JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Wade Phillips

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Having written a biography of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, I feel very comfortable when it comes to most things Jerry Jones. While researching the book, I spent about 2 1/2 hours in Jerry’s office, plopped down on his couch in front of a row of Super Bowl trophies. The man is, by most accounts, a genuinely nice guy who cares about the people working for him. Does that excuse his occasionally bad behavior (he likes his wife and looooves the ladies) and poor decisions (Two words: Kavika. Pittman.)? Not really. But he’s been known to do some incredibly kind acts behind closed doors.

I digress.

Today Jones shocked many people by extending Wade Phillips’ contract through 2011. This wasn’t merely a good decision—it was a great one. As Jones has surely learned via Chan and Campo and Parcells and the rest, coaching instability ruins a franchise. Truth is, fans and the media often severely overrate the impact coaches have on a team’s success. In the majors, managers control the game. So do NHL and NBA coaches. The NFL, however, is about delegation; about surrounding yourself with a staff of people who are good at what they do and who feel comfortable listening and responding to the head man. Wade Phillips probably isn’t a genius, a la Bill Walsh or Tom Landry or Don Shula. Maybe he needs to yell more, or spice up the discipline. But, when push comes to shove, his players and coaches respect him. In three seasons, he’s won two NFC East titles.

It was a good no-fire.

Buffalo, on the other hand, makes no sense. Chan Gailey is a 57-year-old retread who failed miserably in previous stints with the Cowboys and Georgia Tech. I remember when he was hired by Dallas, and Troy Aikman was elated. Then he watched Gailey’s staggering lack of imagination transform a high-flying offense into the ’78 Chicago Bears. With so many young assistants out there, bursting with enthusiasm and brio, why would a team hire Gailey?

4-12, here we come …

PS: A side note—I love Bum Phillips, Wade’s dad. A decade ago I hung out with him on his ranch in Goliad, Texas. Such a fun two days, and such a warm, giving, open man.