Winds of Change

The winds of change are blowing in at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch training complex with the hiring of Wade Phillips to replace the retired Bill Parcells.

It begins at the top with owner Jerry Jones, who returns to being the No. 1 power and authority on all things Cowboys after ceding control to Parcells the last four years.

Jones did what he thought he had to do to get the Cowboys back on top. So he made the ultimate sacrifice to get Parcells. But after four years of failure, the Cowboys still haven't won a playoff game since 1996.

Not only did the Cowboys suffer on the field with Parcells, but they suffered on a daily basis with his gruff and unpleasant demeanor.

Jones said everybody had to walk on eggshells around Parcells. Having to deal with that when you are winning is one thing. Having to deal with that when you are losing is another.

Jones is back in control and he wants to have fun again. He believes he can win and enjoy the process with new coach Wade Phillips.

Phillips' laid back and easy-going style should mesh well with Jones and his family.

What's also important to the equation is that Phillips is a solid coach who quite possibly can get more out of the Cowboys' defense than Parcells ever did. Phillips teaches a more aggressive 3-4 defense that should result in more pressure and more sacks than the Cowboys managed under the conservative Parcells.

Phillips' passion for the job also was impressive to Jones.

"Wade wanted it so bad," Jones said. "I know I feel like kissing the floor every time I walk in that office. Wade clearly had that incentive. He not only has an appreciation about the Cowboys' tradition, but he has such incentive about what he could accomplish. I wanted to make sure that energy, desire and passion was there. He had a lot of things the Cowboys needed. The Cowboys needed his passion and we got it."

Not only is Phillips eager to prove that he can be a successful head coach after four previous stints with Buffalo, Denver, Atlanta and New Orleans, but he views Dallas as a dream job.

Phillips is a Texas native and the son of former Houston Oilers legend Bum Phillips. He began his coaching career coaching at the high school level in Texas. Now he has come full circle as the coach of the Cowboys.

"You ever read about the frog that dreamed about being king and become one?" said Phillips in his laid-back drawl.

"I was a high school coach in Texas. Now I am the head coach of the Cowboys. That's the way I feel. It's great to have my Cowboys boots back in Texas. I am Cowboy now. And I am proud of it."

It's safe to say that Phillips is right at home, being back in Texas with his laid-back style and aw-shucks personality. He just hopes people don't overlook a passion and intensity burning deep inside. He truly believes he is a winner. And with a 48-39 record in four previous stints as a head coach, he has long hoped for an opportunity to prove himself again.

"I wanted to be a head coach again, so I've thought about this," Phillips said. "Now that the opportunity is here I'm going to make the most of it. I'm headed in the direction I want to go."

Going forward, Phillips is in the process of finalizing his coaching staff and preparing for next week's NFL scouting combine.

They don't have a lot of major free-agent decisions with the biggest being center Andre Gurode, tackle Marc Colombo, third receiver Patrick Crayton and punter Mat McBriar.

None are expected to get big-money deals. The Cowboys are expected to pay a $5 million roster bonus to keep receiver Terry Glenn. It is due March 1.

They will not pay a roster bonus to retain quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

A veteran backup quarterback is a prime target in free agency.

However, the areas of biggest need in free agency and the draft are the offensive line, safety, receiver and another pass rusher, either at linebacker or defensive end.

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