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Former Cowboys coach Wade Phillips fits better as coordinator than head coach

The performance by Wade Phillips' defense against the Patriots in the AFC title game was impressive. Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips, "Mr. Fix It" as he occasionally calls himself, has been successfully coordinating defenses for parts of four decades.

What Phillips did with his 3-4 defense Sunday afternoon to stifle the New England Patriots' supposedly unstoppable offense was genius. His mix of zone and man-to-man coverages left Tom Brady befuddled and the Broncos' relentless pass rush left Brady battered in Denver's 20-18 win over New England.

Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys head coach from 2007-10, is every bit as responsible as Peyton Manning, Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware for the Broncos getting to the Super Bowl.

He's doing what he does best: running a defense. But the same traits that have made him a quality defensive coordinator are the same traits that prevented him from being a great head coach.

There's no shame in that.

Norv Turner has proved to us that he's a dynamic offensive coordinator and an average head coach and Romeo Crennel is an outstanding defensive coordinator who has struggled as a head coach.

Phillips isn't ruthless enough to be a head coach. Most coaches love their players, but Phillips' bond is tighter than most.

Phillips was never a fan of churning the bottom of the roster the way Bill Parcells and Jason Garrett have done in Dallas because he felt like the family atmosphere created by players who shared the sweat and pain of training camp helped team chemistry.

And he was too much of a sunshine pumper for a head coach. Who can forget him talking about how the Cowboys won one round of playoffs in 2007 because they had a first-round bye? Or how he talked about how the Cowboys won the second half against the Giants in their 2007 loss?

You just can't consistently talk like that and succeed as an NFL coach. Sometimes, publicly or privately, you have to jump on a player and deliver severe criticism as a head coach.

And you have to coach the entire team -- not just one side of the ball, which is what Phillips did. Garrett essentially had complete autonomy because Phillips was so happy to have the job that he a acquiesced to everything that owner Jerry Jones wanted.

That's never ever a positive. As a coordinator, though, Phillips' personality is perfect for fostering the relationship between players and coaches that makes them want to play as hard as they can for him.

The family atmosphere and us-against-the-world mentality works perfectly because the head coach can be the bad cop instead of Phillips.

He's too sweet. The 68-year-old whose defenses finished 11 times in the top 10, is the kind of guy you root for because there's not a mean-spirited bone in his body.

He's 82-64 as a head coach, but he has never kept a job for more than three full years despite finishing over .500 six times in eight seasons.

It's because he's a great coordinator and an average head coach. The Broncos could not care less because he's positioned them to win a title.