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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Culture change gave Phillips a fighting chance

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys didn't change head coaches after last season. They changed the culture in the locker room instead.

Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and Greg Ellis were all prominent figures in the Valley Ranch locker room last season -- all for the wrong reasons.

Jerry Jones downplays the affect of chemistry -- he says it's a result, not a cause, of a team winning -- but it's not a coincidence that all those guys are gone.

T.O.'s credentials and charismatic personality made him a leader. He led a revolt against Tony Romo and Jason Garrett and set a tone of selfishness.

Not sure how many players actually listened to Pacman and Tank, who rarely shut up as they hung in the D Block, as the veterans of the legal system labeled their corner of the locker room. But they definitely didn't listen to any coaches. It's hard to preach accountability when they are two prominent troublemakers doing whatever they want and getting away with it.

Ellis was a great team guy for most of his years in Dallas, but he had become a malcontent who placed more of a priority on playing time than the team winning and never shied away from airing his grievances publicly.

Cutting T.O. and Pacman, in particular, sent a strong message that things really would be different at Valley Ranch in 2009. Adding all-business guys like Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh reinforced that message.

"We had big personnel changes, and once we did that they listened more, I think," Wade Phillips said. "That’s part of it. That’s part of the change."

Phillips, never known as a stern disciplinarian, doesn't have to worry about drama in the locker room these days. The culture change made football the only focus, giving the coach a chance to keep his job.