EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys talks with Tony Romo #9 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium on December 6, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
A collective sigh of relief went up on Saturday night in Dallas, the result of the Cowboys' first playoff win since 1996. With that proverbial monkey off the team's back, Cowboys fever has beset the area with a uniformity not seen, that we can remember, since that 1996 season. Questions of the owner, head coach and starting quarterback have, in great part, subsided.
It's easy to forget then that only a few weeks ago--four to be exact--the picture being painted by many fans was one of grotesque organizational backwardness: A power-hungry owner with a preference for impotent coaches, one that would rather be in control than on top of the division; a coach who readily accepted such a scenario; a quarterback who couldn't win a playoff game for a lack of leadership and, I guess, a love for golf and dating pretty girls.
The charges, as ridiculous as they now sound, were popular refrains on message boards in the weeks leading up to that pivotal game in New Orleans. And while declaring all the Cowboys' woes--and all those of the three aforementioned figures--cured would be short-sighted, and irresponsible after a single playoff victory. But the win against Philly goes a long way in vindicating the team, and these three central characters in particular. The question we're kicking around is who benefited most?
Jerry Jones has said in recent weeks that he was shaken by last year's 44-6 beating in Philadelphia in week 17--and rightfully so. But the criticism of Jones had only begun. His decisions--greatly by his own design, one might add--have been the source of much debate all year, not the least of which concerned that to keep Phillips as head coach and the trade for Roy Williams last season. The Williams deal may ultimately go down as a failure; but Jerry's decision to keep Phillips when everyone else, it seemed, wanted to ride him out of town on a rail deserves some applause.
Phillips had to hear about his team's 13-year playoff drought, and his own 0-4 playoff record, all season. His demeanor never really changed though and his consistency has paid off. Phillips did what Bill Parcells never could in Dallas, win the division and an opening round playoff game.
Which brings us to Romo; the 29-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career and silencing many of his more loquacious of his critics in the process. Romo, regardless of what some might say, has always been good; this season, he may have established himself as being among the elite quarterbacks of the league. The bang on Romo, even in the face of overwhelming statistics, has been that he couldn't win the big ones, the important ones. Well, he's won four pretty big ones in-a-row, and in doing so, disposed of December- and playoff-demons.
The question for you is who was vindicated the most by Saturday night's win? Romo? Jerry? Wade? Someone we missed?
Yours in the comments.