Are the Cowboys Better?

As the Cowboys appear to be putting the finishing touches on the 2008 coaching staff, a question is starting to arise.

Is this Wade Phillips' staff?

Or is this staff being put in place for Phillips' suspected replacement Jason Garrett?

What's true is that the speculation regarding Garrett being promoted to head coach at the end of next season or the first sign of trouble isn't going away.

That was true when owner Jerry Jones gave Garrett a $3 million annual contract -- equaling Phillips' salary -- to shun head coaching offers in Baltimore and Atlanta.

That perception has only gained more steam as the Cowboys have gone about the business to fill four coaching vacancies.

It started when the Cowboys signed Hudson Houck as offensive line coach. Houck worked with Phillips in San Diego but his true connection is to Garrett. He was with the Cowboys when Garrett was the backup quarterback on the 1995 Super Bowl team. He also coached with Garrett in Miami with the Dolphins.

The Cowboys followed that move with the hiring of former Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as defensive line coach.

On paper it seemed like a good fit for Phillips because Grantham has experience coaching the 3-4 from his days with the Browns and with the Texans, where he was defensive line coach under 3-4 guru Dom Capers.

Then there was the news this week that the Cowboys are bringing back Dave Campo as secondary coach. While Campo is a quality secondary coach, he has no experience in the 3-4.

A week ago Phillips told everyone at the Senior Bowl who would listen that he wanted a secondary coach with 3-4 experience. Jones even said three coaching openings gave Phillips a chance to hire coaches who were in line with his philosophy.

But yet, when Campo made a call to Jones about returning to Dallas to be close to his family, he suddenly emerged as the only candidate for the secondary coaching job.

Again, Campo has no ties to Phillips or the 3-4 but he has ties to Garrett from his days as a Cowboys assistant and Cowboys head coach.

The linchpin to the whole deal however appears to be the team's interest in Capers as a possible linebackers coach. Capers is the former head coach with the Texans and the Panthers. He is the former defensive coordinator with the Steelers, the Dolphins and the Jaguars.

He is a definite 3-4 guru who could bring some things to the table to go along with the Phillips 3-4.

Again he has more ties to Garrett than Phillips. He coached with Garrett with the Dolphins and was the man Garrett had handpicked to be his defensive coordinator if he had taken a head coaching job in

Baltimore or Atlanta. On paper the Cowboys appear to be making several good hires with former coordinators and former head coaches.

"I was there, and I know how it is," Phillips said about moving from being a head coach to an assistant. "You see what the head coach goes through, and you want to be the best assistant you can be for him. Being a head coach and an assistant again, it makes you a better assistant."

And on paper it seems like a win win for Phillips. If the coaches are successful, he will be successful.

But it will be hard to outrun perception and keep it from becoming reality.

The bottom line is the Cowboys are headed into a new stadium in 2009. So if things don't work out, they will be looking to make a change before going into a new stadium.

Jones wants Garrett to be his head coach one day. The question is now is when will that day come.

During the 2008 season if the Cowboys struggle?

After the 2008 season if the Cowboys don't reach the Super Bowl?

What's certain is that his staff is already in place.

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