Cowboys Coaching Moves: What's Joe Philbin's Role (And Title) under Mike McCarthy?

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - What did Marc Colombo do wrong to lose his post as the Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach? Nothing, really. What has Joe Philbin done to earn the trust of new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy? Enough for McCarthy to hire the latter without ever interviewing the former.

As we've pointed out before, Colombo's second season as the Dallas O-line coach was successful by most any measure. Colombo took over as line coach midway through the 2018 season (with a contract through 2021) helped with the short-yardage research category behind the scenes, and right out where all of us could see, sliced Dallas' problem with sacks in half, coached up La'el Collins to near-star level, and oversaw an O-line that boasted the NFL's fifth-ranked run game.

Colombo, 41 and a former Cowboys player of whom the Joneses have a high opinion, was so out of McCarthy's plan that no interview ever took place; it was COO Stephen Jones who sat down on Wednesday with Colombo in what was, as it turned out, less of a "job interview'' and more of a "goodbye.'' ... Because Philbin, 58 - a long-time McCarthy associate who in the NFL has been McCarthy's O-line coach, his offensive coordinator and a head coach (in Miami), too - was surely already packing for Dallas before Colombo could clear out his office here at The Star.

Sources indicate to that in Dallas, Philbin, won't just be the offensive line coach here, that he's likely to be given the title of "assistant head coach.'' (NFL Network reports that he may be assisted here by Browns staffer Jeff Blasko.)

Maybe this is proof that the coaching profession is less of a "meritocracy'' and more about "who you know.'' (See's scoop on the decision to hire Mike Nolan as the defensive coordinator instead of Joe Whitt Jr.)

At the same time, the "right'' way to do this is for McCarthy to hire "his guys.'' For a rare time in the last 25 years of the Jerry Jones Era, McCarthy saying, “I have the absolute final decision on my coaching staff'' is true.

So Colombo is out. And Philbin? He was McCarthy’s offensive line coach in 2006 with the Packers but then jumped up the offensive coordinator job — a job he held from 2007 to 2011. The Miami Dolphins named him their head coach in 2012. ... and that didn't work, as over the course of fewer than four seasons, he finished 26-30.

Because of Philbin's failure in Miami (and the chronicling of some of it on "Hard Knocks''), some observers define him by it. But he is a credentialed guy, with decades of NFL experience and trust from McCarthy to work with Dallas' vaunted O-line in a way that "doesn't fix what's not broke.''

Like McCarthy, Philbin sat out the 2019 season - maybe waiting for an opportunity just like this. And for reasons that are understandable, the opportunity came without even having to interview for it.