Search Party

Bill Parcells is looking for a few good men. Good luck.

Somehow, I made it to the food court in the basement of my hotel. Much to my dismay, it was closed. At eight o'clock. I wanted to smash something, but everything was safely encased behind iron gates. Now, it's Sunday, but this is San Antonio, not Salt Lake. There's a hotel full of hungry football players and hungrier sports columnists sitting on top of a food court, and they close it at 8 p.m.? My business alone would have been worth their time.

I'm back in my room now, defeated. I had to order room service. Turned out to be another tactical error. When the food was delivered, the guy who brought it asked if he could set it down in the room. I froze and said yes. Unless he's a sensory mute, he smelled my sin in the air almost immediately. Before he left, he shot me a borderline look--either he's hip to the game, or he thinks I'm Pablo Escobar. Now I'm crazy worried, gripped by fear. What if he tells on me? Oh, sweet Christ, what if I get kicked out of my hotel? What then? Or worse, what if he's a narc and he brings the full wrath of the San Antonio Police Department down on me? I should have tipped him more.

A final note: All that commotion started because of my wanton lust for a cheeseburger. I ended up ordering the chicken quesadilla. This is how I live.

Head coach Bill Parcells said the rookies had to earn the metallic blue star on their helmets, so players like Justin Bates, left, and Jason Witten practiced with what appear to be Detroit Lions throwback helmets.
Mark Graham
Head coach Bill Parcells said the rookies had to earn the metallic blue star on their helmets, so players like Justin Bates, left, and Jason Witten practiced with what appear to be Detroit Lions throwback helmets.

Lord knows, on most days, being a member of the sports media is just about the easiest job in the world. They pay us to do what we'd probably do on our free time. It's a cake assignment. Except at times like this. Right about now I wish someone would lop off my head. I can't take it anymore--the sights and sounds of this "quarterback battle" are driving me insane.

A few plays ago, Quincy Carter dropped back, had a good time, danced around and then fired a ball at his receiver's feet. The ball skipped harmlessly off the turf and died a few yards away. That wouldn't have been a big deal, except that his receiver was running a 10-yard pattern.

Not to be outdone, Chad Hutchinson came in thereafter, dropped back, had a good time and lofted a wobbly pass into coverage. That wouldn't have been a big deal, either, except that the receiver was a defensive back named--hold on, I've got it here somewhere--ah yes, Jeff Sanchez. I'm not sure who that is. He's not in the media guide, but he is listed on the roster. That's got to be comforting news for Hutchinson--to know that his pass was intercepted by a roster player and not by a parking-lot attendant who got lost and wandered onto the field.

"Impale the quarterbacks!" someone shouts from the stands, echoing my sentiments.

This is it, folks. This is what you'll be getting all year unless the rumors prove true and the Pokes buckle and bring in a vet like Ray Lucas or someone similar. (Parcells denied that last weekend's game against Houston, in which Hutchinson didn't play but Carter excelled, foreshadows any such development.) Even then, don't expect good quarterbacking. Bad or worse. Incapable or inept. You choose, though it doesn't much matter.

Last year the two scrubs currently in camp combined for an abject passer rating of 69.1. They threw 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. They completed just 53.5 percent of their passes. In short, they blew.

Since then, not much has changed. Now and then, one of them will make the right read or unleash a tight spiral on a long, completed pass, but that's rare. So there has been little separation between the two. Who will open as the starting quarterback is anyone's guess.

"No one has gone...'Here it is, Bill, this is easy,'" Parcells laments.

Each day, Parcells walks into the press conference room and braces himself for the inevitable media regurgitation. How did the quarterbacks look today? Do you have a timetable to name a starter? How important is it to establish one guy as your quarterback?

"That's OK; I expected that," Parcells says. "You go to any city in the league that has this kind of situation going, and I'm certain there's just this much attention. Because, it's a visible position, it's a leadership position and it's a position that historically, in this league and with this franchise, is a marquis position. It's only natural that people pay attention to it."

Maybe, but this absorption in who the quarterback is going to be, or whom the Boys might sign, is causing people to ignore the overall picture. Specifically, picking any of the available options right now doesn't figure to solve many (or any) of Parcells' woes. Neither does it guarantee that the opening-game quarterback will be under center midway through the season. Since 2000, the Cowboys have trotted out seven different starting quarterbacks--the most in the NFL. There's a reason for that. Carter and Hutchinson may be different in terms of style (Carter is more mobile), but they are interchangeable in their futility. And if Lucas or some other free-agent detritus is an upgrade, it's not much of one. It almost makes you pine for the days of Tony Banks. Almost.

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