Phillips' best quality? He's not like Parcells

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones kicked off the Wade Phillips Era with a good cry Thursday.

Fortunately, he held it together long enough to recite his new head coach's qualifications, which included a keen sense of humor and the good sense to be born in Texas.

Later, Jones talked about the success of the "Phillips 3-4" defensive scheme.

As a general rule, it's a good sign when people name defensive schemes after your family, although the "Zimmer 3-4" never quite caught on.

But perhaps the biggest reason Jones hired Phillips is because he's nothing like Bill Parcells.

During my time as a Cowboys beat writer, my relationship with Bill was built on what most great relationships are built on: occasional eye contact and a few stolen moments via e-mail. He created the illusion of accessibility because his daily news conferences were often engaging and somewhat educational. The over-laughter at his familiar lines ("I'm up to my own [expletive] in alligators!") echoed throughout the halls of Valley Ranch.

In reality, Parcells lorded over the organization with fear and intimidation.

He bragged about showing up for work at 4 a.m., and that caused former assistants Mike Zimmer and Gary Gibbs to punch in at 3:30 a.m. The slackers rolled in at 5 a.m.

The problem is that Parcells never won enough games to justify all the misery.

And that's why Jones didn't put up much of a fight to keep him last month. Those close to the owner said he'd stopped having fun, and that's not usually a problem for Jones. On Thursday, Jones finally admitted "there won't be as much walking on eggshells" now that Parcells is gone.

Across the room, Wade Phillips was granting one-on-one interviews with all the local TV stations. He'd joked earlier that everyone attending the news conference already had his cell phone number. Phillips probably gets it from his legendary father and former Oilers coach, Bum, whose number is listed in the Goliad, Texas, phone book.

In the wake of the Tony Dungy-Lovie Smith Super Bowl, it's never been so vogue to be a nurturing head coach.

And there's something about Phillips' appearance -- a cross between Captain Kangaroo (the great Bob Keeshan) and character actor Chuck McCann ("Far Out Space Nuts" anyone?) -- that makes it hard to imagine him unloading on someone.

"The old stereotype is that you've got to get in a guy's face to get the most out of him," Phillips said. "I've always believed that good guys, or nice guys, can finish first."

Former Cowboys safety Charlie Waters, who served as Phillips' defensive coordinator in Denver, said players would do anything for him.

"He built guys up to where they thought they could do anything," Waters said. "The guys on defense were convinced they were going to dominate."

Waters said it was so rare for Phillips to flash his temper that when he did, it had a profound impact on his players.

"He's one of the most serious guys I've ever been around," Waters said. "But you can't tell it by looking at him."

Jones is hoping this Nice Guy trend has legs.

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com. He may be reached at matt.mosley@sbcglobal.net.