IRVING, Texas » Jerry Jones never wanted to change coaches this season. As the blowout losses mounted, and Wade Phillips’ defense was mostly to blame, the owner-general manager of the Dallas Cowboys had no choice.
Jones fired Phillips yesterday and promoted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to take over the 1-7 club on an interim basis. Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni was promoted to replace Phillips’ other role as defensive coordinator.
Jones decided enough was enough following a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. It was the Cowboys’ fifth straight loss and the third straight that wasn’t even close.
"I recognized that after the game we just weren’t playing winning football and our best chance was to make a change," Jones said.
This is the first time Dallas has made an in-season coaching change. Garrett also becomes the first former Cowboys player to take over the job previously held by Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells.
The 44-year-old Garrett has never been a head coach on any level. Yet he sure seemed ready, judging by the confidence displayed at his introductory news conference.
"Wade is no longer the coach. I am the coach and what we’re going to do going forward (is) get ready to have a great meeting, a great walkthrough and a great practice on Wednesday and give ourselves a chance to beat the Giants on Sunday," Garrett said.
Garrett certainly is different from Phillips — younger, offensive-oriented and far more businesslike. He made it clear things will be done his way without giving many specifics.
"There’ll be some changes that I think will be tangible that people in our organization will notice right from the start," Garrett said. "I just think the personality of the leader will come through a little bit."
Jones steadfastly supported Phillips throughout the team’s tailspin, even saying late last week that he wouldn’t make a coaching change this season. He said yesterday he’d been "in denial" about how bad the club really is.
The first five losses had all been by a touchdown or less, which showed players were still fighting. But now the defense has allowed at least 35 points in three straight games, which hadn’t happened since Dallas went 0-11-1 in its inaugural season, 1960. Stranger still, the unit — personally overseen by Phillips — features nearly all the same players who closed last season with the first back-to-back shutouts in club history.
"It really was paramount in my thinking that we would make adjustments and have our defense more productive," Jones said.
This is the Cowboys’ worst season since 1989. It’s destined to be among the worst in franchise history, considering Dallas was coming off a division title and a playoff win and was expected to contend for the Super Bowl that’ll be held at Cowboys Stadium. They also have among the highest payrolls in the NFL.