Phillips to coach Cowboys, agrees to three-year deal

IRVING, Texas -- Twice during his introduction of Wade Phillips as Dallas Cowboys coach, Jerry Jones had to stop and gather himself. The decision was that emotional for the team owner.

"We needed to get it right," Jones said, pausing as tears welled up in his eyes. "In my mind, we got it right."

Phillips was hired Thursday, providing Dallas with an experienced replacement for Bill Parcells and someone well-versed in the 3-4 defense.

Maybe more significant for Jones was getting a coach who can win now. The Cowboys haven't won a postseason game in 10 seasons, the longest drought in the history of a team with five Super Bowls.

"This team is best served now, next week, next month and next season by an NFL head coach with experience, that knows the game, that candidly knows the personnel that are playing the game right now," Jones said.

The seventh coach in team history, Phillips is only the second to arrive in Dallas with previous NFL head coaching experience. The other was Parcells, who retired Jan. 22 after four seasons with the Cowboys.

Phillips, defensive coordinator at San Diego the past three seasons, has a 48-42 head coaching record over three seasons with Buffalo, two with Denver and season-ending interim stints with New Orleans and Atlanta. The 59-year-old son of longtime Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips has been in the NFL for 30 of the last 31 seasons.

"It's great to have these cowboy boots back in Texas," said Phillips, showing his boots from the podium, where his father sat to his right. "[Jones] feels like and I feel like I was the best fit for this job. ... I think I can make an immediate impact."

Phillips joins Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson as the only Texas natives to be in charge of "America's Team." Landry and Johnson both won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

"It's a big job, but I'm ready for it," said Phillips, who got a three-year contract that includes an option for a fourth season. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Jones interviewed 10 candidates before hiring his sixth coach since buying the team in 1989. Phillips was interviewed two weeks ago, and his chances of getting the job seemed to be fading when Norv Turner was among five more who followed him.

"It was really tough," Phillips said. "In the game, I have control in a lot of things, like making the calls. In this, I didn't have any control. I'm just hoping."

But Jones chose the defensive-minded Phillips over Turner, a two-time head coach who was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator for Super Bowl titles after the 1992 and 1993 seasons. But Turner was only 59-83-1 in nine seasons as head coach for Washington and Oakland.

"It was important to get the experience and expertise and some of the specific things that I felt we needed to help our team out," Jones said. "How we were going to go forward with the offense, how we were going to go forward with the defense."

After Jason Garrett interviewed for the vacancy Jan. 25, Jones hired him to an unspecified role on the coaching staff. It has been presumed he will be the offensive coordinator, but Phillips said he didn't want to discuss Garrett's role until he had a chance to talk to the former backup quarterback.

Phillips' head coaching record includes 3-4 as a fill-in for the Saints and Falcons and 0-3 in the playoffs, most notably the "Music City Miracle," when Tennessee used a trick kick return for the winning touchdown in the closing seconds against the Bills in January 2000.

Besides carrying on his family tradition, Phillips has handled the dubious task of replacing Super Bowl coaches Dan Reeves in Denver and Marv Levy in Buffalo. So the idea of following Parcells doesn't bother him.

Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, went 34-32 in four years in Dallas and lost twice in the playoffs. He implemented the 3-4 scheme in Dallas two years ago, and has built a roster suited for it, highlighted by end-turned-linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

"I love the defense that San Diego plays, and I think our team has guys who could play great roles in it," Ware said Thursday from the Pro Bowl.

Yet the defense was the weak link last season, when Dallas went 9-7 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys lost four of their last five games, including the last three, mainly because they couldn't stop teams.

Phillips, meanwhile, was helping the Chargers go 14-2. They allowed the seventh-fewest points in the NFL and were rated 10th in total defense.

"We're sad to see Coach Phillips go," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates told ESPN The Magazine's Sam Alipour at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. "He was well-liked and a real character guy. Coach Schottenheimer only surrounds himself with character guys. When you go 14-2, there's going to be some changes because your coaches are much more attractive. And Coach Phillips got a promotion. He went from a coordinator to being the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. And you can't get any bigger than that."

Phillips was born in Orange, Texas, and played college ball at Houston. He joined his dad's staff with the Oilers as a linebackers coach in 1976 and has been in the NFL ever since, except for 2001.

He stayed with the Oilers through 1980, then followed his father to New Orleans and became defensive coordinator at age 34. He replaced his father as head coach for the final four games of the 1985 season.

Phillips then was in charge of the defense in Philadelphia (1986-88) and Denver (1989-92), taking over as coach of the Broncos for 1993 and '94. His teams went 16-16 with a playoff loss.

The next three years were spent as defensive coordinator in Buffalo, followed by three years as the Bills' coach and vice president of football operations. The Bills were 29-19 under his guidance with two playoff losses.

He was Reeves' defensive coordinator in Atlanta in 2002 and '03. He went 2-1 as Reeves' replacement at the end of '03, then went to San Diego.

Phillips has a son, Wes, who coaches at Baylor, and a daughter, Tracy, who is an actress.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.