When Emotion Escapes Us: What Jason Garrett Can Learn from Wade Phillips

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REUTERS/Pierre DuCharme

In the waning hours of his tenure as Dallas Cowboys head coach, several weeks of pent-up trepidation rolled right off Wade Phillips’ tongue.

Phillips’ final game will be remembered as America’s embarrassment. The 45-7 nationally-televised loss to the Green Bay Packers prompted commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth to spend half the evening discussing Phillips’ bleak future.

Look no further than the post-game comments to understand what went wrong in Dallas this season — the inability, as Collinsworth noted, for Phillips to extract a pound of flesh from his stumbling football club.

“They whipped us about every way you can whip somebody,” Phillips told the Dallas Morning News. “It looked like we were fighting hard early, but once it caved in it caved in on us. We looked like a bad team, with bad coaching. That’s the way we played.”

(See the top 10 awkward press conferences.)

At 1-7, there was no room for “It looked like” or “we looked like.” Phillips needed to change the look.

Perhaps the Cowboys were inundated with fantasies from day one. When word broke that Super Bowl XLV was going to be situated in their own stadium, talk quickly shifted to playing the big game in their own venue. A May ESPN Dallas report relayed one of Phillips’ answers to that thought as: “I think we have a lot of first-class guys. I don’t know if we’ll be the ’71 team, but I do feel good going forward with this team.”

As 2009 NFC East Division champions, there was no reason for “I think.” Phillips needed to believe.

(See TIME’s 10 questions with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.)

Seven losses later, interim head coach Jason Garrett’s uphill battle is already underway. Before even setting foot on the field, rumors swirled Monday about players’ collective distaste for his presence. Not surprisingly, owner Jerry Jones and not Garrett did the talking on Monday about expectations going forward.

When Garrett does make his initial remarks, he has no reason not to flood the podium with confident, cocky rhetoric. He might as well top Phillips’ confused stares that polished the demise of the 2010 season.

(See TIME’s top 10 Super Bowl moments.)