The Cowboys fired Phillips as head coach Monday, FOXSports.com has confirmed. Phillips told people at Cowboys headquarters he was fired. He’s owed at least $3 million for 2011.
"We are grateful to Wade and his contribution to the Cowboys, leading us," team owner Jerry Jones said at a Monday news conference. "We also clearly understand we are not where we want to be at this time, and that’s an understatement. We share the responsibility — all of us."
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett takes over as interim head coach. "He does have the opportunity to get the job long-term," Jones said. "I do believe Jason has the temperament and disposition to affect a culture change.
"I think this is important. We know men’s styles are different. His style, I think is one that can be effective."
Paul Pasqualoni, who was defensive line coach, will serve as interim defensive coordinator.
The FOX NFL Sunday pregame show on Sunday was the first to report that Jones had changed his stance on whether Phillips should keep his job the remainder of the year.
The season began with promise and high expectations, spurred by the fact Dallas is the site of Super Bowl XLV and the Cowboys were hoping to become the first team to play in the Big Show in its home stadium. But instead of focusing in on "firsts," the Cowboys are suffering through a lot of worsts.
"An in-season changing is something I was reluctant to consider," Jones said. "I recently addressed the team and my comments with them were very brief and pointed. I told them they should not think this an admission of defeat or finality in this season.
Their 1-7 start is the worst since they began the 1989 season 0-8. And their 38-point loss in Green Bay on Sunday night tied for the second-wost road loss in franchise history, trailing only a 41-point loss in Minnesota 40 years ago.
Want more? The Packers’ 28-point second-quarter points tied for the most points the Cowboys have ever allowed in a quarter.
Phillips, who was hired by the Cowboys in 2007, has built his long NFL coaching reputation on defense. He has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for 20 years, but this year there’s no defending the Cowboys defense. They’ve allowed 121 points in their past three games and rank 31st among the NFL’s 32 teams in average points allowed.
“I am disappointed in the results of this season to this point, but I am also very proud of what our team and our players accomplished in the previous three years," Phillips said in a statement.
Phillips, who had only one losing season as a head coach during stints with the Broncos, Bills and Falcons, succeeded Bill Parcells in 2007. The team responded well to the change, going 13-3 and winning the NFC East.
After missing the playoffs with a 9-7 mark the next season, the Cowboys went 11-5 in 2009 to again win their division. That season, Phillips led Dallas to its first playoff win since the 1996 season.
The Cowboys entered 2010 being touted as Super Bowl favorites. However, they never clicked and Tony Romo’s injury in Week 7 appeared to end any hopes of a playoff run. Two humiliating losses after that, Phillips was finished.
And he finished his Cowboys coaching career with a 34-22 record. Overall as a head coach, Phillips has a career 82-61 mark.
Garrett becomes the first interim coach in Cowboys history, and he will retain that title until the team complies with the NFL’s Rooney Rule in the offseason. The policy mandates that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and front office positions.
If Jones wishes to retain Garrett as his head coach beyond this season, he must be in full compliance with the Rooney Rule requirements by bringing minority candidates into the interview process, including in-person interviews.
The NFL policy regarding interim head coaches does not require teams to follow the Rooney Rule policy in midseason.
According to the league, “if a coaching change is made during the season, the club may name an interim coach from its existing coaching staff for the remainder of the season without going through a formal interviewing process. However, the club must follow the mandatory interviewing process in choosing a new permanent head coach, unless the club had concluded a prior contractual agreement with a member of its coaching staff to become the club’s head coach and this contractual agreement had been filed with the League Office at the time it was signed."
According to sources with knowledge of Garrett’s contract, such an agreement does not exist.
A previous attempt by a team to promote an interim coach without complying with the Rooney Rule was rejected by the NFL.
In October 2008, the league voided a contract between the St. Louis Rams and interim head coach Jim Haslett that would have ensured him the permanent head coaching position if he reached a certain win threshold — six games — the remainder of that season. In nullifying the deal, the NFL informed the Rams that the Rooney Rule required the club to interview a minority candidate if a head coaching vacancy exists.
Haslett finished 2-10 as the Rams’ interim coach and the team announced in January 2009 that he would not be considered as a permanent head coaching candidate.
FOXSports.com Senior NFL Editor Nancy Gay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.