Mercifully it came to an end for Wade Phillips on Monday.
Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones made the first in-season coaching change of his tenure and handed the keys of a franchise to Jason Garrett. The Cowboys started the season with hopes of playing in Super Bowl XLV in its own stadium to a 1-7 mess.
Good luck, Jason.
All along Jones said he didn’t want to make a move in the middle of a season because he doesn’t think they work. Even the NFL offers skepticism on the wisdom of such a move in its language regarding the Rooney Rule. “Finally, for a range of reasons, we strongly question the value of head coaching changes during the season,” begins the passage on how teams must comply with the rule after a season.
In 2008, Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco made in-season moves. Tom Cable replaced Lane Kiffin with the Raiders and went 4-8. Jim Haslett replaced Scott Linehan with the Rams and went 2-10. Mike Singletary took over for Mike Nolan and went 5-4.
Cable and Singletary remain with those Bay Area teams. Haslett is now the defensive coordinator in Washington after a year in the UFL.
Last year, Perry Fewell replaced Dick Jauron in Buffalo and went 3-4 in the final seven games. He is now the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.
There have been success stories with interim moves:
Don Coryell went 7-1 in 1978 in San Diego taking over for Tommy Prothro and had the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game two years later.
Raymond Berry had New England in the Super Bowl in his first full season in 1985 after going 4-4 as Ron Meyer’s replacement.
Even though Marv Levy did not have instant success in Buffalo (2-5) in 1986, he was retained and took the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. Marty Schottenheimer took Cleveland to an AFC title game after taking over the Browns on an interim basis. Art Shell’s first head coaching job with the Raiders started from an in-season change.
But the reality is these types of changes do not bring about drastic change that is required.
And even when they do it might not lead to the long-term success everybody believes.
In 1996, Cincinnati president Mike Brown asked David Shula to step aside after a 1-6 start. Bruce Coslet went 7-2 as interim coach and was given the job full-time after the year. He went on to win just 14 of the next 51 games and was replaced after the first three games of the 2000 season by Dick LeBeau.
Phillips’ dismissal does lead to "Who’s next?"
Maybe Brad Childress saved his job with Minnesota’s comeback win against Arizona on Sunday or maybe it was just a temporary feeling of bliss. Owner Zygi Wilf was not happy to learn of the decision to cut Randy Moss after the fact and spent time talking to players about Childress last week.
The level of dysfunction with the Vikings was high before Childress made the power play, but at 3-5 they remain in a playoff chase even with such erratic play.
John Fox is in his last year in Carolina and has a 1-7 record. His name has been mentioned as a possible successor to Phillips in Dallas because of his relationship with the Jones’ family.
The Bengals are a disappointing 2-6 after making the playoffs last season, so Marvin Lewis’ job could be on the line. Could Jacksonville make a move with Jack Del Rio or San Francisco with Singletary?
In the past, "What do you have to lose?" was the refrain from fans and ownership with interim moves, but that’s not necessarily the case this year.
There is a real chance there will not be football in 2011 as the NFL and NFL Players Association appear headed to a lockout. Owners do not want to have to pay two coaches — and staffs, too — when those coaches will not have any players to teach in the offseason.
If the labor talks drag through the summer and lead to a shortened training camp session, then how could a new coach implement what he wants without proper time? As flawed as that thinking might be and how impossible it might be to sell to a fandom, it is a factor.
It was a question Jones asked himself and perhaps led to him keeping Phillips a week or two longer than he should have.
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