This is what you call a mercy firing. Wade Phillips was not solely responsible for the Cowboys' miserable 1-7 start this season. Not by a long shot. But it was time for him to go anyway, because this meek group of players had stopped playing for him weeks ago.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired Phillips on Monday, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Ed Werder. The fact that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will reportedly replace Phillips won't exactly inspire the Cowboys' fan base, but any form of change was needed. I don't think for a second that Garrett is being considered the long-term answer as head coach. I guess if the Cowboys rally behind him and play well down the stretch, it will carry some weight. But if Garrett had done a great job, Phillips would've been canned a long time ago.
Phillips led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles during his tenure and their first playoff win since 1996. The players responded to him immediately in '07 because of his laid-back demeanor -- and the fact he was polar opposite from Bill Parcells. But his refusal to hold his players accountable was his eventual undoing.
When his starters played horribly against the Jaguars last week, he didn't make any personnel changes. And the one reason Phillips was in Dallas -- his defensive acumen -- failed him in the end. A defense with All-Pros such as DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff went belly-up in losing five consecutive games.
Jones should also fire himself as general manager, but we know that won't happen. He's responsible for this mess, and on Monday he began a massive cleanup effort. Phillips is a likable man whom the players enjoyed playing for. But he tried to win his players' friendship instead of their respect. If they had any respect for the man, surely they wouldn't have quit on him in such epic fashion.
As a result of all the coddling, the Cowboys may be the thinnest-skinned team in the league. They've become a huge embarrassment based on their preseason expectations. Now, Jones will be hosting a Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium while conducting a coaching search.
This move would've been made earlier if Jones wasn't so stubborn. He desperately wanted to keep Phillips around because it was a comfortable situation for him. Phillips never minded deferring to Jones on pretty much every decision. But once again, Jones sacrificed winning for comfort.
Phillips was begging to be fired the past couple weeks. On Monday, Jones finally granted his wish.
I'm eager to hear what he has to say this afternoon, but it's not like there are any quick fixes for a team that's in such pitiful shape. This move had to be made because a fan base was getting ready to rebel. Jones was thoroughly embarrassed by Sunday night's effort. Now he's taking some ownership for the mess he's created.