Wade Phillips: A More Complete History

Wade PhillipsThe new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Wade Phillips, has a career winning percentage of .552 as head coach or interim head coach of four teams. Though he has reached the playoffs in three of his five five years as head coach, he has never won a playoff game.

As far as drafts, I do not know how much control Phillips may have had, given that he was not with his teams for an extended period of time. However, the drafts that were conducted while he was head coach of those franchises were less than impressive. In fact, the best pick of any of his tenures may have been kicker Jason Elam (1993) while Phillips was with the Broncos.

Below is a more complete history of Phillips as a head coach.

1985, New Orleans (interim): 1-3.

Bum Phillips, Wade’s famous father, retired three-quarters of the way through the 1985 season and was replaced by Wade. The Saints finished with a disappointing 5-11 record. The Saints hired Jim Mora to take over for the 1986 season.

1993, Denver Broncos: 9-7

Note: Phillips replaced long-time Broncos coach Dan Reeves in 1993 and led Denver to the playoffs that season.

1993 Draft Highlights: The highlight of the 1993 draft for the Broncos was the selection of kicker Jason Elam in the fourth round. First-rounder Dan Williams, a defensive end, was a bust in Denver but had better seasons in Kansas City later in his career. Other selectiosn of note were running back Glyn Milburn and tight end Jeff Robinson. Milburn was a contributor as a pass catching back, and Robinson developed into one of the better deep-snappers in the league, albeit with different teams.

1 Dan Williams, Toledo
2 Glyn Milburn, Stanford
3 Rondell Jones, North Carolina
3 Jason Elam, Hawaii
4 Jeff Robinson, Idaho
5 Kevin Williams, UCLA
6 Melvin Bonner, Baylor
7 Clarence Williams, Washington State
7 Antonius Kimbrough, Jackson State
8 Brian Stablein, Ohio State

Summary (from Sports Encyclopedia):

Under new coach Wade Phillips, QB John Elway was given a greater say in the offensive play calls. The move worked as Elway responded with one of his finest seasons passing for 4,030 yards. The Broncos too would benefit returning to the playoffs with a 9-7 record, despite losses in their final two games that cost them the division and a home game in the playoffs. In the wild card game the Broncos travelled to Los Angeles for a match up with Raiders. The first half was a shoot out as the Broncos tied the game at 21 with 32 seconds left in the 2nd Quarter. However, the Broncos would fall flat in the 2nd half as the Raiders went on to win going away 42-24.

1994, Denver Broncos: 7-9

1994 Draft Highlights: Denver only had five picks in 1994. The highlight came in the seventh round with the selection of Tom Nalen, who played with the Broncos for 12 seasons.


2 Allen Aldridge, Houston
4 Randy Fuller, Tennessee State
7 Keith Burns, Oklahoma State
7 Butler By’not’e, Ohio State
7 Tom Nalen, Boston College

Summary (from Sports Encyclopedia):

The Broncos stumbled out of the gate losing their first four games as the Broncos defense yielded 134 points. After ending their losing streak with a 16-9 win over the Seahawks in Seattle John Elway and Kansas City Chiefs QB Joe Montana met in an unforgettable Monday Night duel. Elway appeared to have pulled off his 4th Quarter magic again, but the Broncos defense faltered and the Broncos fell to 1-4. The Broncos would win six of their next seven to get back into the playoff picture, but three straight losses would end their season at 7-9. Following the season Coach Wade Phillips would be fired, and Mike Shanahan, whose firing was protested by Elway, would be hired back to replace him.

1998, Buffalo Bills: 10-6

1998 Draft Highlights: Linebacker Sam Cowart, a second round pick, played with Buffalo for four years. Running back Jonathan Linton had 695 rushing yards in 1999, but only lasted three seasons.

2 Sam Cowart, Florida State
3 Robert Hicks, Mississippi State
5 Jonathan Linton, North Carolina
6 Fred Coleman, Washington
7 Victor Allotey, Indiana
7 Kamil Loud, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo

Summary (from Sports Encyclopedia):

To improve their situation at quarterback the Bills sign free agent Rob Johnson and CFL legend and Heisman winner Doug Flutie, who was making his return to the NFL after 10 years in Canada. Johnson would get the job at the start of the year and the Bills struggled losing their first three games. After winning their next two under Johnson, Flutie finally got his shot and led the Bills to an impressive comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Rich Stadium, after Johnson separated his shoulder. With Flutie now holding the starting job the Bills would catch fire as Flutie seemed to lead the Bills to a comeback win every week as the Bills won eight of Flutie’s 11 starts to earn a wild card berth with a 10-6 record. However, the Bills season would end quickly with a controversial 24-17 loss to the Dolphins in Miami as a questionable Andre Reed fumble halted the Bills comeback . Prior to the final home game Rich Stadium is renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium in honor of their founder and owner.

