Thursday, January 21, 2010
Cowboys extend Phillips through 2011
By Tim MacMahon
IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips, the head coach with the highest winning percentage in Dallas Cowboys history, has some job security.
Just not too much.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones announced Thursday that Phillips' contract has been extended through the 2011 season. The Cowboys, who declined to reveal the financial terms of the deal, gave Phillips a guaranteed two-year deal instead of picking up his contract option for 2010.
"I'm encouraged by the progress that we made this year, but in no way are we satisfied," Jones said. "This contract represents that. Two years in the NFL is an eternity, but it has to be urgent."
The Cowboys are 33-15 in three regular seasons under Phillips. New England's Bill Belichick is the only NFL coach with more wins during that span.
Dallas is 1-2 in the playoffs under Phillips, ending a franchise-record postseason win drought that dated to the 1996 season with their 34-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card round.
This is the first time Phillips has survived beyond three seasons in one stint as a head coach. He was fired in favor of Mike Shanahan after going 16-16 in two seasons with the Denver Broncos. He had a 29-19 record in three seasons as the Buffalo Bills' head coach. Phillips did not win a playoff game in either of his previous stops as a head coach.
Jones fielded questions about Phillips' job status on a weekly basis during the second half of the season. Jones started strongly hinting that Phillips would return after the Cowboys' Dec. 19 win over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints. However, Jones never publicly committed to retaining his head coach until a Tuesday interview with ESPN, when he added that negotiations were under way to work out details beyond the option year.
"That isn't my goal. That isn't our goal," said Phillips, who also served as defensive coordinator of a unit that allowed the fewest points in the NFC this season. "Our goal is to win the world championship. That's what I'm going to try to get done. I think we have a team that can go forward and do that."
It was initially reported Thursday on ESPN.com and earlier this week on the Cowboys' official Web site that the contract would take Phillips through the 2012 season. But ESPN.com has learned that due to a last-minute change, the finalized extension ended with the 2011 season.
Jones has stressed the need for continuity on the coaching staff since December 2008, when he opted not to fire Phillips despite a disappointing 9-7 season that ended with a 44-6 loss to the Eagles with a playoff berth at stake.
That's a significant shift in philosophy from an owner who fired Tom Landry, who coached the Cowboys for the franchise's first 29 years, and has employed six head coaches. Jones, who parted ways with Jimmy Johnson after back-to-back Super Bowl championships, cites firing new Buffalo coach Chan Gailey after two seasons as one of his biggest regrets.
Jones noted that if Phillips finishes this deal, he would be tied with Johnson for the longest head-coaching tenure under his ownership. Jones also said, based on Phillips' recommendations, that all the assistant coaches would also be offered contract extensions.
"It does address continuity, but addresses it in a way that does not have any comfort zone about it," Jones said. "It addresses the urgency of where we want to go from here."
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.