Cowboys fire defensive coordinator

The Dallas Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Brian Stewart on Friday after two seasons, the first big coaching move after the team limped to the finish line and missed the playoffs again.

More moves may come soon. Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett remained among the finalists for the St. Louis Rams’ head coaching job.

The Cowboys began last season with Super Bowl expectations and ended it with a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on the final day of the regular season. Stewart is the second Dallas coach let go; the Cowboys earlier this month replaced special teams coach Bruce Read with Joe DeCamillis.

Stewart coached the San Diego Chargers’ secondary for three seasons before following coach Wade Phillips to the Cowboys. Stewart also spent two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Houston Texans.

Though Stewart had the title of defensive coordinator with the Cowboys, his responsibilities were unclear. Phillips, a former defensive coordinator, sometimes took over play-calling duties and other times left it unclear who was making the defensive decisions.

The Cowboys gave up 22.8 points per game, which was 20th in the league.

During what has become an annual December decline, the Cowboys suffered a painful loss to the Baltimore Ravens in a game in which Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain ripped off long, record runs each time Dallas got close in the final minutes.

Still, all the Cowboys needed to do was beat the Eagles in the final game and they would at least salvage a playoff berth. Instead, they were stomped 44-6 and finished with a 9-7 record.

The Cowboys have lost nine consecutive season finales.

Before the Eagles loss, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about changes that might occur if Dallas failed to make the playoffs again.

“Look, can y’all not understand statements?” Jones said. “The coaching staff is in place. The coaching staff is in place. The building is here. You want to ask the question, what if it blows down?”

The Cowboys fired Read following a season in which his special teams unit made several costly mistakes this past season, including a blocked punt in overtime at Arizona that resulted in a game-winning Cardinals touchdown. The Cowboys also finished last in the NFC in average punt return yardage.