Dallas Cowboys: Dick Lebeau

IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips has the second-best winning percentage of any coach in Dallas Cowboys' history. Better than Tom Landry's. I think Phillips might know that.

On Thursday, Phillips tweeted this:

And later followed up with this addendum:

Like most things with Phillips, he lacked context.

When Phillips took over in 2007 as head coach, he inherited a team from Bill Parcells that was ready to win. QB Tony Romo was going into his first year as a full-time starter. The defense had DE DeMarcus Ware at his best. WR Terrell Owens was putting up big numbers.

The Cowboys went 13-3 and had the best record in the NFC. Phillips was the perfect antidote to Parcells and the players responded. Well, they did to a point. The Cowboys were not the same after beating the Green Bay Packers to move to 11-1 and effectively clinch home-field advantage.

They got lucky to beat the Detroit Lions the following week. They lost two of their last three games, but they were in shutdown mode against the Washington Redskins with nothing to gain from a win.

Other than momentum they had lost.

The Cowboys lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round at Texas Stadium, and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.

That's basically when the Romo narrative started. Maybe you heard that Romo went to Cabo during the wild-card weekend. Did it affect the outcome of the Giants' game? Of course not, but the perception machine was rolling, and has been rolling ever since.


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You can track most of the Cowboys' woes to that lost opportunity. If they simply beat the Giants and make the NFC Championship Game, things would be different. Could they have beaten the Packers for a second time at Texas Stadium? It's the best what-if of the Romo era.

In 2008, the Cowboys acted as if they were predestined to not only make the playoffs but win the Super Bowl. Go back and watch the "Hard Knocks" episodes, and you see a team full of itself. They finished 9-7, missed the playoffs and were a mess late in the season.

Phillips could not pull it all together and looked inept as he attempted to deal with the fallout from the Adam "Pacman" Jones' incident. Phillips earned a reprieve in 2009 when Dallas posted an 11-5 record, won the NFC East title, and recorded a playoff win -- but that was the high point.

The Cowboys went 1-7 to start the 2010 season, including an embarrassing home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and a gutless loss to the Packers (45-7) the following week. After that game, Jerry Jones made the switch to Garrett, and the Cowboys are 29-27 since and have not made the playoffs.

Garrett did not inherit a team ready to win the way Phillips did in 2007. By the time Garrett took over, the Cowboys were growing old on the offensive line, and there were too many people (especially those in offices at Valley Ranch) who believed they had the best talent in the league.

The head coach of the Cowboys has tremendous sway with Jones. The Cowboys did not take Randy Moss in 1998 at least in part because then-coach Chan Gailey didn't want Moss.

On that premise, the 2008 draft -- with Dallas' two first-round picks -- was a mess because the Cowboys didn't even attempt to re-sign those first-rounders (Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins) when their contracts expired. The 2009 draft was a colossal failure in part because Jones was convinced that it could be a "special-teams draft," which is as ludicrous as the "draft for backups" the team had when Barry Switzer was the coach in 1995.

This is not in defense of Garrett. He has made plenty of mistakes on the field and in the draft.

Phillips has had a tremendous career in the NFL that has spanned decades. He is a terrific coordinator, but is he in the same conversation as guys like Dick LeBeau, or even Monte Kiffin? I'm not sure a Phillips defense scared offenses the way LeBeau's defenses in Pittsburgh and Kiffin's defenses in Tampa Bay did. Phillips was a good head coach but could not get his teams in Denver, Buffalo or Dallas past a certain point.

Phillips knows his resume inside and out. He can cite team stats and all the Hall of Famers he has coached.

He can claim his tweet was more about the number of games he and Garrett have coached, but it looked more like a passive-aggressive shot at the guy who replaced him, and a way for him to remind everybody of his record.

By the way, his winning percentage is .607. Landry had a .605 winning percentage.

Old hat: 70s nothing new to Will Allen

May, 20, 2013
IRVING, Texas – If Monte Kiffin ever feels his age, he can turn to safety Will Allen to feel young again.

Allen’s defensive coordinator last year in Pittsburgh was Dick LeBeau, who is older than Kiffin.

LeBeau turns 76 in September. Kiffin turned 73 in February.

“You wouldn’t know (they are that old),” Allen said. “Those guys bring a lot of energy to the table. They bring a lot of wisdom. Coach LeBeau doesn’t have a call sheet. He does it all with his brain and heart. It’s awesome to play for two of the greats, to learn from two of the greats.”

Allen played for Kiffin from 2004-08 in Tampa Bay before signing with the Cowboys this offseason, and spent the last three years with LeBeau with the Steelers.

Kiffin is the architect of the Tampa 2 scheme. LeBeau is the father of the 3-4 zone blitz. The two schemes are vastly different, but Allen sees a benefit from having played in both systems as the Cowboys move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this year.

“I can use both traits and both characteristics about how to be successful,” Allen said. “I’m not just using one coach’s tutelage. I’m learning from both men, and both are great.”

If Cowboys stick with 3-4 defense ...

January, 8, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- In the interests of covering our backsides, let’s look at possible 3-4 candidates should the Cowboys stick with that scheme but employ a different look.

Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton was on Jason Garrett’s radar as a secondary coach two years ago -- not coordinator -- but he has become a head coaching candidate in two years of running the Cardinals defense. He learned from Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh’s zone-blitz architect, and would have pieces in place to run that style here.

Romeo Crennel comes from the Bill Parcells coaching tree. He has Super Bowl experience. Players love playing for him and he keeps the scheme interesting. He has had two tries as a head coach and it hasn’t worked out, but his style might fit well with Garrett.

Could the Cowboys look to the college ranks for a coordinator? Garrett worked with Todd Grantham, Georgia’s defensive coordinator, when Grantham coached the Cowboys' defensive line under Wade Phillips. Grantham has an attacking style and has a defense that is filled with NFL-ready players. Given his SEC ties, he could provide good insight on players in the draft. He also has NFL coordinator experience (Cleveland) and, like Garrett, worked for Nick Saban.

Tony Romo lights up Steelers defense

December, 16, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas – Tony Romo did something to a Pittsburgh defense that had not been done in 21 games -- throw for 300 yards.

The last quarterback to reach the mark against the Steelers was Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, who had 300 yards on 28-of-47 passing on Nov. 6, 2011 in a 23-20 Ravens win.

The Steelers had not allowed more than 200 yards passing in their previous eight games before Sunday.

Romo completed 30-of-42 passes for 341 yards with touchdown passes to Jason Witten and Dez Bryant to continue his hot December days. In three wins this month, Romo has six touchdown passes and one interception with 912 yards passing.

In his last seven games, Romo has 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

“I think as the season progresses you understand what your team needs, what we’re good at, what we’re struggling at,” Romo said. “I said it earlier in the year, we made some mistakes that cost us (and those are) things we haven’t made lately.”

It was quite a turnaround from the first time Romo saw a Dick Lebeau defense. In 2008, Romo completed 19-of-36 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. The last pick was returned for a game-winning touchdown by Steelers cornerback DeShea Townsend in the fourth quarter.

“If you can gain an understanding, you can gain an advantage,” Romo said. “When I say that I mean they like to do the same thing with a completely different look over and over again ... They like to get the quarterback’s timing off. I tried very hard not to allow that to happen.”

And here is the Class of 2010

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Now it's official.

Here's the Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Floyd Little and Dick Lebeau.

During the announcement, thanks to TV, we saw Smith and Rice sitting next to each other and giving each other a fist pound and a hug.

We will hear from some of the guys in a moment.