- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

IRVING, Texas | Wade Phillips has a new two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, a deal indicating that owner Jerry Jones being is encouraged yet not satisfied.

“This contract represents that,” Jones said Thursday after signing Phillips through the 2011 season. “Two years in the NFL is an eternity, but it has to be urgent and it has to be addressed as if there is no tomorrow. … It addresses the urgency of where we want to go from here.”

The Cowboys have won two NFC East titles in three years under Phillips, and two weeks ago got their first playoff victory since 1996, which was the season after their last Super Bowl.

While Phillips is 34-17 in Dallas (playoffs included), there had been speculation about his status since Jones had failed to pick up the 2010 option that was part of the deal Phillips got when he replaced Bill Parcells after the 2006 season. Jones repeatedly indicated he wanted Phillips back, but didn’t make it official until now.

“We want to build on the foundation we have put in place over the last three years,” Jones said. “I want to take advantage of the continuity.”

Instead of picking up the 2010 option, though, Jones gave Phillips a new contract. One that doesn’t include an option past the next two seasons.

“As long as the team knows I’m going to be here this year with this team, that’s all I need as a coach,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one year or 10 years. With this team right now, I feel very comfortable. I think we can go further and we will go further.”

In Phillips’ first season, Dallas was 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC before losing its opening playoff game. The Cowboys were 9-7 and missed the playoffs a year ago before an 11-5 record this season earned them the NFC East title. They beat Philadelphia in the NFC wild-card round before a 34-3 loss at Minnesota last weekend.

Jones refused to give any specifics about the financial terms of the deal, but said it was “serious money” while making clear there would be a hefty bonus for reaching a Super Bowl.

“Is he being overpaid? Not one penny,” Jones said. “Is he being underpaid? Probably, for what I think he is. The bottom line is we have something that works and certainly is structured so that we have great incentive to do what he wants to lead us into doing any way, and that is ultimately get to that Super Bowl.”

Only the Colts, Patriots and Chargers have won more games than Dallas during Phillips’ three seasons, but the Cowboys have gone a franchise-worst 14 seasons without winning or reaching a Super Bowl. Next season, the Super Bowl will be at Cowboys Stadium, and Jones has long wanted to become the first host team to play in the big game.

“I feel like we’re going to be knocking on the door,” he said.

Then a smiling Phillips jumped in with a line made famous by his dad, Bum Phillips, when he coached the Houston Oilers: “We’re going to kick that SOB in, too.”

Phillips has been among the league’s lowest-paid head coaches at around $3 million per season. This past year, he also took on the role of defensive coordinator, and Jones called him “the MVP of the defense.”

Jones said Phillips impressed him with how the coach never let the contract status affect him during the season.

“One of the things that he demonstrated was just how well that ambiguity didn’t matter relative to getting the job done or relative to aspiring to where we wanted to go,” Jones said. “Don’t think that players, and for that matter a lot more people than players, operate with some ambiguity with what’s going to happen next year and the next year and the next year. Hello life.”

The defense led by Pro Bowl picks DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff allowed the fewest points in the NFC this season and closed the regular season with the first back-to-back shutouts in the franchise’s 50-season history.

Phillips just finished his 33rd year in the NFL, 28 of them spent as either a defensive coordinator or head coach. He’s 62.

If Phillips finishes this contract, he will match Jimmy Johnson as the longest-tenured coach during Jones’ ownership. Phillips already has the highest winning percentage among Cowboys coaches, topping Johnson, Tom Landry and Barry Switzer. However, he’s lumped in with Parcells, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo as Dallas coaches who haven’t won a Super Bowl.

“We’ve produced well, but that isn’t good enough,” Phillips said. “I think we have a lot better opportunity to do that now.”

This will become the longest head coaching stint for Phillips, who is 81-54 in the regular season and was 0-4 in the playoffs before this season. Phillips was Buffalo’s coach for three seasons and spent two seasons in Denver, along with interim stints in New Orleans and Atlanta.

Jones expects to bring back the entire coaching staff, including three assistants whose contracts expire after this season. Among them is Phillips’ son, Wes, who is in charge of offensive quality control.

The one change was when defensive line coach Todd Grantham last week became the new defensive coordinator for the University of Georgia. The Cowboys quickly replaced him by rehiring Paul Pasqualoni, a Dallas assistant for three seasons before spending the last two seasons as Miami’s defensive coordinator.

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