Monday's speculation about Wade Phillips's return for the 2010 season has turned into something a bit firmer on Tuesday. NFL.com is reporting that the team decided to execute the option for next season when the coach met with Jerry Jones and other brass on Monday. Jones will meet with the media Tuesday, but only to talk about boxing, with another presser likely before the week is out to discuss Phillips's status.
If everything is set for next season, why the delay? The best bet is that the two sides are continuing to discuss a contract extension that secures the coach's job beyond next season. The conventional wisdom is that coaches without job security beyond the end of a season won't get players to buy into what they're selling. The Cowboys' 2009 season would seem to disprove that theory, but Jones does have to think about the message he's sending if he doesn't include at least one extra year for Phillips.
The clear message Double J would send by refusing to guarantee Phillips a salary in 2011 is that he doesn't want to bring Phillips back in 2010. You could try to spin it a different way, but it would likely tax Double J's PR staff beyond their considerable talents. It may seem odd that paying a man multiple millions for a year's work would indicate a lack of confidence, but such is the world of sports.
No extension means that Phillips is being judged on one loss, albeit a blowout loss in the playoffs, instead of on his 12 wins. All the dalliances with other coaches, real or imagined, and the massive salary paid to Jason Garrett will linger as signs that Jones only sees Phillips as a placeholder until he can justify making a different move.
The decision to bring Phillips back has to be based on an actual desire to bring him back, not just a distaste for standing in front of fans and media and terminating someone coming off a generally strong season. The way you show that is through an extension. Anything else amounts to a second cigarette while still blindfolded in front of the firing squad.