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When the Cowboys recovered from a slow start to win the NFC East and their first playoff game since 1996 last season, there were people who gave Wade Phillips some of the credit for the achievements. His calm demeanor helped the team stay the course and avoid crisis in the always demanding world of the Cowboys.
Those days seem so long ago that they might as well be in black and white. The Cowboys are reeling and, naturally, Phillips is now too soft and too lax to get his team in line. Plenty of people are kicking these ideas around, but no one is doing it with quite the glee that Ed Werder of ESPN showed in a column published on Thursday.
It's a compete and total demolition of the Cowboys coach from the first word to the last. Werder points to Marion Barber's spot in the starting lineup, the complaints over Marc Colombo's celebration penalty and the fact that the Cowboys only play hard when their backs are against the wall as signs of how Phillips has created too comforting an atmosphere for the Cowboys to be a winning team.
The whole thing is sort of like spending 10 minutes arguing that reality TV is sleazy and exploitative or that our current political environment is indistinguishable from the portable toilet at a chili festival. Werder's right about Phillips's flaws, but he isn't breaking any new ground and he isn't making it the least bit clear what any of this has to do with the current state of affairs in Dallas. Phillips was the same guy when he won 13 games in 2007 and the same guy last season, so it isn't simply enough to say that a lack of accountability is to blame for their 1-3 record.
Tom Coughlin's Giants started the year 1-2 and had their backs against a similar wall to the one the Cowboys are now pressed up against before winning their last two games. It is the third or fourth time that Coughlin has been in a similar position since taking over in New York, yet somehow the fact that his team responds under that kind of pressure is always used as a point in his favor.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Werder's piece doubles as a hagiography of Bill Parcells' tenure as Cowboys coach, which Werder praises for making every player tougher. It's hard to see what that toughness did for the team, though. Parcells made the playoffs a couple of times, never won a game and even had a 6-10 season before he quit. That sounds a lot like the Wade era, except there's absolutely no chance that Wade leaves the building willingly. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, though.
Phillips is as easy a target as there is in all of sports, but the lack of results in Dallas is a problem that's been around long before he got to town. Isn't it time to start focusing on all the causes instead of looking for pats on the bat because you're able to hit the pinata that's dangling in front of your face without a blindfold?
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