The Big Assumption


"People who can coach defense can seemingly go everywhere and coach defense," Lacewell said.

Jones is counting on that - maybe even assuming - and one of the main reasons he decided to hire Phillips as the head coach. As much money and high draft picks as Jones has spent on his defense, the Cowboys just have to perform better than they did down the stretch this past season and even in 2005 when they were nicked for 104 points in the final four games.

To a certain extent, counting on that, too, is Brian Stewart, Phillips' right-hand man, the secondary coach in San Diego Phillips brought along to be his defensive coordinator. In fact, Stewart went as far as saying he wants the Cowboys to have the best defense in the NFL, much to the chagrin of his boss.

"He didn't say that," Phillips said, more out of hope than challenging the accuracy of the statement relayed to him. "And if he did, he shouldn't have."

But when it comes right down to it, Stewart didn't have to say that. We all seem to be assuming that's what is going to take place with Phillips here.

Take me for example. When you guys have asked me what the Cowboys' biggest question is surrounding this team, I'd always say, how well Tony Romo plays. Or, when you guys have asked me how Wade Phillips will do as the Cowboys head coach, I have said, he will do as well as Tony Romo.

And seemingly everyone's response, if for some unearthly reason not agreeing with me, seemed to be: Yeah, but what about the defense?

Defense, naw, don't worry about the defense. Wade Phillips will take care of that, and you know what, even Phillips is confident he can tweak what's been into what everyone wants.

"Sure, that's why I'm here," Phillips said of his defensive coaching prowess. "They felt like I could help. That's my strength, certainly . . ."

He would come back early Friday evening to point out he learned to develop a rather simplified defense because "you got to come in and do well right now" when installing your defense, knowing that this age of the salary cap and free agency doesn't afford new coaches much of a honeymoon. "Man, you got to put a team together and not make mistakes, and we've had a lot of success with that."

Lacewell admits the Cowboys don't have great defensive personnel. But he thinks it is good enough, and if you mix that decent talent with a more aggressive style of defense, one disciplined enough to cut down on busted plays, then you might just get what you need . . . .

To then ascend to where you want to go.

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