The San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys both had their seasons come to disappointing ends this past Sunday. San Diego lost their divisional playoff match-up 17-14 against the wild card New York Jets at home in Qualcomm Stadium. The Cowboys got spanked back to Texas by the Vikings 34-3 in Minneapolis.
Both teams overcame adversity during the season with the Chargers left for dead when they started 2-3 following a loss to the Denver Broncos. Dallas recovered from a Week 14 loss to the Chargers in Dallas that dropped them to 8-5 and creating the thought among most that the Cowboys habit of late season swoons would continue.
In the process both teams saved their head coaches their jobs. The question fans of both teams have been asking themselves is if this necessarily a good thing.
Do Norv Turner and Wade Phillips have the ability to do more than just develop good game plans? Can they instill the confidence in their teams necessary to win a Super Bowl? So far the answer in their careers has been no, though I would give Turner more credit than Phillips.
Turner has led San Diego to three consecutive AFC West titles and playoff appearances. This is the first time that under Turner that the Chargers have failed to win advance at least one round in the playoffs. Don't forget that last year the Chargers upset a red hot Colts team before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisonal round. The year before that San Diego defeated the Titans in the wild card round and the Indianapolis on the road in the divisional round before losing to the eventual
Super Bowl champion 18-1 Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Yesterday, San Diego presented Turner with a 3-year contract extension that would run through 2013. I understand why Chargers fans would be so frustrated after failing to get to a Super Bowl throughout the second half of this decade even with the excess of talent up and down their roster. However, Turner has won 3 playoff games in 3 years, obviously not a ringing endorsement, but still something to hang your hat on.
I see this as more of a 1-year deal that has the potential to go two more if Turner can get this team over the hump next year. If not I think Turner will be packing his bags.
Wade Phillips is another case altogether. He's been to the playoffs four times now in his coaching career. Twice with the Bills and twice with the Cowboys. This year is the first time in his career he has registered a playoff win, which only served as a platform to a Viking ass whooping this past weekend.
His two playoff losses with Buffalo were on the road and both were results indicative of poor coaching. Facing Miami in the 1999 wild card, Buffalo committed 5 turnovers and had 93 penalty yards. The Bills lost 24-17. In the 2000 wild card round after a mysterious decision to bench starter Doug Flutie in favor of Rob Johnson, the Bills turned a 16-15 lead with 0:16 left on the clock into a 22-16 defeat to the Titans courtesy of the Music City Miracle adding another chapter of gloom to Buffalo's history.
Fast forward to the his 2007-2008 Dallas team that finished the regular season with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They played a Giants team they had beaten twice in the regular season. At the end of the first half they allowed New York to drive the field for a game-tying touchdown at the end of the first half in 46 seconds with no timeouts. The Cowboys went on to lose this game 21-17, only adding a field goal to their tally after halftime.
Then this year it seemed as if the Cowboys had turned the corner. They entered the playoffs on a 3-game winning streak and dominated the Eagles in their wild card match-up. Dallas was a dark horse and many picked them to win in Minnesota. From the moment that the Vikings struck on a perfect ball thrown by Favre to Sidney Rice to give them a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Cowboys looked a team that was done.
The one thing you couldn't say about his teams in those game was that the team had quit on him, but on Sunday that's exactly what happened.
The Cowboys entered the half facing a 17-3 deficity. A daunting task no doubt, but impossible? Definitely not. Rather than responding to adversity however, the Cowboys simply folded and went home quietly.
I admit I'm harder on Phillips than many others because of my hatred stemming from his Bills days. This is why I have an uncanny ability to recollect specific facts from wild card games that took place a decade ago. Looking at it objectively though, I just don't see the reasons for keeping Phillips as the head coach.
He's had three seasons to lead this time that many thought was primed for Super Bowl success and in that time has managed one playoff win and advanced only to the divisional round. More disconcerting is the trend that has continued to plague the Cowboys, that when things are going well they play great, but the moment they face adversity the team fails to respond.
You can criticize Tony Romo for choking, Jason Garrett for developing a poor game plan and the Cowboys secondary for turning into Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day Wade Phillips is responsible for Dallas' failures. Maybe he turns it around next year, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.