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Cowboys Head Coaches: Phillips Tops in Winning Percentage, Climbing in Tenure

According to Todd Archer, Wade Phillips' recent contract extension could put him in lofty company in Cowboys History:

If Phillips coaches for the duration of the extension, only Tom Landry will have had a longer tenure coaching the Cowboys. And Phillips hopes to break the tie he would have with Jimmy Johnson if he makes it through 2011.

His winning percentage already ranks as the best in the Cowboys coaching history. With a .667 winning percentage over his past three seasons as the Cowboys coach, Wade Phillips has topped the likes of  Jimmy Johnson, Tom Landry and Barry Switzer. But until he wins a Super Bowl, he'll most likely be mentioned in one sentence with the other Dallas coaches who haven’t won a Super Bowl, like Bill Parcells, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo.

Make the jump for more on the Cowboys coaches winning percentages and coaching tenures in the NFL.

Cowboys Coaches W/L record, 2006-2009 (including playoffs)

Tom Landry
Jimmy Johnson
Barry Switzer
 Chan   Gailey 
Dave Campo
Bill Parcells
Wade Phillips
Years 1960-1988 '89-'93 '94-'97 '98 -'99 '00-'02 '03-'06 '07-'09
Winning %age .603 .580 .634 .529 .313 .515 .667
W/L record 270-178 51-37 45-26 18-16 15-33 34-32 34-17

The NFL, like any other professional sports league, is a "What have you done for me lately" league. Winning and losing is always the key consideration when it comes to the job security of the head coach. When all is said and done, when losses pile up, the weakest link in the chain is usually the head coach. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise to see that the longer the tenure of a head coach in the NFL, the more likely it is that that head coach has kept the wins coming at a satisfactory level.

Current NFL Head Coaches by Tenure and W/L record with current team (including playoffs)

Team Coach
Win %
Team Coach Tenure
Win %
PHI Reid 11
TEN Fisher 16
CAR Fox 8 .559
NE Belichick 10
NYG Coughlin 6
JAC Del Rio 7
CHI Smith 6
CIN Lewis 7
NO Payton 4
HOU Kubiak 4
GB McCarthy 4
PIT Tomlin 3
MIN Childress 4
SD Turner 3
DAL Phillips 3
BAL Harbaugh 2
ARI Whisenhunt 3
MIA Sparano 2
ATL Smith 2
OAK Cable 2
SF Singletary 2
IND Caldwell 1
TB Morris 1
NYJ Ryan 1
DET Schwartz 1
DEN McDaniels 1
STL Spagnuolo 1
CLE Mangini 1
WAS Shanahan - -
- -
KC Haley 1
SEA Carroll - -
- -
BUF Gailey -- - -

Things that make you go hmmmmm: Of the 21 coaches with a tenure of 2 or more years, only three have a losing record. Of those three coaches, Tom Cable is probably making the best of what looks like a bad situation from afar, Gary Kubiak in Houston just got his first winning season (narrowly) and Marvin Lewis had a tough year in 2008 with the Bengals, but had a good showing this year.

All current NFL coaches combined have a .561 record (1103-862) with their current teams. In a league that each year has the same amount of wins and losses (barring the occasional tie), something has to give sooner or later.

Two years after the fact, even Super Bowl rings do not guarantee the job security of a head coach. Witness the current turmoil in New York around Tom Coughlin.

Continuity vs. the fast fix

The Lions have had eight head coaches this decade, if I counted all the interim HC's right. The Raiders have had six (hard to imagine they were in the Super Bowl as recently as 2002), Redskins owner Daniel Snyder just hired Mike Shanahan to make it six head coaches since 2000, the Browns and Bills both had five apiece.

As you look beyond just the current year, some of the more successful franchises in league history have had long stretches of continued success with the same head coach year in, year out.

The tricky thing is that continuity requires patience, not panic. But today's breed of owners may lack the patience the old breed of owners in the NFL had. The pressure to succeed is relentless, and the punishment for failure is accordingly swift and sure.

Close, but no cigar

NFL history is littered with coaches who compiled very strong records, but ultimately failed to win the big one. Bud Grant, the Vikings coach for 18 consecutive years had a regular season record of 158-96-5 and went to the Super Bowl four times, losing them all. Sound familiar to the younger readers? Yep. Dan Reeves, winner of almost 200 games with the Broncos, Giants and Falcons also lost in the Super Bowl four times.

In 21 years as a head coach, Marty Schottenheimer garnered a 200-126-1 regular season record and led teams such as the Browns, Chiefs and Chargers to the playoffs a whopping 13 times but never won a conference championship, much less a Super Bowl. Our good friend Andy Reid, tied with Bill Belichick for the best active regular season career winning record at .617 (min. 50 career games) has also been remarkably shy around the Lombardi trophy.

If nothing else, having a coach with a long tenure is a good sign that things generally seem to be running at or above expectations.

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