Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday Morning Quarterback –– Parcells Retirement Edition

Monday, in what came as a surprise if not a shock to many, Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells announced he was hanging up his headset. Now Jerry Jones and the Cowboys must find the seventh head coach in franchise history to replace one of the legendary figures of all time, one Duane Charles Parcells. No, he didn't take Dallas back to the promised land, but when you consider where the talent level was versus where it is, only the most spoiled Cowboys fans would deny Parcells left the team in better shape than he found it.

In 2003 Parcells took over an underachieving team that had gone 5-11 in three consecutive seasons under Dave Campo. In four years under Parcells the Cowboys went 34-30, with two playoff appearances. Most observers thought that he would return for a fifth season in an attempt to erase the bitter 1-point loss to Seattle from his memory. But apparently few saw how the devastating defeat instead convinced him that the trade-off between relief at winning a football game and the heartache accompanying a loss was no longer worth it.

The Terrell Owens factor may have played some small part, if any, in Parcells' ultimate decision, but the contract extension/raise he was seeking from an unwilling Jones undoubtedly was the principal element in his decision not to return. Jones was already doling out $5 mil plus a year and saw no reason to dig deeper into his pockets. And as much as Jones grew to admire Parcells the person during his tenure in Big D, he wasn't getting the return on investment he thought he'd be enjoying this far down the line. From all indications, it also appeared the 65-year-old future Hall of Fame lock just couldn't summon the necessary gusto to return for another grueling season.

Considering that Parcells took four separate teams to the playoffs –– and how all four franchises he took over were in a totally moribund state when he arrived: the early 1980s Giants, early 1990s Patriots, late 1990s Jets & 2003 Cowboys –– it cannot be overstated how successful his way of coaching proved to be. For that reason, I rank Parcells third best modern coach in NFL history -- right behind Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry -- and just above Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick and Chuck Noll.

As a diehard Cowboys fan, I feel fortunate that one of the greatest coaching legends of all time came to Dallas and gave it a shot. Others, including one notable columnist who calls the Parcells era in Dallas a failed experiment, don't quite see it that way. But I wish him only the best in his retirement, and wanted him to come back for one more year, one more draft, one more time going to battle with his troops, one more chance to go out on top. Bill Parcells belongs to history now, and the league will never see his likes again stalking the sidelines. I think his near-term legacy could be young Tony Romo, the raw, untested QB he saw something in and slowly groomed for the starting job. If Romo goes on to a stellar career, then he and Parcells would be forever linked –– with Parcells' name coming up in future conversation every time someone mentions Romo's humble roots as a free agent nobody.

Dallas has enjoyed some of the greatest coaches in NFL history, from Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson and now Parcells; heck, even Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, and his coaching aptitude has always been questioned, but he was undeniably one of the greatest motivators to ever fire off a pregame speech, and his Oklahoma teams of the '70s and '80s stand with some of the best college squads of all time.

I think Jerry needs to make a decision very soon, as Dallas is now the only team without a head coach. A year earlier we could have turned things over to Sean Payton, but there's no one presently on the coaching staff who merits such a promotion; thankfully Mike Zimmer was just scooped up by Atlanta, otherwise Jerry –– loyal to a fault –– in all likelihood would have rewarded Zimmer like he did Campo with a position over his head. The names I've heard thrown out on talk radio run the gamut from Norv Turner and Pete Carroll to recycled coaches like Dan Reeves, Wade Phillips, and Jim Fassell. My brother and I both agree that the best choice would be Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, a young, energetic, creative coaching mind who has done nothing but win, even when his talent level was subpar. There's really not a long list of candidates at this point.

ESPN mentioned this morning that Bears' coach Lovie Smith grew up in Texas as a big Cowboys fan. The NFL's lowest-paid coach, he's under contract for one more year, but stranger things have happened and Jones reportedly thinks the world of him. What's not to like? Smith comes off as a classy, dignified, straight-shooting guy whose players would run through the proverbial brick wall for him. More than ever, it's a young man's game, and teams are looking for the next Eric Mangini or Sean Payton; we just saw Pittsburgh hire a relatively unknown 34-year-old as head coach, and Oakland topped that by tapping a completely unknown 31-year-old. Let's hope Jones chooses more wisely than Al Davis and selects a sufficiently post-pubescent successor to Parcells.
I no longer wager or make book or gamble or have anything to do with the business end of a point spread, but for the first time in recent memory both teams I was rooting for on Sunday –– Chicago's Bears and Indianapolis nee Baltimore's Colts –– advanced to the Super Bowl, setting up an old-NFL matchup. And now I'm coming out early for a Bears' win –– already sick to death of hearing about the AFC's supposed supremacy.

