All Eyes on Wade

Those that carry themselves in standoff and arrogant fashion are easy to dislike, and if necessary, dismiss. Wade Phillips does not fall into that category. He's very likeable and genuinely humble; to a fault. In general, folks don't want to see Wade fail.

Cowboys' fans, coming off an impressive 13-3, 2007 regular season would be considered a support group. The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager is also a Wade fan. With all this backing, one might consider Wade Phillips comfortable and confident as he enters his 2nd year of head coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

Oh, but "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You!"

Let's let that confident characteristic stand, but the comfortable dimension needs to park itself and remain hidden for the entire 2008 campaign. It's highly-doubtful Wade Phillips is comfortable, and the football world knows Jerry Jones is antsy, at best.

So, how far do the Cowboys have to advance in 2008 for Wade Phillips to hold off the onset of the Jason Garrett regime? Is it safe to say Wade's Cowboys must win a playoff game as a minimum to continued, gainful employment? Every Cowboys fan must pray this is a known fact amongst the coaching staff. Good money may have a NFC Championship game appearance as the job security checkpoint. Certainly a Super Bowl invite would have the Phillips' reign making the turn into the 2009 campaign, right?

This being the general performance landscape and expectations, would Jerry Jones seek to make a change if there was an identical 2007 repeat performance by the Cowboys? Should there be?

Absent a total invasive and demonstrative visit by the dreaded injury gods, the answer should be a resounding "yes." With a few pieces of the overall puzzle yet to come together, the Cowboys, by NFL measures, are "loaded." The talent base stacks up against any conference foe, and it would hold its own against any AFC opponent. The seasoning of the Jason Garrett assembly will only continue, and by the conclusion of the 2008 season, he'll be ready to ride if a change is deemed necessary. Thus, Wade Phillips, under a heavy dose of truth serum, knows it's now his time to shine and succeed. In what may seem a cruel reality, Wade's Metroplex window-of-opportunity is not a very large opening. Unspoken and unwritten, the Jerry Jones' mandate has to be "win now."

The Cowboys are at that "critical blend" state of personnel assembly. The veteran savvy meets youthful infusion of the talent base is almost offsetting, and the greatest component is both the age and experience levels of the core base of players. The heart and soul of the Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells acquisitions, drafts and free agency, is in full bloom. The Terence Newman, Roy Williams, Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Chris Canty, L.P. Ladouceur, Andre Gurode, Mat McBriar, Jason Witten, Tony Romo and Marion Barber III mixture is vitally approaching full fermentation. This group sets the stage while the "win it for these guys" stand poised to take full advantage of "now is the time" opportunity. That group is lead by Zach Thomas, Greg Ellis, Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Joe Juraszek, Wade Phillips, Terrell Owens and everyone's championship poster boy, Terry Glenn.

Anything new and motivated brings a special, smattering of vigor and prove-to-be-worthy enthusiasm. Suffice it to say the Cowboys have a terrific youth movement amongst its rank and file. Any 1-2 year veteran, draft choice or rookie free agent that cracks this 53-man roster or lands on the practice squad will be worthy of the label "special." Oxnard, California, being overseen by HBO's and NFL Film's Hard Knocks will be a "must see." A ventured guess says HBO has more July/August subscribers than any previous membership since network inception.

Back to Wade Phillips. Can you see where the confidence element derives its existence? Here's the plain truth. The 2007 season was both a curse and a blessing. Quite simply, it's one that got away. The post season set-up was as close to perfectly executed as they come, but the failure to deliver and close the deal looms large. Fair or not, the underperformance rests squarely at the feet of Wade Phillips, his staff and Tony Romo. The blessing is the element of now knowing "what it takes" to close the transaction. The biggest question of all is "do they?" Wade Phillips cannot afford a December collapse or an entry-round playoff loss. Either will seal his fate and render his Texas, professional head coaching tenure short, successful, and squandered; the latter being the equivalent of a resume sexually transmitted disease.

If this proves to be Wade's undoing, it won't be for lack of weapons and ample ammunition. Jerry Jones has provided everything, to include space and non-intrusion, needed to put a sixth Lombardi trophy in the case. There are no excuses for the Dallas Cowboys not being the first franchise to garner six world championships. Yup, that's pressure, and that's the way it should be. Wade's forte, a vaunted defense, should be on full display, and the forgotten piece, special teams, should be, well, simply put, "special." It's all there. Experience and talent grace this roster. By scheduling standards, the slate is favorable, yet testy. Again, the way it should be. No cake walks.

Have all the necessary changes been mentioned and properly addressed? Two more critical elements are offered up as vital. A strong sense of urgency and a sharper edge propelled by a "cut throat" mentality. Wade Phillips has absolutely no control over the injury gods, but he can oversee preparation, personae and petulance. Last year's atmosphere brought many adjectives and environmental descriptors, but this year needs an element of nervous disdain. A strange choice of working conditions? Possibly, but this team needs to play with a realization they were lax and mentally short-sided last year. They need to adopt an attitude or mantra of we squandered away a golden opportunity. They need to play for Wade and a grouping of players, highlighted by Terry Glenn, who are potentially facing a last chance scenario.

If there isn't a heightened state of awareness amongst the masses, then the finger and fate could be completely isolated on Wade Phillips. The issue of fairness is not in play. It's now all about winning and winning convincingly. The cross-town Dallas Mavericks just served up the blue print for delivery failure, and the short fall recipient was none other than former Head Coach Avery Johnson. The circumstances and expectations are fairly similar, but the talent base is not! The Cowboys are far superior in that category, so the not having the necessary pieces argument is negated from the get go. While it was probably felt in year one of his tenure, there will be absolutely no shortage of spotlight expectations this year! Head Coach Wade Phillips sits squarely on the throne known as the proverbial hot seat.

Here's the easiest way to sum up the current state of expectations within the Dallas Cowboys. Pull out the DVR and fire up the playoff loss to the Giants. Painful? Yes, but fast forward to the last two minutes of the contest. See that guy with the stern consternation look, yet remaining supportive, on his face. Yeah, the one standing just to the left of the head coach. The formally dressed gentleman who happens to run the show in these parts. Look closely at his facial expressions and tell us if that's an owner who wants, and expects, to win every time out??!! Think he abides by the philosophy of "that one" just got away? Think he'll tolerate another collapse of that nature? At home? With the NFC Championship game on deck? Anyone care to render a guess how hard the cash register was hit with that squandered opportunity? As much as he likes the guy, know at some point Jerry slide the piece of paper in front of Wade. "That's what you cost me, Big Boy!"

Here's to hoping Wade Phillips and his current regime is exonerated by taking this high-flying, talent-laden group of players and producing the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, in this big business, NFL landscape, there isn't much room for tolerance and next time. The King of the Hill can easily become the Court Jester in the blink of an eye, and in the good guy gets the prize storybook world, everyone wants to see Wade Phillips wear the crown!

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