DANA POINT, Calif. - At one point during Wednesday's NFC coaches breakfast, a Buffalo writer asked Wade Phillips if Terrell Owens is sometimes judged unfairly because of his reputation.
"Yup," Phillips sniffed. "Kind of like being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys."
Two years into the job, it's hard to say Phillips has embraced all that his role entails.
Yes, Phillips is a native Texan who, like his father Bum, is getting a chance to coach an NFL team in his home state. Yes, he's a defensive mastermind who couldn't be more perfect a tactician for the Cowboys' best player, DeMarcus Ware. And yes, he's got every resource imaginable at his disposal.
But if you believe he really wants to swallow all his job takes, you're probably swallowing something else that's causing you to see things that way.
The Cowboys' job isn't like the coaching position he held in Denver, nor is it similar to the one he had in Buffalo.
You want a 22-10 record with an 0-1 playoff mark to be acceptable? Looking for breathing room in your press conferences or a media corps without a thirst for blood?
Then, Valley Ranch is the wrong place for you.
Whether you're Tom Landry or Dave Campo, Bill Parcells or Barry Switzer, when you sign on to lead the Cowboys, there are certain things to be expected.
Scrutiny will be intense. Success will be measured in championship rings. And if you fail to understand both those things, the criticism will sting.
So it does for Phillips.
"I try to analyze myself, our team in every way possible, and that's every year," Phillips said. "It's not just this year or last year. I did it when I was a coordinator ... what are the things we need to do that are going to help us win more?
"I did say 'win more' because I don't want to get rid of the winning attitude from the 22 games we won the last two years. I don't want to say, 'Let's just do everything different,' because there are teams that haven't won that many games."
The problem with those 22 wins? Thirteen of them came in Year 1, which is why winning nine last season wasn't remotely impressive.
And then there's the fact that none of those victories came in the playoffs.
Doesn't matter if it's in Dallas or Des Moines, that's a downward trend.
But if you happen to be leading the Cowboys down that path -- and think that things are going all right -- then you might not be suited for the job.
Only two coaches in Cowboys history were considered successes in Dallas and with the Cowboys' large fan base outside the Metroplex: Landry and Jimmy Johnson. That leaves one who won a Super Bowl (Switzer) out and another who's headed for the Hall of Fame (Parcells) joining him on the periphery.
It wouldn't hard to venture a guess on which side of the fence Phillips sits now.
Yet, Phillips pointed out Wednesday: "In two years, we've won almost as many as the previous three years."
And that leads us to Problem No. 2: Phillips' reaction to criticism from media and fans.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"Any time somebody gets personal, I don't think that's right," Phillips said. "It's more yellow journalism. Any time they start calling you names, those kind of things, I don't think it's right. I'm going to do my job, I'm going to do the best I can do, and I don't have to look back and say, 'Well, I didn't do this, I didn't try hard enough, I didn't work hard enough.' "
This, for better or worse, is the fish bowl that Phillips lives in.
Some men, as Cowboys coaches, have accepted it.
For some reason, Phillips -- a good, smart football man who has been nothing more than mediocre as a head coach -- can't.
Instead of saying, "We messed up," he's highlighting what went right in a season gone wrong.
And showing why, in the end, he may just not be cut out for this job.
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
Room for improvement
March 25: Wade Phillips says that Tony Romo is going to get better going forward.
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