Wade Phillips covets return to coaching

IRVING, Texas -- In his first extensive interview since he was fired, former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said he still roots for his former players, has no regrets and would like to return to coaching.

But Phillips also believes if he were 4-8 -- the Cowboys' current record -- that he might still be under fire.

Phillips was fired after a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers dropped the Cowboys to 1-7 -- the team's worst start after eight games since 1989, when the Cowboys started 0-8 en route to a 1-15 season.

Despite the poor start to the season, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said multiple times that he would not fire Phillips, citing research that showed hiring an interim coach wouldn't be effective.

But the loss to the Packers forced Jones' hand. After admitting he was in denial about the state of the franchise, Jones fired Phillips, saying he wanted to change the losing culture.

In came Jason Garrett, who has a 3-1 mark as the Cowboys have improved to 4-8 overall.

But a 4-8 mark looks much different under Garrett than it would under Phillips, it seems.

"If I was 4-8, they still would be hollering for my head," Phillips told ESPNDallas.com. "But really, [the coaching change] gave them a new beginning for these guys and a new hope."

Phillips, who has coached all but one season in the NFL since 1976, wants to continue coaching.

"Not a whole lot to do," Phillips joked, adding that he doesn't hunt or fish. "You can only get so many haircuts a week."

Phillips was let go with one year remaining on his contract at a reported salary of $3.7 million. He most likely would take a significant salary reduction to again become a defensive coordinator, but could earn a similar salary if he to become a head coach elsewhere.

"I want to coach," Phillips said. "I enjoy coaching, and I think I will have some offers. We'll see what happens after the season."

Phillips is one of three coaches who were fired this season; Minnesota dismissed Brad Childress two weeks ago, and Denver's Josh McDaniels was fired Monday.

As he looks back on the 2010 season, he sees how the Cowboys' success -- their first playoff victory in 10 years after winning the NFC East in 2009 -- was hard to follow.

"You do the best you can do, as good as you can do it, and somebody else makes that decision. Not you," Phillips said. "Those decisions are made all the time.

"Look at Minnesota. I thought if they won the coin flip last year, they would have won the Super Bowl. If they win the coin flip, they're going to score. Instead, New Orleans won the coin flip and they scored, and they ended up winning the Super Bowl."

There are several young Cowboys players whom Phillips is fond of, including cornerback Orlando Scandrick, linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Spencer, and kicker David Buehler.

Phillips said the overtime victory against the Colts on Sunday was exciting and he was glad to see some of the young players drafted under him contribute to the victory.

"To see these young players -- Buehler, Lee, Scandrick -- it's great to see those guys play well and have big plays in games," Phillips said. "They have a bright future, too."

With Garrett as the coach, numerous things have changed at Valley Ranch. The players practice in full pads on Wednesdays, overall intensity has increased, timing has been emphasized, and a dress code was established.

The Cowboys have also changed their overall defensive philosophy under new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who took over when Phillips was fired. The Cowboys play more zone and don't blitz as much under Pasqualoni, who would rather have an offense grind itself the length of the field instead of going for big pass plays against man coverage.

Garrett has stressed to the players about being accountable and to forget about wins and losses very quickly. He also doesn't like to talk about statistics, saying the only two that matter are the won-loss mark and how teams do when they force turnovers.

However, some changes instituted by Phillips remain, including having officials at practice in an effort to cut down on penalties.

As he reflects on his nearly four years on the job, where he won two NFC East titles, a playoff game and went 34-22, Phillips said he can learn from the past.

But he has no regrets.

"No, I don't look back," Phillips said. "I just look forward. You do the best you can do and work as hard as you can and try to do your best. If that's not good enough, that's not good enough. It was good enough for me.

"I don't look back [and say], 'I should have done this. I should have done that.' You learn from the past, but you look forward to the future."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.