SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Wade Phillips noticed one day during training camp that cornerback Terence Newman was doing a good job of using a particular technique to steer receivers off their routes, so Phillips made a point of letting Newman know it.

Picking up on that is a little thing, really. Something most defensive coordinators would do.

But it’s not the kind of detail that would register with many head coaches — unless that head coach also happened to be the defensive coordinator, as Phillips is for the Dallas Cowboys.

In a league where coaches often serve as their own offensive coordinators, Phillips is the only person this season pulling this kind of double duty.

That’s not to say he’s the only one doing both jobs. Any head coach who came up as a defensive coordinator is probably calling most of the shots on defense. However, the others have a defensive coordinator, even if it’s in name only.

Phillips fully acknowledges he was one of those guys during his first two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Brian Stewart was his right-hand man, er, defensive coordinator and pretty much became the scapegoat for the December meltdown that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs.

Team owner Jerry Jones didn’t hire a replacement, making the message clear: It’s all on Phillips. This is his defense, his team, and how things work out will determine whether he’s back next season.

And that’s fine by him.

“With my expertise, I can help even more by basically doing it myself, along with our coaches on defense,” Phillips said. “I just feel like that’s a little strength of mine.”

Phillips started running defenses in 1981 and his teams consistently have ranked among the league’s 10 best.

As a head coach, his career record is 70-49, a .588 winning percentage that’s better than predecessor Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson and notables such as Chuck Noll, Mike Ditka and Dick Vermeil. However, unlike those Super Bowl-winning coaches, Phillips has never even won a playoff game. He’s 0-4 over stops with Denver, Buffalo and Dallas. The only coach to win more regular-season games without a single playoff win is Jim Mora (125-106, 0-6).

Phillips is 22-10 (and 0-1) in two seasons with the Cowboys, with the defense ranking ninth in 2007 and eighth last year. They were No. 13 in the final season under Parcells.

“I think we have improved defensively in the last two years, certainly,” Phillips said. “There are some areas that we have even gone to No. 1 in the league in. But we’d like to get even better on defense, and I think I can help us do that.”

The biggest changes are that Phillips runs more meetings, scripts out the defensive practices and spends most of practices watching the defense. He insists he hasn’t cut out or cut short anything he used to do when he was strictly the head coach. It’s also worth noting that the offense already was mostly the domain of coordinator Jason Garrett, the highest-paid assistant in the NFL, and that he has no concerns about first-year special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis because they worked together in Atlanta and Denver.

“They are all long, late nights and early morning,” Phillips said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Players have gotten used to the fact their head coach is now in their defensive meetings. They’ve come to like it, too, knowing that they are taking orders directly from the boss.

“When you have your head coach at every one of your meetings, you’re not going to mess up at all,” star linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “Because he knows exactly how the defense should look, where you should fit at, any little, small incremental mistake he’s going to pinpoint it out.”

How Phillips handles game days might take some figuring out. But, hey, that’s what the preseason is for, with the first test run coming Thursday night in Oakland.

Phillips doesn’t think it will be a big deal. He’s already connected to all the defensive coaches on the headset and they’ll talk about things as the game unfolds. Having spent 32 of the last 33 years on the sideline, and most of those as a defensive coordinator or a head coach, he expects to be prepared for every situation before it happens.

“You can talk to defensive coaches and get things done while you’re in the process of making decisions, too,” Phillips said.

And, if he needs a boost, he has two former NFL defensive coordinators on his staff in secondary coach Dave Campo and line coach Todd Grantham, plus a former college defensive coordinator in linebackers coach Reggie Herring.

“He’s not going to be able to do every little thing defensively because the game’s going to be going on, and he knows that,” said Campo, who was the coordinator on Dallas’ last Super Bowl champion squad and later was the team’s head coach. “I can promise you he trusts us.”


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