Former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who is now the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator, still has a bone to pick with owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett over how his tenure started and ended in Dallas.
That Jones hired Garrett to be the offensive coordinator before he hired Phillips as coach in 2007 was a point of contention that Phillips highlights in his new book, “Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football and Life,” as excerpted by Deadspin.
It became even more troublesome when Jones gave Garrett a raise that paid him more than Phillips to ward off interest from the Baltimore Ravens after the Cowboys’ 13-3 season in 2007.
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“I asked Jerry about it and he said, ‘Well, you know, we had to keep him,’” Phillips remembers before he told Jones, “That just doesn’t seem right to me.”
The often-jovial Phillips eventually got a raise from Jones, but it was something he never got over.
It’s even more curious when Phillips adds that Jones intimated that he made a mistake by keeping Garrett after the 9-7 season in 2008.
“After our 9-7 season, when the offense struggled, Jerry said that maybe he should have let Jason take the Baltimore job rather than give him the big raise,” Phillips says.
The Cowboys rebounded in 2009 with an 11-5 record and got their first playoff win since 1996.
The wheels fell off the following season, with the Cowboys starting 1-7. Jones fired Phillips at midseason and promoted Garrett to head coach.
Phillips blames Garrett for pushing him out the door with a questionable play call in the 13-7 season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins to begin the downward spiral.
Garrett called a play right before the half that led to the difference-making touchdown when they should have taken a knee. Phillips remembers it vividly.
“We didn’t allow a touchdown on defense,” Phillips said in the book. “We shouldn’t have allowed the Redskins’ defense to get one either. We ran a play and we got a 10-yard holding penalty. There were only 4 seconds left in the half. Jason called a pass. Tony Romo threw to our running back, Tashard Choice, who was 4 yards behind the line. DeAngelo Hall hit him, he fumbled, Hall picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.
“I didn’t know Jason was going to run a play after having a 10-yard penalty and only 4 seconds on the clock instead of kneeling on the ball, which was what we should have done.”
His Cowboys career ended with a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as Jones felt Phillips had lost the team.
“The next day, he called me into his office and said, ‘I’m going to make a change,’” Phillips recalled. “I asked him if I could stay on the job for one more game because I felt I would have a chance to go out on a winning note. We were playing the Giants on the road, and I said he could make the change after that game and start fresh with a new coach for our next game at home, which would be a week after the New York trip.”
Jones’ mind was made up. He made the change, installing Garrett as the interim coach.
Garrett won the next two games and finished 5-3 before being given the permanent job in the off-season.
Garrett remains the Cowboys head coach, while Phillips resumed his career as one of the league’s top defensive coordinators. His career high was winning a Super Bowl title in 2015 with the Denver Broncos.
He still looks back fondly on his three-and-a-half years with the Cowboys that included a two division titles, a playoff win and 34-22 overall record. He still admittedly likes Jones and his family.
He still thinks he got a raw deal.
“There really is no other head coaching job like the Dallas head coaching job — football fans in Texas are crazy about their teams,” Phillips said. “I was exposed to that being around my dad and the whole “Luv Ya Blue” era in Houston. We went 10–6, 10–6, and 11–5 with the Oilers, and still got fired. We were one of the winningest teams in the league for those three years, so that showed me that anything can happen. It all comes back to the fact that the guy who owns the team can do whatever he wants to do even if you don’t think it makes a lot of sense.”