1999, Buffalo Bills: 11-5

1999 Draft Highlights: First-rounder Antoine Winfield was a solid corner for the Bills for five seasons before leaving via free agency for Minnesota. Receiver Peerless Price (second round) has enjoyed his best years as a member of the Bills. Shawn Bryson (third) had some productive seasons at running back with Buffalo. Bryce Fisher did not play for Buffalo until the 2001 season and only lasted one year there.

1 Antoine Winfield, Ohio State
2 Peerless Price, Tennessee
3 Shawn Bryson, Tennessee
4 Keith Newman, North Carolina
4 Bobby Collins, North Alabama
5 Jay Foreman, Nebraska
6 Armon Hatcher, Oregon State
7 Sheldon Jackson, Nebraska
7 Bryce Fisher, Air Force

Summary (from Sports Encyclopedia):

With Doug Flutie becoming a fan icon, complete with his own cereal, the Bills played solid football all season to sit at 10-5 with playoffs in hand, as the Bills smallish QB passed for 3,171 yards, and runs for another 476 yards. However, inexplicably Rob Johnson was given the starting job prior to the season finale, which the Bills won to finish with an 11-5 record. Johnson remained the starter when the Bills faced the Titans in Wild Card round at Tennessee. Johnson had a little magic of his own leading the Bills in a comeback from an 11-point deficit to take a 16-15 lead on a Doug Christie FG with 16 seconds left. However, on the ensuing kickoff the Titans pulled a lateral play and scored a touchdown to win the game 22-16. Replays showed the ball may have been an illegal forward lateral. Following the season the Bills began the rebuilding process by releasing RB Thurman Thomas, WR Andre Reed, and DE Bruce Smith all of which were vital pieces of the Super Bowl teams.

2000, Buffalo Bills: 8-8

2000 Draft Highlights: This is the weakest of any draft under Phillips. First-round pick Erik Flowers (LB/DE) was a complete bust. Running back Sammy Morris (fifth round) became a contributor, but was never a standout.


1 Erik Flowers, Arizona State
2 Travares Tillman, Georgia Tech
3 Corey Moore, Virginia Tech
4 Avion Black, Tennessee State
5 Sammy Morris, Texas Tech
6 Leif Larsen, Texas-El Paso
7 Drew Haddad, Buffalo
7 DaShon Polk, Arizona

Summary (from Sports Encyclopedia):

The entire season is marred by the continuing Quarterback controversy between Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie. Each would play solid football as Flutie saw plenty of action during times in which Johnson missed games due to injury. However, the young Bills would struggle under the lack of continuity, and would finish with an 8-8 record. Following the season the house cleaning continued as GM John Butler departed for a similar job with San Diego Chargers. Butler would take several Bills stars including Flutie with him. Meanwhile Coach Wade Phillips is fired and replaced by Gregg Williams as the Bills officially ended the Championship era.

2003, Atlanta Falcons (interim): 2-1

Summary: Phillips replaced Dan Reeves yet again and led the Falcons to a 2-1 finish. In yet another irony, the Falcons hired Jim Mora, Jr. to take over in Atlanta, marking the second time that a Mora had taken over a team that had been coached by Phillips as an interim.

Surely We Can’t Go Wrong with a Texas Native. Right?

Let’s review some Cowboys’ history:

Good birth places: Mission, Texas (Tom Landry), Port Arthur, Texas (Jimmy Johnson).

Birth place of that other Super Bowl coach: Crossett, Arkansas (Barry Switzer).

Birthplaces of the mediocre and the bad: Gainesville, Georgia (Chan Gailey), Somewhere in Connecticut (Dave Campo); Englewood, New Jersey (the Tuna fellow).

Wade PhillipsSo now we welcome a native of Orange, Texas, and it is our collective duty to tell him that he is destined to win a Super Bowl with the Cowboys. No pressure. Just a Super Bowl.

Good. It’s settled.

Here is an interview of Phillips with Mickey Spagnola today:

Spagnola thought that Norv Turner was going to get the nod. Here is his explanation for why the Cowboys instead chose Phillips:

First of all, began finding out late Wednesday there were a lot of people in Phillips’ corner. Football people. Scouts. Former scouts. Coaches. Former coaches. Some of both Jones trusted implicitly with football advice.

Not sure if it was from relief the selection process was over or from unequivocal approval, but man there were some smiles coming out of the Cowboys’ scouting department all day Thursday, and you didn’t even have to ask Jeff Ireland and them what they thought of the impending hire. You knew.

Then I was told Jones didn’t just pluck this Wade guy’s name out of a hat two weeks ago. Was told his was a name that had been tossed around previously, even after Bill Parcells had arrived, because as Jones said that one day, you never know when your head coach might get run over. And with Parcells on the premises, a hit-and-run was more likely. He had to be prepared for whatever whenever.

“He’s always been a guy we respected,” said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones following the announcement, as well as Jerry pointing out that Wade was a guy “we’ve known for 16 or 17 years.”

Who knew?

And then there was this, the X-factor, who few, if any, considered, including myself: Tony Sparano.

