IRVING, TEXAS (AP)—Jerry Jones never wanted to change coaches this season. As the blowout losses mounted, and Wade Phillips' defense was mostly to blame, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys had no choice.
Jones fired Phillips on Monday and promoted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to take his place on an interim basis. Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni was promoted to replace Phillips' other role as defensive coordinator.
It's the first time Dallas has made an in-season coaching change. Garrett becomes the first former Cowboys player to take over the job previously held by the likes of Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells.
Jones decided enough was enough following a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. It was the Cowboys' fifth straight loss, dropping them to 1-7.
The defense has allowed at least 35 points in three straight games, something that hadn't happened to this team since going 0-11-1 in its inaugural season, 1960. Stranger still, the unit features nearly all the same players who closed last season with the first back-to-back shutouts in club history.
Jones said his deciding factor was the defense's erosion the last three games -- bad against the Giants, worse against Jacksonville and trampled by the Packers, who actually backed off from scoring more than 45. Jones said he'd been "in denial" that the club was in such bad shape.
"It really was paramount in my thinking that we would make adjustments and have our defense more productive and demonstrate a correction," he said. "But I really might not be sitting here today if we had gone and played well against Jacksonville ... and then we'd gone to Green Bay and played lights out defensively."
This is the Cowboys' worst season since 1989 and among the worst in franchise history by record alone. It could go down as the worst-ever considering Dallas was coming off a division title and a playoff win, and was expected to contend for the Super Bowl that'll be held at Cowboys Stadium.
"I told (players) they should not think this an admission of defeat or finality in this season," Jones said. "We have eight games left and we have one goal -- to win."
Jones was clearly unhappy and uncomfortable. He spoke slower than usual, with longer pauses to collect his thoughts, and fiddled with his glasses throughout a 22-minute news conference.
He called Phillips "somebody we thought so much of" and "a good friend, as well." He wouldn't provide details of his conversation with Phillips, and became emotional as he described breaking the news to the team. He said the focus of that speech was accountability.
"I spoke of the realization that it's not just about yourself," Jones said. "It impacts others."
The 63-year-old Phillips leaves with a 34-22 record over 4½ seasons guiding the Cowboys. He also was 1-2 in the postseason. Dallas won the NFC East twice on his watch.
Phillips released a statement thanking the fans and the Jones family "for all of the support" and thanked his coaches and players "for their loyalty and dedication."
"I told the team today that I have been proud to be a part of their family and that will never change," Phillips said. "I am disappointed in the results of this season to this point, but I am also very proud of what our team and our players accomplished in the previous three years. In good times and difficult times, our players stuck together and never lost hold of their belief in each other and the strong team bond that they have shared."
The first game under Garrett will be at the New York Giants on Sunday.
Jones said Garrett will have an opportunity to keep the job permanently.
"If we do outstanding as a team and we have very visible, tangible success, then certainly that's doing your job, if you will, in a crisis situation," Jones said. "That kind of action goes beyond a resume."