Phillips must meet expectations--whatever they may be--in 2009, in order to remain employed.
Jennifer Floyd Engel, in her column this morning in the Ft. WorthStar-Telegram, was right in saying that Dallas was not the "chic pick" to win the Super Bowl. She was right in saying that "They have yet to prove they are deserving of the expectations." She was certainly right in saying that, "they have yet to prove they can live up to what they say is their goal."
Perhaps the expectations have dropped in the minds of prognosticators and writers. But, as anyone from Dallas can tell you, the expectations among fans, whether they are vocalized or not, are present. And, of course, they are very high.
As Josh pointed out in his post No Drama Isn't The Same As No Expectations, the departures of Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and so forth make Dallas less controversial, and maybe less impressive on paper. But they probably don't make the team much worse in practice, nor do they provide enough of a dent in what is (still) a remarkably talented group to make them significant losses. Particularly when you take into account their collective penchant for drama.
The expectations are there, and they are there because of, not in spite of, the losses of such figures.
The New York Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000. They haven't really changed their approach to any season since (namely, making it rain on each and every free agent pool since). And if you think this seeming futility has lowered expectations on any palpable scale among the Bombers' fan base, you're crazy.
Yes, this comparison is admittedly flawed because (a) New York has had some postseason success in this span, (b) the team has gotten better on paper, arguably, each year and (c) Dallas' playoff drought has been both longer and (probably) more painful than New York's World Series drought.
But regardless, New York fans want a World Series win, not a championship series appearance.
This is true of Dallas fans as well. Just how much the Cowboys' fan base's anguish of the past few years would be assuaged by a mere playoff win, I can't say. I would argue not all that much. Not in Dallas.
No matter the frustration of 2008, this new year, and optimistic thoughts of a renewed commitment to the run, of (perhaps) an effective Roy Williams, of a far less dramatic season etc. will pervade any good fan's mindset some time between now and September 13. And they will precipitate expectations up to and including a Super Bowl victory.
Of course, they may just as easily disappear completely by mid-October, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.