Every week for the past month or so, we’ve been placing odds on which potential big name free agent coach could come in to replace Wade Phillips at the end of the season. But that seems like a foolhardy endeavor now that the Cowboys stand alone atop the NFC East after a game in which they clearly outcoached Andy Reid and the Eagles. No joke. Wade and his staff devised a rather ingenious game plan for the Eagles. The Marion Barber draw plays to counter the blitz. The quick bubble screens to do the same. The Cowboys, despite all those horrid flags, played a very patient game on Sunday Night, and were rewarded for their efforts.
Phillips, as you may know, sees his contract with the team expire at the end of this season. The Cowboys have an option they can pick up for a fourth season with Phillips, but they have yet to exercise it. It’s reasonable that the Double J to take a wait-and-see attitude with Phillips, given that we’re only at midseason, and this team still has to prove it can close the deal once the winter months come around.
But many teams often choose to extend the contract of coaches during a successful run to avoid late-season questions about the coach’s lame duck status. The Browns, much to their chargin, extended Romeo Crennel’s contract during their 10-6 season two years ago, a record that appears more and more miraculous with each passing day. There are also rumors that Brad Childress of the Vikings will get his contract extended before the season is over. So is there a chance that the Double J will throw caution to the wind and extend Phillips before all is said and done? I asked esteemed rumormonger Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk about his odds of ol’ Wade getting rewarded with an extension.
Florio: Zero percent chance of extension. Whether Jerry picks up the option hinges, I think, on the team winning at least one playoff game.
Me: What if the team fails to win a playoff game? Then he's fired?
Florio: I think that's what would happen. Jones would spin it as contract expiration or something like that. If they qualify for a bye and lose in divisional round, that could be enough to save him.
Me: But that would be odd. Jones kept Phillips last year after a much WORSE season. If the Cowboys go 10-6 and lose in the Wild Card round, why fire him THEN if the team is clearly better? Is it because the free agent coaching class out there is so good?
Florio: No buyout obligation and better options for a new coach.
So Florio believes that Phillips is still on extremely shaky ground. I’m not sure I agree at this point. Jones has already stuck with Wade through thick and thin (mostly thick, in Wade’s case). I think it’s an aesthetic thing. I can see Wade staying if the Cowboys lose in the playoffs, so long as they don’t look like a disorganized, choking mess in the process. THAT was what made people call for Wade’s head at the end of last year, and I don’t think he can afford a repeat of that.
Either way, the Cowboys will have a decision to make on Wade in the very near future. And these last games will have a lot more than just a division title at stake.