Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Former Assistants Describe Wade Phillips: 'Dumb Like a Fox'

By Ryan Wilson (RSS feed)

Wade Phillips isn't much to look at, but neither is Bill Belichick. The difference: one comes off as a grandfatherly Gomer Pyle, the other dresses like a hobo -- but has three Super Bowl rings. The point: people don't care how you clean up when you're winning.

So while the "Aw, shucks" persona is perfectly acceptable if you're running a roadside vegetable stand, it's less so as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, an outfit that last won a playoff game in 1996. Fans used to winning are fickle that way.

But according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel, don't let Wade's cuddly exterior fool you. Despite appearances, he really does know what he's doing.
A former assistant under Wade Phillips during the coach's tenure with the Buffalo Bills said Phillips is very bright, and not the bumbling, silver-haired uncle he's often portrayed as by the media. Another former assistant said Phillips was "dumb like a fox" during his time as head coach of the Broncos.
I can totally believe that. Phillips has a 70-49 record as an NFL head coach over nine seasons, although he's mostly remembered as that guy in Buffalo who benched Doug Flutie for Rob Johnson. The thing is, he's probably a better defensive coordinator. The same assistants who described Wade as "dumb as a fox" explain:
... [O]rganization, detail and structure were not areas of strength and that confrontation appeared to make Phillips physically uncomfortable, so much so that he avoided it. He was the type of boss who would tell a player he was doing great and cut him one day later.
I can totally believe that, too. And if you watched Hard Knocks last summer, it was obvious five minutes into any episode. Phillips' knows football, but like a lot of coordinators who have less success as head coaches, he's not so good with the off-field stuff.

That's a problem, even when you're winning. Wade went 13-3 in his first season in Dallas and there was speculation that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett might be in line to replace him. It didn't happen. And after Garrett's star lost some luster last season, it probably won't.

That doesn't mean Phillips' job is safe (even if Jerry says it is), and it might explain his new strategy for 2009: tough guy. Seriously, he's going to reinvent himself, presumably in time for training camp. I'm not even sure it's a good idea in theory. But if he's going through with it, here's my suggestion: lose the bowl cut and go with the Stetson and the aviator shades. A blue leisure suit can't hurt, either.