There's an interesting column at SI.com by former Cowboys offensive lineman Ross Tucker regarding teams playing for coaches destined for the unemployment line. Tucker knows of what he speaks as he played for coaches in their final seasons in each of his first three years as a player, including Dave Campo's disastrous 2002 campaign with the Cowboys.
His column is directed at the Redskins and Bills, in particular, but there's a lot to be gleaned about the situation with this year's Cowboys team. Tenuous would be an upgrade on Wade Phillips's job status. There are a lot of coaches with Super Bowl rings on the open market, not to mention Double J's redheaded wunderkind calling the plays, and most days it seems like nothing short of a championship could save Uncle Wade's job.
Tucker writes that he's seen the way players stop trying when they're playing for a coach who has lost their respect, counterintuitive as that may be to trying to save your job with the new regime. Phillips might not have that problem, as he doesn't seem to have much respect from his undisciplined crew in the first place, but a couple of stumbles in the four tough games following the bye week will only exacerbate the situation.
The Cowboys might be in even worse shape than a team where the majority of players are fighting for their futures. Because of contracts, name recognition and talent, a good chunk of this year's team knows that they'll be back barring a French Revolution-style purge by the new regime. That's not a recipe for putting in the extra effort that will be the difference in the second half of the season if Phillips's firing is the worst kept secret since Jerry Jones's plastic surgery.
The damndest thing about the whole situation is that there's not much way to avoid it. Firing Phillips now is a non-starter of an idea as is any notion that he'll become a more effective coach. The best hope is that the players rally around their beleagured coach but that seems awfully unlikely given how little they've bought into what he's sold them thus far.
All of which leaves us, the players and the organization twiddling its thumbs as they march toward a known, unhappy conclusion.