It was a devastating loss. A wipeout. Even, a “shellacking.” The Cowboys got mauled in Green Bay, 45-7, and as they say, it wasn’t even that close. The Cowboys couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t stop the pass, and when that game plan failed, they got creative. Because the Dallas coaches had used up all their timeouts, when the Packers recovered what was ruled a fumble — but judging by the replay clearly was not — they could not even challenge the call. This blunder resulted in another Packer touchdown that was an outright gift.
The game ended late Sunday night but by halftime, fans were wondering just how soon Head Coach Wade Philips would be out of a job. Would he even be allowed to fly home with the team or would owner Jerry Jones give him a ticket on the next Greyhound and tell him that somebody would clean out his office and send the stuff over to his house. Which, by the way, if it is anywhere in Texas, Wade, old buddy, you ought to think about selling.
The more moderate view was that Wade might make it through Monday. Some even thought he might still be coaching the Cowboys next weekend, in New York, against the Giants and possibly in the last game of the year, when Dallas plays the Eagles, in Philadelphia.
Jones had, after all, said repeatedly that he was opposed to changing coaches in mid-season. But it went without saying that he was also opposed to having his team undressed on national television, and Mr. Jones is a proud man. By late Monday, he had made his move and Wade Phillips was moving on.
Once the Cowboys had played themselves out of the post season, denying Jones the thrill of having his own team appear in his own stadium in the Super Bowl, it was a lock that Wade Phillips would not be Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys next season. By then, even his supporters — assuming he had any — were not so delusional as to believe that Phillips would get another chance. None were arguing that he coached real good but communicated real bad and that he should fight back against being canned by saying things like: “Our work is far from finished.” And, “We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back.”
Those, of course, are the words of Nancy Pelosi whose team got thumped, last Tuesday, as badly as the Cowboys did on Sunday night. And her team doesn’t get a rematch for another for two years.
Still, she wants to stay on as Head Coach or, in this case, as Minority Leader. The job of Speaker, which she currently holds, goes over to the other side in January. Right now, it looks as though she will accomplish her goal, which could only happen in Washington and is part of the reason her team lost in the first place. Because it plays in Washington, where this kind of thing can — and does — happen all the time. Remember the CIA boss who said something about how WMD in Iraq was a “slam dunk” and got a medal when he retired?
Of course, Ms. Pelosi will suffer a loss of status and perks. Her new office will, presumably, be less grand than the one she currently occupies. And she and her family will no longer be flown on military aircraft between her place of business, Washington, and the jurisdiction, San Francisco, that she represents in Congress. (Here are two more clues to the defeat her team suffered — the special treatment and the fact that the broad interior of the country is something she looks down on, literally, and seldom experiences in the flesh.)
Rejection is galling. So is defeat. (They aren’t always the same.) And for someone accustomed to round-the-clock sycophancy, it is especially difficult to accept either and almost impossible to endure the idea of both. So, of course, in Ms. Pelosi’s view, the voters had not defeated her party and/or rejected its message. They simply hadn’t understood.
It is hard to let go and the grander the ambition and the more royal the office, the harder it is. Hard to imagine that Wade Phillips entertains notions of a comeback with the Cowboys. Or another head coaching job. But the political world is the scene of frequent attempts at a second act. The stereotype in America is Harold Stassen, who became a clown. But there was also Eugene McCarthy, who couldn’t get over the moment when he had driven Lyndon Johnson from the White House and how close he had come (in his own mind, anyway) to moving in, himself. So he ran, again and again, losing a little more of his dignity every time.
Maybe Ms. Pelosi can pull it off. The pundits are reminding us that other House Speakers have. No reason the fortunes of her party could not be reversed, and dramatically, in the next election. We live in exceedingly volatile times.
Since she probably has more supporters among her team’s fans than Wade Phillips does among his, she’ll probably bring it off and become the new Minority Leader, in January. No doubt, those fans — and Ms. Pelosi, herself — see visions of voters in 2012 turning out in droves and shouting, on their way to the polls, “How ’bout them Democrats.”