IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys failed Wade Phillips.
Phillips, who set a soft tone and struggled as a defensive coordinator this season, certainly gets a large share of the blame. But the players who consistently professed their love for the coach performed so poorly that they forced Jerry Jones to fire Phillips.
“Anytime the head coach gets fired, it’s an indictment of the football team,” fill-in quarterback Jon Kitna said. “I hope it serves as a wakeup call for guys around here. When they start making decisions like that and things like that happen, it’s just a prelude of things to come as far as changes on the football team.”
The defense especially failed Phillips, although opposing players told the Cowboys after games that they’d caught up with their scheme. The Cowboys allowed 1,299 yards and 121 points over the last 12 quarters.
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, the lone defensive player to talk to the media Monday, acknowledged that he felt like the defense let Phillips down. Ratliff, like Phillips, just can’t figure out how a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFC last season deteriorated so drastically.
“If I knew, I would have said something a long time ago,” Ratliff said. “We wouldn’t be here talking about this. Nobody knows. You ask anybody else the same thing and they probably give you the same answer I just did. I’m pretty sure you heard that a lot lately. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Phillips needed to be phenomenal as a defensive coordinator to make up for his obvious flaws as a head coach. Jerry Jones believed that Phillips’ defensive expertise gave him credibility as a head coach. That vanished in the last three games.
“When we started having the problems we’re having over there, that compounded the overall team thing,” Jones said. “There was a lot of me in denial for at least the last couple of ball games. But where we are right now is that we’ve got to be able to do the biggest challenge everybody does in the NFL and that is get a defense that can slow them down.”
Phillips' biggest strength is now a glaring weakness, which has a lot to do with why he's gone.