Norv Turner and Wade Phillips haven’t been able to shake the first impressions they left in their previous head-coaching stops.
Last season, Turner took his San Diego Chargers to the AFC Championship Game, which meant he had to win two playoff games — a feat his predecessor, Marty Schottenheimer, was unable to accomplish, despite having a 14-2 regular-season record in 2006. Phillips led the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 mark and the NFC’s No. 1 seed last season.
This season, both teams have had bumpy rides, and both still find themselves in control of their own playoff destiny. Both also find themselves with the same issue: leadership. Not leadership from the coaches, but leadership in the locker room. Every great team has multiple leaders, not just on offense or defense, but at each position.
Here’s a leadership history lesson. The Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s boasted Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Nate Newton as leaders on offense, and Charles Haley, Ken Norton, Darren Woodson and Deion Sanders as leaders on defense. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s had Terry Bradshaw, Rocky Bleier and Mike Webster on offense, and Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Donnie Shell led the Steel Curtain.
But I digress. Here’s the reason both coaches will be back in 2009:
First up, Turner. A.J. Smith brought in Turner and will not get rid of the coach because it brings his own decision-making into question. Add the fact that the Chargers had their first playoff victories since the 1995 AFC Championship Game and that Turner has cultivated Philip Rivers into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, even though he didn’t make the Pro Bowl.
As for Phillips, he’s a dinosaur of sorts. Former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has had a profound effect on team owner Jerry Jones. Among the things gleaned from the Big Tuna, Jones is convinced that the 3-4 defense is the way to go. There are very few 3-4 gurus left in the NFL, and the list includes Dick LeBeau, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Dom Capers and Phillips. Ironically, what’s lost in this equation is the falling stock of Jason Garrett. Jones is questioning Garrett’s abilities as an offensive coordinator.
So for all you Chargers and Cowboys fans expecting change, you’ll have to wait another year.
— Jamie Dukes
- Did you miss the latest “Put up your Dukes?” Watch Jamie put the Dallas soap opera into perspective.