Wade Phillips was fired as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who have stumbled to a 1-7 record after starting the season with aspirations of playing the Super Bowl in their new $1.2 billion stadium.
Phillips, 63, was replaced by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett on an interim basis, team owner Jerry Jones said. Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni was named coordinator of a unit that’s allowed 232 points through eight games, tied for the second-most in franchise history.
The Cowboys went 33-15 the previous three years under Phillips and entered this season as the third-favorite to win the Super Bowl, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which helps Nevada sports books set gambling lines. After losing five straight games, their odds of winning the National Football League championship are now 1,000-1.
“There was a lot of me in denial for at least the last couple of ballgames,” Jones said during a news conference yesterday.
Coming into the season, Jones had said he hoped his team would be the first to play a Super Bowl at home, as Cowboys Stadium will host the title game on Feb. 6. The Cowboys lost quarterback Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in a Week 7 defeat to the New York Giants and have allowed at least 35 points in their past three games.
“We’re not where we want to be at this time, and that’s an understatement,” Jones said, one day after the Cowboys were routed 45-7 by the Green Bay Packers.
It’s the first time Jones has changed coach in midseason, and as recently as last week he said Phillips’s job was safe for the rest of 2010.
“At this time what I believe is in the best interests of the organization and fans is a coaching change,” Jones said. “They should not think in any way that this is an admission of defeat or finality for this season. I told (the team) that we have eight games remaining and we’ll go into each game with only one goal: to win.”
Garrett, 44, was hired by the Cowboys for an unspecified position the month before Phillips joined in 2007. Garrett became offensive coordinator and in January 2008 was given the title of assistant head coach after turning down offers from the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens. He also earned a new contract that paid him around $3 million annually, making him the highest-paid assistant in the NFL, according to ESPN.
“We have to put the first eight games of the season behind us and we have to move forward,” said Garrett, a Princeton University graduate who played seven seasons with the Cowboys as a backup to quarterback Troy Aikman.
Jones said that Garrett’s future with the team will depend on his performance as interim coach.
“My concern that I have this minute is not about the longer term,” Jones said. “It’s about the next eight games. Jason certainly has been a part of the long-term thinking for the Dallas Cowboys and for me. But what we’re addressing on an interim basis is how we’re playing right now.”
The Cowboys have scored 20.1 points a game on average this season to rank 19th in the NFL, while their 359.2 offensive yards a game places them 10th among the NFL’s 32 franchises. Only the winless Buffalo Bills have allowed more points.
Phillips went 34-22 in four seasons with the Cowboys following the retirement of Bill Parcells and led Dallas to a 13-3 record in his first season before a divisional playoff loss to the Giants.
Last season, the Cowboys went 11-5 to again reach the playoffs. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles Jan. 9 for their first postseason victory in more than 13 years, before losing to the Minnesota Vikings 34-3. Four days later, Jones rewarded Phillips with a two-year contract extension that the Associated Press said was worth $3 million a year.
“I’m disappointed in the results of this season to this point, but I’m also very proud of what our team and our players accomplished in the previous three years,” Phillips said in a statement released by the Cowboys.
Phillips, the son of former NFL coach Bum Phillips, also has coached the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Falcons, compiling an 82-61 career record. He’s 1-5 in playoff games.
The Cowboys are tied with the Carolina Panthers for the worst record in the National Football Conference. They next travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a Nov. 14 game against the division-leading Giants (6-2).
“I do believe that Jason has the temperament, the disposition, to affect a culture change,” Jones said.