If Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had walked down to the field in the middle of the third quarter of Sunday's devastating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and told coach Wade Phillips and his staff they were fired on the spot, could anyone have blamed him?
That's how bad the Cowboys looked in losing 44-6 to the Eagles in a game that put the winner into the playoffs.
|Jerry Jones: Better businessman than football man. (Getty Images)|
"Are we going to change coaches?" Jones said. "The answer is no."
For now, it is. I still find it hard to believe there won't be a change. The Cowboys are among the biggest disappointments in the league this season, right alongside the Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, all Super Bowl hopefuls who are done playing games that count.
The difference is the Cowboys do their losing -- or choking some would say -- in the spotlight, part of being America's Team, part of being Terrell Owens' team.
All four of the teams mentioned above opened the season in the top 10 of my CBSSports.com Power Rankings. None are there today.
The Cowboys are the highest profile of that group, a team supposedly loaded with stars, players cashing too-big checks with too-big egos -- and nobody to keep them under control.
It is a too-loose team that doesn't fear its head coach.
When the Cowboys were going rotten Sunday, followed by the quit in the second half, Cowboys defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who came to the team with a cart full of personal baggage, was on the sidelines screaming at the offensive players. He had to be restrained by several teammates and eventually left the bench area, strolling by himself some 20 yards down the field.
Nobody was there, not a coach, not Phillips nor an assistant, to scream him the riot act.
At least Johnson looked like he cared. That's more than most of the Cowboys appeared to do that day.
Maybe it's because they knew it was like a playoff game, with the winner advancing on. Remember, they haven't won one of those since 1999.
Tony Romo still hasn't.
He's quickly earning a reputation for being a big-game choker. Fair or unfair, it sticks since he's had miserable Decembers and Januarys in his career. Now some are questioning if he's the long-term answer at quarterback. His contract says he is. We'll see.
Phillips said Monday he would change some things. He pointed to himself. He said he would be more demanding. Isn't that like a parent who allows his kids to get away with anything suddenly deciding to be tougher? It doesn't work. They know that the toughness is only a front.
The Cowboys coordinators, Jason Garrett on offense and Brian Stewart on defense, didn't exactly have good seasons either. Stewart had his defensive play-calling duties taken over by Phillips, who beamed about it when the defense played well. That was said to infuriate some of the defensive coaches.
Garrett, the supposed coach-in-waiting, had a rough go of it as a play-caller. His inability to get the expected results from the offense could be a big reason Phillips is staying put. How could Jerry justify going to Garrett after his struggles that were made more public after Sunday's game when players questioned the scheme? Plus, it's not like Garrett is this tough, in-your-face coach.
But it all starts with Jones. He's the man who makes the football decisions. He's the one who brings in Owens and Johnson and Pacman Jones and makes the bonehead trade for Roy Williams and signs 400-year-old Zach Thomas. He's the one who hires Phillips in a move many say was made because Phillips wouldn't buck Jones on anything. They said he came with good marionette strings.
That's not fair to Phillips, who is a good football man who just might be in too deep trying to play Dallas zookeeper.
But the Cowboys clearly don't respond to the current Phillips way. That's on Jones' head. You hear all about the talent on the Cowboys roster, but it sure didn't play to the level of expectations.
Some say it's because this isn't a team, just a group of me-first stars waiting to cash checks each week. If that's the true, it's Jones' fault. He's the one in charge, the man making the decisions.
I respect Jones greatly for the way he prints money with the Cowboys. He's as good a businessman as you can find. And I do think he knows a thing or two about football, but so do a lot of fans.
Sometimes, I think his downfall is he acts too much like one. He hears a name and wants to make that name a Cowboy. The only difference is he can. He has the money and the power to do it. They say the cap makes it so money can't buy title teams in the NFL, but big-dollar teams like the Cowboys can throw big signing bonuses around much easier than small-market teams. That matters.
It takes much more than money. It takes good personnel people. It takes good coaching. It takes players who care.
As the Cowboys walked off the Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, I wondered if they had any of that.
It is no wonder they're not playing anymore after a season that opened with so much hope and had them looking down on many in these rankings: