I have the new Dallas Cowboys head coach's cell phone number. He knows Terrell Owens' name. And when he strode into the main meeting room at Valley Ranch for Thursday's press conference, the new guy didn't immediately invoke the name of Mark Bavaro or tell us all to go to hell.
"Rich," the coach politely motioned toward long-time public relations man Rich Dalrymple, "is it OK if I sit here?"
Any doubt the Wade Phillips Era will be different than the Bill Parcells Era? Different, I said, not necessarily better.
You'll find some praising the hiring of Phillips and others condemning it. Me? Seems a tad uninspired but, hey, I'm just happy -- thrilled, actually -- that assistant coaches can again talk, birds can resume chirping and humans can stop walking on eggshells at Cowboys Corp. As he proved right off the bat, Phillips is un-Parcells, as in laid-back.
On a gray day more suited for funeral than wedding -- and on the same stage where, in '89, owner Jerry Jones talked of overseeing everything from socks and jocks and, in '94, Barry Switzer clubbed a surprised Jones on the back and, in '03, a dapper, almost courteous Parcells promised to win -- Phillips re-introduced Cowboys fans to humility, humor and hope.
On his credentials for the job, Phillips said: "I'm the right fit. Doesn't mean I'm the best coach."
On handling Terrell Owens: "I don't handle players, I work with players. Terrell Owens -- I did say his name, Terrell Owens -- is part of the Dallas Cowboys family, part of my family."
On his coaching philosophy: "What family means is trust, loyalty and a common purpose. The Cowboys family will be the same way... It's like Bocephus, we've got a family tradition here."
Though no official records are kept, I'm guessing Wade is the first Cowboys coach to reference Hank Williams Jr. by his nickname.
Said Jones, "His fresh approach and his different style might be a positive."
Love him or loathe him, you gotta respect Jones a smidge more after last night's show. While we winced when he promised to do "an A-plus job of not undermining our head coach," Jones showed genuine emotion when talking about the process of hiring Phillips. Twice, Jerry got choked up in mid-sentence and was one blink from having a tear roll down his cheek.
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Behind everything the guy does, he cares. He really, really cares.
"That's not fake stuff -- the emotion," Jones told a group of reporters after the main event ended. "I just feel a real obligation beyond the ownership thing. I feel an obligation to do everything we can to have a winning team."
While Jones was spilling guts, Phillips was over in the locker room doing something fans, and media, haven't experienced in four years. After earlier admitting he surfs the Internet, listens to Neil Diamond and watches American Idol, the new coach took the time to -- gasp! -- give one-on-one interviews.
I'm not initially thrilled by the Cowboys' new head coach. But I'll certainly give Phillips a chance to change my mind. He's already changed the climate. --Richie Whitt