The beleaguered look on Wade Phillips and defensive coordinator, Brian Stewart’s, face during the 34-14 whipping the Rams put on Dallas said it all. Dallas is in for a struggle to just make the playoffs this year despite having a very talented roster. Many (myself included) thought Dallas was a Super Bowl contender prior to the season and instead they are a team in disarray.
Dallas does not play fundamentally sound football. They are getting beat upfront (offensively and defensively) and commit more penalties and turnovers than the opposing team and routinely lose the field position battle due to poor special teams play.
The listless performance against the 1-4 Rams was embarrassing. Wade Phillips was hired primarily due to his experience in running a 3-4 defense. Dallas is 1-3 in its last 4 games and opponents are averaging 28 points per game during this stretch (better yet, stench). The Dallas defense may be the most disappointing unit in the NFL. I just do not see any innovation, intensity or attempt to shake things up on defense from Phillips or Brian Stewart. The last two weeks the Cowboys have faced two quarterbacks (Kurt Warner and Mark Bulger) who you know if you hit them in the mouth, then turnovers will follow. Does the coaching staff come up with a wrinkle or scheme to apply pressure? They do not. The pass rush is vanilla and too dependent upon DeMarcus Ware. Greg Ellis has complained that he is too often in pass coverage and needs more opportunities to rush the passer.
If Jerry Jones needs an example of what a good defensive coordinator can bring to the table, then he has two excellent examples in his own division. The Giants defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, last year wanted to get his top 4 pass rushers on the field on 3rd down passing situations. It was unconventional, but he used 4 defensive ends in these situations and moved Justin Tuck around to wreak havoc. How about Philadelphia’s, Jim Johnson, who after the Eagles did not pressure Tony Romo in a loss to Dallas decided to get aggressive. He unleashed a variety of blitz packages that led to 9 sacks against the Steelers in an Eagle victory.
I also do not want to hear about injuries. Terence Newman is hurt and that is why the secondary cannot cover. How come the Redskins lose Shawn Springs, play with a banged-up Fred Smoot and they still stuff the Browns? Tony Romo hurt his pinkie and did not play. Some of the Cowboys greatest wins (1974 Thanksgiving win over Washington (Clint Longley in for Roger Staubach), 1994 Thanksgiving win over Green Bay (Jason Garrett in for Troy Aikman) have involved backup quarterbacks. A good team finds ways to win despite injuries, which in the NFL are inevitable.
The reality is this coaching staff is not getting the job done. Jerry Jones when pressed after the game about Wade Phillips job security gave the idiotic answer that he did not fire Jimmy Johnson after a 1-15 season! He then explained that sometimes you fire a coach after they win a Super Bowl (especially if the owner is an egotistical publicity hound who believes he is a football genius)!!
I do not believe that Wade Phillips can turn around the team’s play and take them deep into the playoffs. Tony Romo returning to the lineup will help (if his hand is healthy enough), but he does not block, rush the quarterback or cover receivers. This weeks game against Tampa Bay (former Cowboy WR Antonio Bryant will be pumped for this one) is a MUST win game for Dallas.