, Phillips learned his lesson when he went with traditional QB Rob Johnson in Buffalo instead of the gambler Doug Flutie. That was probably one of his biggest mistakes in Buffalo and helped to seal his fate - along with loyalty to certain assistant coaches. A steady QB who doesn't make plays is worse than a gambling QB who does make plays. Ideally, you want a gambling QB who makes plays but understands when not to gamble. That's the trick. I would like for the coaching staff to work extremely hard with Romo and get him to understand the difference between helping your team by doing what you do best, and hurting the team by ignoring the fundamentals of protecting the ball.

It's a fine line; one Bill Parcells was working on towards the end of last season. Phillips, Jason Garrett and Wade Wilson need to continue that work.

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