Now wait, don’t start with me. I know I’m worn out and in need of vacation – which by the way, Jerry named this head coach in the nick of time when it comes to me taking some time off – but I haven’t lost my mind. Please listen. Read, too. Follow along.

This organization values Sparano, and was impressed with the job he did not only being a co-coordinator of this offense, by the way, for a team that scored 425 points this season – only two less than Chicago and Indianapolis – but how effectively he called plays under the weight of Parcells’ overbearing influence.

Who knew, and me, I’m guilty as charged, but as one person in the organization said, don’t be too hard on yourself. Like how would you have known since Bill never let you talk to those guys or did he ever talk about what everyone was doing. So that made me feel a little better, but not much.

A couple of Dallas and Fort Worth columnists jumped at the chance to provide the good and bad about the hire.

Jean-Jacques Taylor:

Jerry Jones has put his legacy as an owner and general manager in Wade Phillips’ hands.

There’s already a faction of Cowboys fans who think Jerry is the NFL’s worst owner. Perhaps, the worst in NFL history. Those folks are silly, though they can rightfully point to 10 seasons without a playoff win as evidence of his incompetence, making the debate difficult.

But winning three Super Bowls gives Jerry a pass – at least it used to.

Time is up.

This hire will define whether Jerry is remembered as an oil and gas man who lucked into three Super Bowl championships because Minnesota’s Mike Lynn made one of the dumbest deals in NFL history by giving the Cowboys a king’s ransom for Herschel Walker or whether he’s remembered as the guy who pulled the franchise out of an abyss by hiring Phillips.

And Randy Galloway:

What lurks underneath the surface for Phillips is a flashback to the worst of Jerry and to the worst of times for the Cowboys.

Let us review the fresh evidence, but believe me, the DNA doesn’t lie:

Son-of-Bum is a defensive specialist, with an excellent 3-4 pedigree, and with some success as an NFL head coach. But as the new man here, he had no say in the hiring of his offensive coordinator, or probably in the hiring of his top two offensive coaches.

Jones already had young Jason Garrett in place as the OC before Phillips was interviewed for the head coaching job. And Tony Sparano, a holdover from the Big Bill staff and the offensive play-caller last season, is expected to remain in that job.

Unless Phillips does add his own hire to the offensive mix, “Coach Jerry” has reverted to his old ways. I admit it — it makes me miss Big Bill already, no matter the Parcells’ record here.

Personal apologies to media colleagues, former Cowboys’ players and all who e-mailed for defending Jerry on the early hire of Garrett, saying if Norv Turner followed as the head coach, it would make sense.

How stupid not to know that eventually it wouldn’t make sense.

The Cowboys’ emphasis continues to be defense, defense, defense, almost all defense. It has been this way for more than a decade, with draft picks, and except for Chan Gailey, coaching hires.

The bottom line for this ongoing defensive philosophy is failure, failure, failure.

With Tony Romo, the offense showed life last season, but Romo needs ample tutoring. Turner is one of the best in the business in that area. Garrett, no matter the potential, has exactly two years on his resume as an NFL quarterback coach.

You have to score points in this league to win consistently. You have to have a good quarterback to win consistently.

But the Cowboys are still stuck on defense.

The Ghost of Big Bill lurks with this Phillips’ hire. Parcells, of course, was a part of the process in hiring his replacement.

It was Bill who brought the 3-4 to the Cowboys two seasons ago. Success didn’t happen with this alignment. Actually, the move backfired.

With Parcells gone, a return to the 4-3 was a possibility.

Obviously, Parcells would disagree with switching back so, when he’s conducting his interviews at Valley Ranch with Turner and Phillips, which coach do you think Bill recommended to Jerry? And how much did Jerry listen to Big Bill?

Also, Turner’s answer for his defensive coordinator was Ron Rivera of the Bears, a 4-3 guy. Rivera interviewed Tuesday at Valley Ranch, not for the head coaching job, as it was advertised, but for Turner’s defensive coordinator.

There was speculation from inside the bunker Wednesday that Rivera had not sold Jerry on the 4-3 scheme.

But who says Jerry could have been sold, no matter the Rivera presentation?

Bottom line: Jerry wanted to stay with the 3-4. Phillips is an excellent 3-4 defensive coach. Once again, it was about what Jones thinks is best for the defense, not the offense. Very scary.

Many have asked if Eldorado Owens was a factor in this coaching decision, based on some speculation that Turner, in his interview, advised Jones to dump Eldo.

Not true.

While Jones has been mulling over whether it’s wise to bring back Owens at $8 million next season, Turner was receptive to the idea of Eldo being on the team should Jerry declare the price tag made sense.

Get ready, however, for outrageous drama next season from the NFL’s No. 1 drama queen. If Big Bill couldn’t keep this fool under control, you think Wade can, or Jason Garrett can?

Let us all welcome Wade Phillips to town and, hopefully, Bum will also show up on occasion, which is always a treat.

But Son-of-Bum’s arrival comes with many nightmares attached, none of his making.

Jerry is being Jerry again. May the football gods have mercy on the Cowboys.

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