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Dallas Cowboys fire special teams coach Bruce Read

The first “change” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips made was the one that had been expected since last off-season. Special teams coach Bruce Read was fired Wednesday afternoon after two years of coaching a unit that has been sporadic, at best.

Other than place-kicker Nick Folk, special teams was consistently the weakest unit for the Cowboys during the 2008 season, and in the Phillips’ era. The coverage units consistently were a trouble area; the punt coverage unit ranked in the bottom third of the NFL while the kick coverage was near last.

Attempts to reach Read’s office by telephone were unsuccessful.

Read lost receiver Sam Hurd and safety Pat Watkins to injuries; both were among the team’s best downfield coverage players.

It also didn’t help that defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones struggled as a punt and kick returner.

Jones, who was expected by some to provide a burst, instead averaged 4.5 yards per punt return and 22.1 on seven kick returns.

In a loss to Arizona, Cowboys special teams allowed a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the game and a blocked punt for a touchdown to end the game in overtime. Punter Mat McBriar suffered a broken foot on the play, ending his season.

Against Baltimore, the Cowboys were victimized by a run for a first down on a fake field goal. The Ravens scored a touchdown on the drive in their victory.

The coaching position isn’t expected to be filled immediately. The Cowboys are likely to wait until other teams shift their staffs before trying to replace Read.

This is the second time Phillips fired his special teams coach.

Phillips dismissed Bruce DeHaven in Buffalo after the famous “Music City Miracle” defeat in the AFC playoffs in 2000.

Read had been the special teams coach with the Giants in 2002 and ’03 as well as the Chargers from 1999 to ’01.

Receiver signs deal

The Cowboys signed receiver Travis Wilson. A third-round pick by the Cleveland Browns out of Oklahoma in 2006, Wilson signed with the Cowboys on Oct. 1 and spent the season on their practice squad.