"Look, can y'all not understand statements?" Jones said. "What the (expletive) is going on here? Really. I really don't understand what is going on. The coaching staff is in place. The coaching staff is in place..."
"Any jackass can kick a kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build it."
-- Sam Rayburn
Are Wade and Jason carpenters or jackasses? They're going to get the the full three years of Wade's contract to show us.
If you applaud the move or are nauseated by it, be aware that Jerry has been very consistent with his coaches. He is not the football equivalent of Chuck Barris, yanking his guys off the sideline with a giant hook while his loudest fans bang a gong. He gave Barry Switzer more than enough time to wear out his welcome. He gave Dave Campo three unfettered seasons to prove that he was not above 5-11. Bill Parcells left the organization on his terms.
Chan Gailey was the exception, of course, but he and Troy Aikman were on a steady path to a blowup, and Chan was never going to win a power struggle with his QB. There's no proof that such major internal dissention exists today, though some friction is certainly there. It's part of wearing the star.
Wade hasn't bowled me over, but I applaud the move. Tom Landry and Tex Schramm created the examplar of a steady, consistent organization. Yet owner Clint Murchison took the boldest step when he gave Tom a ten-year extension in the mid-'60s, when the team endured a one-step-forward and two-steps back developmental curve.
The Cowboys put up with four crushing playoff disappointments and a 1-4 playoff start by Landry until they advanced to their first Super Bowl -- the turnover filled fiasco that was Super Bowl V.
If Wade Phillips was judged by Tom Landry's standard, he would be getting an extension right now. Conversely, if Tom were judged on today's fire-him-yesterday template, he never would have become Tom Landry. Jerry has not given Wade and Jason longer deals but he has snuffed out the latest faux controversy of the week. (And why are you not more aggressive at this in other weeks, sir?)
It took Bill Cowher fourteen seasons before he won his first Super Bowl. The people's choice to take the Cowboys reins started 0-2 in the postseason. He had six outstanding years and then missed the playoffs three years in a row. He dipped again to 6-10 in his 12th season and lots of people wondered if he was done. Were he employed by 90% of the teams in the league, he never would have become Bill Cowher.
Bud Adams used to be the most mercurial owner in football. He changed head coaches the way some people trade in cars. Consequently, his Oilers had one of the least desired HC seats anywhere. In the mid-'90s, somebody convinced Bud to give his new guy a chance. Adams stayed with him despite four initial seasons where the Oilers/Titans never finished better than 8-8.
That coach, Jeff Fisher, is now the dean of NFL head men. His organization tolerated a painful rebuilding phase a few years back where Tennessee won just seven games in two years. As a result, the Titans are one of the favorites to play in the Super Bowl five and a half weeks from today.
It took Tony Dungy eleven seasons before he coached in his first Super Bowl. He was 5-8 as a playoff coach before his '06 team got hot in December and won out. When Dungy finally earned the Lombardi Trophy, his owner, Jim Irsay, proudly compared him to Tom Landry.
Thirteen different teams have played in the Super Bowl this decade. There is a constant among them -- with two exceptions, they have head coaches who served a minimum of five years on the job. Look at the list and you'll see the old men of the NFL -- Fisher, Reid, Belichick, Holmgren, Gruden, Dungy, Cowher, Fox, Fassell, Billick, Coughlin. The exceptions? The Rams, where Dick Vermeil retired immediately after winning his title and the Raiders, where Al Davis canned Bill Callahan one year after his team played in the big game.
Stability counts today as much as it did in Tom Landry's day.
I therefore find it ironic that a loud section of the Cowboys Nation, who used to flaunt their organization's patience and consistency as major reasons for its success, are now among the most maniuplated, reflexive fans anywhere, eager to take up torches and pitchforks and run out their head coach at the first sign of distress.
In the end, Wade and Jason may prove to be more like mules than magicians. They may bungle the final contracting job on Bill Parcells' Cowboys renovation. But they deserve the chance to fill out their deals. Otherwise, Jerry Jones is simply a better dressed Al Davis.