|Ex-Bills coach Phillips returns to Buffalo leading 4-0 Cowboys|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 October 2007 12:24|
He's already coached there once since the Bills fired him following the 2000 season, so muscle memory won't tug him toward the home locker room.
He's not the revenge type, so there won't be any fiery speeches for his team to stick it to his old bosses.
Heck, about the only significance he'll attach is the chance to visit old friends.
Do you believe him?
While it's all true, there's no way this is just another road game to Phillips. In his brief tenure as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he's showed so much pride in his career accomplishments and talked about how this job will likely seal his legacy that he deserves to do some strutting Monday night.
His team is 4-0, and for all the highlights from Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and DeMarcus Ware, the real buzz is how much ``fun'' the team is having. Crack the code and what everyone is really saying is how much more they enjoy playing for Phillips than his predecessor, Bill Parcells.
``I'm just fortunate enough to be around him,'' Romo said.
The respect is mutual, of course, another reason why Phillips has no grudge against Buffalo - especially not with the Bills languishing at 1-3 and likely to miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year since his departure. Buffalo has had only one winning season in that span and has a cumulative record of 39-61; Phillips went 29-19 over three years.
``There aren't many guys with winning records in the NFL as a head coach. I was one of those guys when I left Buffalo,'' said Phillips, who visited Western New York last year when he was running San Diego's defense. ``As a head coach or a coordinator, I've been lucky, I've been real lucky. But I think I've had a little bit to do with it.''
Phillips doesn't expect the Bills to say they made a mistake by letting him go. And he doesn't expect Buffalo fans to give him a standing ovation. He knows things have worked out for the best in his life, and that's reason enough to squeeze as much joy out of this as he can, albeit in his own sort of way.
Case in point: Phillips' conference call with Bills beat writers Wednesday.
The weekly hookup with out-of-town media is usually a mundane ritual that lasts less than 10 minutes. This one went 25 and was more of a chat between old friends than an interview. Phillips also provided more insight than he did with the ``I enjoyed being there, that's about it'' stance he took with Dallas reporters.
He set the tone at the start, saying ``Keep those guys waiting'' when the line clicked on, pretending he was too busy for them. Then came his familiar laugh.
``Well, you know, it's not another game, I guess,'' he said. ``I have great memories there and all the people there I consider friends.''
Phillips listed eight people by name, from a restaurateur to Buffalo general manager Marv Levy. Bills owner Ralph Wilson didn't make the cut.
Their breakup was bizarre. Buffalo went 8-8 in 2000, the year after being on the wrong end of the ``Music City Miracle.'' Wilson fired the general manager, but said he would keep Phillips. Then Phillips refused to fire his special teams coach. Wilson considered it insubordination, a violation of Phillips' contract. Wilson still says Phillips quit.
``I thought I was fired,'' Phillips said. ``If I wasn't, well, I wish he would've told me sooner, I'd still be there.''
Bygones are bygones, apparently, because Phillips had a simple explanation for why he left Wilson off his good-to-see you list: They saw each other at a recent league meeting.
``He should be a Hall of Fame owner,'' Phillips said. ``I mean, he made a decision that that's what he wanted to do with his football team and he's welcome to do that. I worked hard, tried to do the best I could for him when I was there.''
Phillips arrived in 1995 as Levy's defensive coordinator, then succeeded him in 1998. The club went from 6-10 to 10-6, losing a wild-card game on the road. The Bills went 11-5 the next season and again had to play a wild-card game on the road. It was in Tennessee against a Titans team that would reach the Super Bowl.
While the trick-play finish is what most people remember, folks in upstate New York still question Phillips' decision to start Rob Johnson instead of usual starter Doug Flutie. The quarterback controversy continued in 2000, another reason Phillips was dumped.
``I believe (New England coach) Bill Belichick was 5-11 that year. They kept him around. I don't know how he did since then,'' Phillips said, laughing.
The Patriots, of course, have won three Super Bowls. Playing in the same division, the Bills haven't finished above third place.
Receiver Peerless Price is the only Bills player left from Phillips' tenure. Price actually has bounced around since then, playing for all sorts of coaches, including Parcells in Dallas, before returning.
``I love Wade,'' Price said. ``You want to see him succeed because he's so nice and cool with you and even-keel.''
Romo described Phillips as ``a guy that wants to win and makes sure people enjoy the process of doing it.''
``You're not going to win every game and you're not going to perform every week, but you're at least going to enjoy what you do and you're going to work like heck to be as good as you can be,'' Romo said. ``(There's) a real secret in that to living somewhat of a happy life.''
Phillips' smile Monday night will serve as proof.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this story.