ESPN's Mosley: Jones Had Little Choice

When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones couldn't find anyone else to interview, he finally went with Wade Phillips as the club's seventh head coach.

Jones broke down twice during an hour-long news conference Thursday afternoon during which he lavished praise on Phillips and managed to duck several questions.

"It's the most extensive interviewing process that I've undertaken," Jones said before listing several highlights from Phillips' career. "…We needed to get it right and we got it right."

I'm told Jones was still leaning toward former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner as late as Wednesday afternoon, but by 7 p.m., he was calling Phillips for what he called a "second interview." The move came as somewhat of a surprise after watching Jones and Turner pal around in Miami Beach last week.

When Jones said he had a "leaning" Saturday afternoon, it was obvious he was referring to Turner, although Phillips said he never had that feeling. In the end, Jones' preemptive strike to hire Jason Garrett from the Dolphins may have hurt Turner's candidacy.

Turner looked forward to coaching with Garrett, but that doesn't mean he wanted to share play-calling duties with him. Turner yearned for more authority during his head coaching stops in Washington and Oakland and may have asked Jones for too much. Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman weighed in on Turner's behalf and sounded surprised about Jones' change of heart during his weekly local radio appearance Thursday morning.

With his decision, Jones is placing the development of his talented but inexperienced quarterback Tony Romo in the hands of someone who was a backup quarterback for 12 years, but only has two years experience as an NFL assistant.

Romo was the first person I heard from when ESPN broke the Phillips-to-Dallas story early Thursday morning. He already has met with Garrett, who referred to himself as a "big Tony Romo fan" last week in Miami, and said he has talked with New Orleans coach Sean Payton about him.

Jones admitted that it was a gamble to put Garrett in charge of the offense, saying he'd be "operating without a net." He also stressed that having last year's assistant head coach and play-caller Tony Sparano on staff played a role in his decision to go with Phillips.

"That was an important part of my decision," Jones said. "Very important." Sparano has drawn interest from the Saints, Browns, Chargers and Giants over the past two years, but the Cowboys haven't let him out of the building.

The decision to hire Phillips also means the Cowboys will stay the course in their 3-4 defensive scheme. Bill Parcells implemented the scheme two years ago and the club has focused on drafting and signing players who fit that system. "They're built for a 3-4 defense," Phillips said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."

Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware told me last week in Miami how excited he was about the prospect of Phillips winning the job. And the player who Ware will always be compared to, Shawne Merriman, had 17 sacks last season while playing in Phillips' attacking 3-4 scheme. And in 2005, the Chargers led the league with 61 sacks.

When Jones introduced Phillips on Thursday, he said, "Surprise, I'm here!" He also provided a light moment when he said Terrell Owens' name and then poked fun at the fact that his predecessor didn't like to do that.

After four years of everyone at Valley Ranch tiptoeing around Parcells, Jones was looking for someone he felt comfortable with. He even admitted as much.

"There won't be as much walking on eggshells," he said before catching himself.

Phillips is a laidback Texan who will create a more relaxed and open atmosphere at Valley Ranch. He also has a winning record as a head coach. Phillips was 48-39 in stints with New Orleans, Denver, Buffalo and Atlanta, but he's winless in three playoff games.

His most successful run came in Buffalo, where he went 29-19 in three years and went to the playoffs twice. But until he accomplishes something in Dallas, he'll always be remembered for the Music City Miracle in which the Titans returned a kickoff for a touchdown on the final play of a wild-card playoff game in 1999.

Phillips is not a bad hire. He has won respect across the league and should be able to help a defense that faded down the stretch last season.

But in this case, the offensive coordinator might end up receiving more scrutiny than the head coach.

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for He may be reached at