ARLINGTON, Texas -- Every Monday afternoon, we gather in this sacred place to discuss what took place during Sunday's games. With the Giants and Eagles on their bye week, let's focus our attention on losses for the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins:
I made the trip out to Valley Ranch Monday to make sure owner Jerry Jones didn't have a change of heart about firing his head coach. Jones has painted himself into a corner by saying he won't fire Wade Phillips during the season and he's not a man who often admits mistakes in public forums. But to hear how helpless Phillips sounded following Sunday's 35-17 loss, you wondered if Jones might be forced to make a move. Well, nothing has happened yet. Perhaps he is waiting for the Texas Rangers to finish up the World Series before making an announcement. But it's more likely that he'll allow this sham of a season to continue.
Phillips still has the players' support, but then, what else are they supposed to say? I understand why they like the guy. He's intensely loyal to them and rarely, if ever, calls any of them out in public. We'd all like to report to a Wade-like boss, but that's not an option for most of us. I turned to Phillips' biggest defender, Keith Brooking, on Monday to see what was on his mind. He was playing for the Falcons when Phillips took over as the interim coach during the season, so he has an interesting vantage point on this issue. Here's just a portion of what Brooking said during his time with the media today:
"Everyone’s searching for answers," said Brooking before a throng of cameras rushed over to his locker. "What is going on? It’s very simple. This game is very simple. It’s not complex. As players, we are not going out there and executing the play that’s called. Bottom line. That’s it.
"Wherever [Phillips] has been, he’s been successful. I’ve had a lot of success under Wade Phillips as a defensive coordinator with different personnel, different players, different teams obviously. You think overnight his defense is not going to hold up and be successful? No, it’s on us to go out there and execute and make plays.
"There is a lack of execution on our part, and it’s a different guy on every play. I take the responsibility for that, because I’m a leader on this team. I’m a captain for the defense, and it’s unacceptable. It hurts like hell. The only thing I know to do is keep fighting, keep pressing."
I also had a chat with right guard Leonard Davis about his head coach's status. Asked if a midseason coaching change would "hurt" this team, David said, "It probably would. Guys are used to playing with this one voice. [If you make the change], maybe some guys could go in the tank." Davis has a unique perspective because he played for some bad teams during his stay with the Cardinals. He remembers a lot of speculation about his head coaches, but he never had one fired during the season. Like the other players I spoke to, Davis voiced his support for Phillips. But you can almost tell that they realize there's no way Phillips can survive this awful season.
Martellus Bennett walked in wearing a "I [heart] Haters" T-shirt before lounging on a leather couch in the middle of the locker room. He didn't have anything to offer regarding Phillips, but he's "baffled" by his lack of playing time. Bennett, who performed well early in the season, said he was only on the field for about "10 snaps" Sunday. He said he hasn't yet asked for an explanation from offensive coordiantor Jason Garrett.
Mike Shanahan has brought controversy on himself and his team with Sunday's stunning decision. No matter how he's played, Donovan McNabb has won the respect of his teammates. You can hear it in the way they talk about him. They really believed that he was their leader. Now, Shanahan has given them something else to ponder. Here's what McNabb said about his benching Sunday: "When you get benched, you get benched," McNabb said. "Just have to learn from it and move on. I continue to focus as if I'm the starter," he added. "He said I'm still the starter."
McNabb eventually forgave Andy Reid for benching him in 2008 because they had so much history. That's not the case with Shanahan, as I wrote about earlier Monday. This is a sign that Shanahan & Son have been doubting McNabb as a leader for a good while. If you have faith in the guy, you certainly don't undermine him at such a critical juncture.
Brandon Banks is an enormous talent. I thought the rookie from Kansas State was a novelty item, but he showed Sunday in Detroit that he can be a huge weapon in the return game. With the offense struggling, you have to find ways to get this guy more touches. I'm not saying you make him a starting wide receiver like Devin Hester in Chicago. But come up with some gimmick plays to get this man the ball. What a remarkable talent. That's about the only positive thing I can say about Sunday's outcome.