Sports Outside the Beltway

Parcells for Wade Change: So Far, So Good

The Dallas Cowboys took a 6-1 record into their bye week, their best start since 1995, their last Super Bowl season. They give much of the credit to their new head coach.

Wade Phillips Cowboys PhotoDallas Cowboys players are starting to admit what outsiders have suspected all along: Going from the tight grip of Bill Parcells to the soft hand of Wade Phillips was a refreshing change.

“I can’t say enough about what this coaching atmosphere has brought to this locker room,” receiver Terrell Owens said. “I think every guy can share a little bit about what these coaches mean to them.” So the 6-1 start is a reflection of their leadership? “There’s not any question,” Owens said.

Phillips is big on giving out game balls. Asked whether Phillips deserves one right now, T.O. gushed that “all the coaches need a game ball.” “I can’t say enough about Ray Sherman and the job that he’s done with us as receivers,” Owens said. “You know, just communication — that’s what it’s all about. Just the philosophy and Wade and him coming in and treating us as men is very much appreciated in this locker room.”

Across the locker room and from the other side of the ball, linebacker Greg Ellis echoed many of those sentiments. “The chemistry here is good,” Ellis said. “The way Wade has chosen to run this team right now, it’s working real well.”

Ellis also brought up communication, a word that players have used a lot since training camp, always in a positive way. The inference is that it was lacking under Parcells. Nope. It was practically outlawed, according to Ellis. “Some coaches like to create that barrier between coach and player and never have that line crossed,” Ellis said. “Some coaches say, ‘OK, we’re all in this boat together. We want to win. You win, coaches win, the whole organization wins.’ We’re now in that kind of system where the coaches and players are more willing to work with each other.”

Ellis brought up an example from the New England game. He noticed that Tom Brady was coming to the line of scrimmage, looking for Ellis and yelling out which side he was on, prompting linemen to shift their protection to his side. “Not only did I go up and tell our defensive coaches what they were doing, DeMarcus Ware told them, Bradie James told them,” Ellis said.

He made it clear that players aren’t telling coaches what they should do. They are just relaying information they’ve gathered on the field and making suggestions based on that. “There’s still that respect — he’s the coach, I’m the player — but it’s safe to say, ‘Coach, we can do this right here. This is open for me to do in the field,’” Ellis said. “It’s an open street. It’s a respected street, understand that, but it’s an open one.”

Phillips was asked Thursday how good of a job he thinks he’s done. “I don’t really evaluate myself,” he said. “I just try to get this team going forward and getting them to play as hard as they can play. The assistant coaches deserve an A-plus, I can tell you that.”

The big guy gets at least an A thus far. The defense isn’t as dominating or as consistent as one would expect given Phillips’ reputation and the amount of high draft picks spent on that side of the ball in recent years. Then again, Phillips wasn’t the one shopping for the groceries in those days.

Tony Romo
and the offense have really come alive. If they get some more discipline and stop making boneheaded penalties, the team should be in strong position for making a run in “the tournament.”

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