Dallas Cowboys fire Wade Phillips after 1-7 start; Jason Garrett takes charge

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 12:18 AM

The NFL season began with the Dallas Cowboys hoping to play in the Super Bowl that they are to host in February at their second-year stadium in Arlington, Tex. Instead, they have been one of the league's worst teams and are playing without injured quarterback Tony Romo.

Their highly disappointing play cost Coach Wade Phillips his job Monday, as owner Jerry Jones fired Phillips one day after a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers dropped the Cowboys' record to 1-7.

Jones elevated offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to interim head coach. Jones also promoted defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni to defensive coordinator on an interim basis.

"An in-season coaching change is something that I have not done before," Jones said at a news conference. "It's something that I was reluctant to even consider as late as this past week. But at this time, I believe what's in the best interests of the organization and the fans is a coaching change."

Phillips became the first NFL head coach to be fired this season.

"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," Phillips said in a written statement released by the Cowboys. "In good times and difficult times, our players stuck together and never lost hold of their belief in each other and the strong team bond that they have shared. Family and coaching football have always defined my life and I will always be grateful for my experiences here with the Dallas Cowboys."

All of the previous coaching changes made by Jones, who purchased the Cowboys in 1989, came during the offseason. Until Sunday, Jones had been adamant in his public comments that he was not contemplating a coaching switch during this season, either. After the Green Bay game, Jones told reporters that there would be "consequences" for the Cowboys' poor performance.

Phillips was in his fourth season with the Cowboys and had a regular season record of 34-22 as their coach. The Cowboys were 1-2 in the postseason under Phillips.

The Cowboys won the NFC East in two of the previous three seasons. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of last season's playoffs for the franchise's first postseason triumph since December 1996, but suffered a 31-point defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in a conference semifinal.

A poor start to this season got worse for the Cowboys when Romo suffered a fractured left clavicle during a 41-35 loss to the New York Giants last month. They have lost two more games with backup Jon Kitna starting at quarterback, extending their losing streak to five games.

Jones said Monday he told Cowboys players that they should not consider the coaching change "an admission of defeat or finality" for the season

But he said the Cowboys "also clearly understand we are not where we want to be at this time, and that's an understatement. We also share the responsibility in that, all of us."

Garrett will be given a chance to retain the head coaching job beyond this season, Jones said.

"I do believe that Jason has the temperament, he has the disposition to effect a culture change," Jones said.

The Cowboys play the Giants, the NFC East leaders, on Sunday at the Meadowlands. It will be the NFL head coaching debut for Garrett, once the Cowboys' backup quarterback behind Troy Aikman.

Garrett was considered a rising star in the NFL coaching ranks when the Cowboys hired him away from the Miami Dolphins in 2007, then signed him to a $3 million-a-year contract extension in January 2008 to keep Garrett with the team after he interviewed for head coaching vacancies in Baltimore and Atlanta.

Garrett said at a news conference: "I think anybody involved in this organization, really from the top down, is disappointed with our season so far and how we got there. Having said that, we're all excited about what we're going to do going forward. This is about going forward."

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