Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Monday, November 8, 2010
Updated: November 9, 1:53 PM ET
Cowboys' Wade Phillips fired

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said it was time for a culture change at Valley Ranch.

Monday afternoon, Jones fired coach Wade Phillips following a distasteful 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"An in-season coaching change is not something I've done before, something I was reluctant to do as recently as last week," Jones said. "But I think what's best for the organization and the fans is a coaching change."

The Sunday night loss to the Packers forced Jones' hand to fire Phillips, a man he just gave a two-year contract extension to in 2010 for leading the Cowboys to their first playoff win in over a decade.

Jones will move on with assistant head coach Jason Garrett in the lead role on an interim basis.

Jones also announced that Paul Pasqualoni will be the Cowboys new defensive coordinator, taking over the role that Phillips had also been filling. Pasqualoni was the team's defensive line coach.

The end for Phillips came after the Packers loss extended Dallas' losing streak to five games as the Cowboys -- who began the season with Super Bowl expectations -- fell to 1-7 overall.

"We also clearly understand we're not where we want to be at this time and that's an understatement," Jones said. "We also share the responsibility in that. All of us."

Phillips ends his time in Dallas with a 35-23 record, having won two NFC East titles and getting the Cowboys' first playoff victory since 1996. Phillips is 83-65 overall as a head coach.

Phillips, who didn't return a phone call seeking comment, said in a statement: "I am disappointed in the results of this season to this point, but I am also very proud of what our team and our players accomplished in the previous three years."

Jones, who had never fired a coach in-season since purchasing the team in 1989, had said multiple times that Phillips would finish out this season. The owner cited research showing interim coaches are not successful and that was a deterrent for him making the change. But the Cowboys' five-game slide -- during which they've been outscored 179-107 -- made it difficult for Jones to keep Phillips in place. In two of the games during the losing streak, Phillips questioned the passion of his team and wasn't sure if he lost them.

"Anytime a coach gets fired, it's an indictment of the football team," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "I hope it serves as a wake-up call for the guys around here. So when they start making decisions like that, it's just a prelude to things to come for changes on the football team."

Defensive players took it personally because they worked closest with Phillips.

Jay Ratliff went from a backup defensive lineman under previous coach Bill Parcells to a Pro-Bowl nose tackle under Phillips, so he was especially upset. Asked what went wrong, he said, "Nobody knows."

"We fought like hell for him," Ratliff said. "Things just didn't go our way."

Last Monday, Phillips revealed he watched nearly two years' worth of games on tape and discovered fundamentals were lacking. Phillips said it was time for the team to return to the basics, but those basics were severely lacking in Sunday night's loss to the Packers, as the Cowboys were plagued by missed tackles, a muffed punt and poor blocking techniques which resulted in four sacks and a fumble on a kick return.

"I thought we played poorly," Phillips said after the Packers game. "I thought we played poorly as a team and we looked like a bad football team. That's the way we played. Bad coaching."

Last Friday morning, when asked if Phillips would continue to be the coach for the rest of the season, Jones had a one-word answer: "Yes."

But things took a drastic turn after Sunday night's beatdown on national television.

After the game, Jones said there would be dire consequences for what transpired, but he wouldn't give out specifics as to what that meant.

Monday afternoon Jones made the decision to fire his coach.

Phillips arrived at Valley Ranch early Monday morning and went about work as usual, watching tape of the previous game and the next opponent and checking up on the injured players. A midday meeting with Jones and the rest of the coaching staff was still on his schedule before Jones called a halt to things and told Phillips he was not coming back during in a meeting in his office.

After that, Jones addressed the players and gave them a stern warning that he wanted to win by using winning players and the current way the Cowboys were playing was not acceptable. Jones said he wanted a culture change and the way Phillips was doing things wasn't right.

"There was a lot of me in denial for at least the last couple of ballgames," Jones said. "But where we are right now is that we've got the biggest challenge in the NFL and that is get a defense that can slow them down."

Phillips, a noted defensive guru, had seen his unit fail him the past few weeks.

The defense gave up 830 yards in total offense the past two losses and there seemed to be all sorts of other issues in terms of a lack of open-field tackling, development of younger defensive players and poor coverage in the secondary.

A team with the highest payroll in the NFL needs to perform better than this and Jones has decided to give Garrett an opportunity.

"Anybody involved in this organization, from the top down is disappointed with our season so far and how we got here," Garrett said Monday night. "Having said that, we're all excited about what we're going to do going forward. This is about going forward and we have to put the first eight games of the season behind us we have to learn from them and go forward."

Jones couldn't make Garrett the permanent coach right now even if he wanted to because of the Rooney Rule, which requires interviewing minority candidates. Yet this obviously gives Garrett a chance to show what he can do starting Sunday on the road against the Giants.

"If we do outstanding as a team and we have very visible, tangible success, then certainly that's doing your job, if you will, in a crisis situation," Jones said. "That kind of action goes beyond a résumé."

Jones added that wins and losses won't be the determining factor.

"I want to see the kind of effort [involved] in playing to win -- extraordinary effort, that you might not expect to see on a team that's 1-7 right now," Jones said.

It's worth noting that Garrett's unit hasn't been much better than Phillips', and that goes back to before starting quarterback Tony Romo broke his collarbone on Oct. 25. However, he was No. 2 on the coaching depth chart and Jones has always thought highly of him. He has been viewed as the team's coach-in-waiting since he was hired -- days before Phillips was hired, in fact.

The 44-year-old Garrett was a backup quarterback behind Troy Aikman from 1993 to '99. He was the quarterbacks coach in Miami in 2005-06 before rejoining the club in 2007. He's had the title of assistant head coach since 2008, when he withdrew from other interviews to remain in Dallas. His father, Jim, spent 22 years in the organization, working for every coach but Phillips. Two of Jason's brothers are on his staff: tight ends coach John and Judd, the director of pro scouting.

"I think he's very consistent, very to the routine. I like him as a coach," receiver Miles Austin said. "Hopefully it changes things for the better."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.