In Dallas, intrigue doesn't end with Cowboys hiring Phillips

OTHER VOICES

The Kickoff

February 12, 2007|By RANDY GALLOWAY | RANDY GALLOWAY,The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

From a national standpoint, the "yawn" factor has quickly arrived at Valley Ranch.

Now me, I think the local intrigue is as deep as ever, but the media boys back East were Big Bill sound-bite, hang-on-every-quote disciples. Combined with the explosive mix of Jerry Jones and, for the past year, Eldorado Owens, flights were repeatedly oversold between LaGuardia and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Irving, Texas, was the place to be. Until now.

OK, Wade Phillips is not exactly an East Coast media "it" guy, but he's real big down in the Cajun country of Texas, where the roots of the Phillips football family run deepest.

The passenger load on regional jets out of Beaumont International should increase dramatically. (I am assuming, of course, there is a Beaumont International.)

But the general opinion of the national media, and I heard this repeatedly during Super Bowl week in Miami, is if Bill Parcells failed in Irving, then the Cowboys are hopeless. And the curse of Jerry Jones is permanent.

Can't say I necessarily disagree on that last part, but I don't agree now as much as I did before Tony Romo arrived on the field in October. And on Parcells failing here, well, he's a coaching god in certain large media markets, but to us he became just another interesting character passing through the hallways of Valley Ranch.

Parcells' four-year legacy here is important, but unfortunately, it doesn't involve winning. Parcells kept Jones-the-GM under wraps. Jones backed off and allowed Parcells to be the football leader.

If it had worked, this would have been the most significant development in the Jones ownership era since the last time we saw Jimmy Johnson.

It didn't work, so now we will see much, much more of Jones, but hopefully without the sobbing of Thursday. Cowboy up, Jerry. No more crying, man.

In theory, this is the absolute worst time to be the "next" head coach of the Cowboys. The owner is back on the football muscle.

Enter Phillips, a veteran who knows his stuff and is respected by all.

Unfortunately, however, the "P" word is already flying around the country. Puppet. Jones' Puppet.

For a Cowboys coach, that's as harsh as it gets. When Barry Switzer carried the label, he didn't care. That's just Switzer. When it stained Dave Campo, he did care, deeply. Campo never had a prayer, under the circumstances, to succeed here, and he didn't deserve the puppet label.

Neither does Phillips, but he will have to overcome it, which is a tough way to begin a job.

It's amusing to read those reports that Norv Turner was not hired by Jones because he "made too many demands." The same people writing that "demands" stuff a week ago were telling us Jones wanted Turner for the job only because Turner would be a comfort-level crony for Jones. In other words, a softer way to say "puppet."

So ol' Norv, he came in here, huh, and manned up on Jerry? He told him the truth about his team, and Jerry didn't want to hear the truth. Is that what it was?

Actually, it's pretty close. It's also bunk for anyone to report Jones was still trying to decide Wednesday night between Turner and Phillips. Turner never heard from Jones again - not once - after a frank, Saturday night discussion in Miami after the Michael Irvin Hall of Fame news conference.

Turner didn't make demands on Jones. He knows the man. "Demands" don't work with Jones. But Turner did give opinions on what he had seen after watching every game in December, plus the Seattle playoff contest.

Turner lost his chance by being truthful on personnel. Jones didn't want to hear that. Phillips told us Thursday he hasn't yet studied the personnel, but he obviously knows the deal here.

Just like last season, Jones has overevaluated the talent for 2007, although most of the local media, along with fandom, have been, and will be again, involved in the same pom-pom waving.

This is a Super Bowl team, "baybee".

Phillips had an amusing answer to that Thursday:

"According to Jerry Jones, they are not very far. But they always say to under-promise and overachieve, so I'm going to under-promise."

It's in Phillips' best interest to keep thinking that way. Just be honest, particularly with Jones, even if he doesn't want to hear it.

Phillips is here to fix the defense, the same defense that, as of last August in Oxnard, Calif., was so good it would carry the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. Yeah, sure.

Now, it's a hoot to read that while the defense is broken, everything is great with Romo and the offense. Again, not even close to the truth. When you ask for outside opinions from around the NFL, what is heard is amused amazement at this overevaluation.

Phillips' biggest worry, now and for the rest of 2007?

Does he have the right offensive coaches to develop Romo and move the offense forward? Too bad Phillips didn't have the opportunity to hire those coaches.

At Valley Ranch, the national media left with Parcells. But for the rest of us, the intrigue is now deeper than ever.

Randy Galloway writes for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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