Brother Gatt will verify that I picked both winners on my Saturday morning call to him outlining my reasons for choosing the Bears and Colts. I was sick of hearing about the Saints, as I'm sure the Bears were by 1:00 Sunday; and like most football fans other than those in the New England area, I was now rooting against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Belichick's bizarre postgame behavior this year endeared him to no one, to understate it mildly, and even cast a black eye on the entire league. Whether it was his snubbing of long-time disciple Eric Mangini, pushing a cameraman out of the way after the Jets' playoff game, the LaDainian Tomlinson quote after the Patriots beat San Diego, or last week's weird midfield exchange with Peyton Manning and his sullen slash maudlin press conference following the loss to the Colts, the man's personality leaves a lot to be desired. It seems as great a coach he is, that's how lacking he is in people skills. He may now have a more sparkling resume than his mentor Parcells, but his impact on the players he coached along the way will never approach the hold that the elder Bill has always had on those he touched over the years.

Even though technically the Patriots-Colts contest was the more anticipated of the two championship games, I enjoyed seeing the much-hyped New Orleans Saints getting a much-needed beatdown in snowy Windy City. Of course I didn't have to play in that slippery slop or sit in the freezing stands, but that was what playoff football should look like –– muddy & dirty & cold & bloody –– as opposed to the elements-free, antiseptic interior of a domed stadium.
I jotted down this note even BEFORE Reggie Bush's 88-yard TD catch where he classlessly taunted, somersaulted and shimmied his way into the end zone, but I gotta admit I love seeing Bush taking big hits like the vicious one he absorbed the week before against Philly's Sheldon Brown. I may be in the minority here, but I think Bush is an overrated, over-commercialized, glorified scatback. After the game, the Bears credited the rookie's disrespectful gyrations with firing up the entire team on the sidelines –– and of course those were the last points the Saints scored in the 39-14 bludgeoning.

I like how Fox used some American Idol no-name to sing the national anthem. I mean, it wasn't even one of the totally manufactured "winners" but then that's typical Fox class on display ... Yesterday Cincinnati Bengals CB Jonathan Joseph was charged with marijuana possession in Kentucky, making him the 9th such Bengal arrested in under a year. Just think, if another two Bengals run into trouble with the law –– and let's face it, the odds that NO Bengals get arrested before next year would be prohibitive –– then a quarter of the entire team, and half the starting 22, would have criminal records. If we need another sequel to The Longest Yard, I have a pretty good idea what the uniforms would like ... Michael Vick also does not disappoint. Whether it's passing on sexually transmitted diseases to unsuspecting sexual partners, coming up with an alias to undergo treatment for herpes, flashing the dirty bird to booing Falcons fans, or his latest escapade -- trying to get past airport security carrying a water bottle with a hidden chamber that may or may not have contained reefer -- it's never dull covering #7 on or off the field. And remember, Michael is the "good" Vick; his younger brother Marcus has had numerous/continuous brushes with the law, as it's euphemistically called, ranging from sexual battery to fraud and firearms charges. It seems the young man is still "finding himself."


jimithegreek said...

true true true, I cant believe I agree with everyting mon! Above all Parcells improved a mediocre (at best)team. If he had a quarterback he would have won more !!!

Vincent said...

JASON GARRETT ??? OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR ?? Oh boy I see some chan gailey , dave campo days coming !!!!

Gonzovin - The one and only

WardensWorld said...

The Vin? I thought of you during the Colts game because I remember you being a big Dallas Clark fan. He might have the best hands of any tight end, altho there are a lot of good tight ends in the league now.

As far as Bill, everyone knows he was a primma donna. I think we have to go young with the new head man, but i want a QB guru to coach romo up, and garrett is at least young; harrington had some decent games last year. stoops already turned us down. Gailey is not a bad football coach and we probably got rid of him too soon. That doesn't leave many options. Don't be so negative tho. I disagree with jimi: There is talent on the roster, and i think we're set with romo at QB, who I predict will come back with a vengeance next year.
i think at this stage parcells is better at picking talent -- shopping for the groceries -- than actually coaching or cooking. we were outcoached by the saints and eagles and even the lions. thinking it over, i think it's best for bill to move on, especially if those reports that he was an unoffical consultant for mangini and tannenbaum last year. at least that's what i heard on ESPN last night.

jimithegreek said...


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