Phillips, it seems, will return as Dallas coach

Owner Jerry Jones and coach Wade Phillips stood before the disappointed Dallas Cowboys players on Monday and gave them some encouraging words to take into the offseason.

“Keep it the way it is,” was how running back Tashard Choice described their message.

Jones and Phillips did not speak with reporters, but players shared the news — a clear indication Jones plans to pick up the team option on Phillips’ contract for next season.

“It sounds like that Wade will be back, so we’re definitely happy about that,” defensive captain Bradie James said. “It just wouldn’t make any sense to let him go right now.”

Dallas is 34-17 (counting playoffs) in Phillips’ tenure, having won the division twice in three years. Only the Colts, Patriots and Chargers have more wins in that span.

This season, the Cowboys eliminated two major burdens by winning a playoff game and by having a winning record over the final month. They hadn’t done either since 1996. Things looked shaky when they opened December with consecutive losses, but they bounced back with a four-game surge that had many people expecting them to keep rolling through the playoffs.

“You can see we were a different football team from the start of the season to the end,” safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “We were able to overcome the hard times, and that shows a lot about a team. That’s a (reflection) of Wade as a person.”

However, the Cowboys were flattened at the finish for a second successive season, this time going down 34-3 to Minnesota in the second round of the playoffs.

Nolan gone from Broncos

The Denver Broncos and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have agreed to part ways.

Nolan becomes the third member of coach Josh McDaniels’ first staff to depart following a disappointing 8-8 finish. Offensive line coach Rick Dennison left for Houston’s staff and running backs coach Bobby Turner was reunited with Mike Shanahan in Washington.

Dennison and Turner were both longtime holdovers from Shanahan’s tenure (1995-2008). While their departures were expected, the firing of Nolan, who was head coach of the San Fransico 49ers (2005-08), came as a surprise.

Nolan, who engineered the Broncos’ switch to a 3-4 defensive alignment, was McDaniels’ first hire. McDaniels lined up Nolan to help revamp what had been a deplorable defense.

“I have great respect for Mike and wish him success in the future,” McDaniels said in a statement released by the team. The reason for the split is a mystery.

The Denver Post quoted Nolan as saying, “I can’t say anything other than Josh and I mutually agreed to part ways.”