By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
There, I said it. Now it's official: I have a severe case of Mad Cowboy Disease.
If you've suffered through Dallas' three excruciating losses, you, too, have likely been infected. The symptoms? General grouchiness. Specific sinning.
My black lab is in a body cast. Replaced our Halloween SweeTARTS with Viagra. Grounded my son for blinking. For a year. And I've invented seven new obscenities.
Can you say shiddlefungit in this forum?
Usually on Mondays I'm calm and composed. Typically slip on the Dockers, pour some Zima and flow with the light classical. I structure columns with a beginning, middle, end, and, if I'm lucky, meaning. But this week, not so much.
Stand back, I'm stressed as hell.
Bill Parcells, the cocky, crotchety coach of the Cowboys, has us all completely Sea sick. My game notes from last Sunday's Seahawks 13, Cowboys 10 look like a Rorschach test. I'm crouched in the corner in a foil thong, shooting Old Crow and absorbing the violent vibrations of Slipknot. Only thing more shallow than my thoughts is my breathing. I'm haunted by the image of Marion Barber III diving harmlessly into the middle of the line, and by the thought of our crappy, caustic coach suffocating another win into one more heart-hammering loss.
I need help. I need hope. I need--dammit!--a therapeutic session of random ranting.
So Parcells cuts kicker Jose Cortez, giving us a peek at the most endangered of species: the Mexican Scapegoat. Yes, Cortez should make 29-yard field goals and keep kick-offs inbounds and not openly show up teammates. But the real problem started when Parcells fired long-time kicking coach Steve Hoffman, a wizard at finding anonymous quality talent. And when he flippantly released reliable long-snapper Jeff Robinson and kicker Billy Cundiff, who missed zero kicks under 40 yards last season. Those financially motivated moves saved the Cowboys money but cost them a win in Seattle. The strategy is even more absurd when you consider Parcells' careful, conservative style. Since most of your games are going to be close--Dallas' three losses are by 1, 6 and 3 points--it makes no sense to treat your kicking components like disposable parts. Do that, and you wind up having a $4 million coach yo-yoed by dime-a-dozen afterthoughts. Do that, and you wind up signing rookie Shaun Suisham. Says Parcells, "I don't know if he'll do any better." Brilliant!
Where's Dale Hellestrae when you need him? Or Eddie Murray? Or Toni Fritsch? Er, oops.
Let me get this straight, with the game on the line in Seattle, Parcells put the ball not in the hands of Drew Bledsoe, Keyshawn Johnson or Jason Witten, but Barber and Louis-Philippe Ladouceur? What the...?
A glimpse into the madness of Parcells' moronic methods: Last Thursday at Valley Ranch, he proudly provided a statistical nugget. "The teams with the most carries this year are 77-9," Parcells said. "According to my quick math, that's an .895 winning percentage." According to my common sense, that's 1.000 bullshit. Just last weekend, NFL teams with more rushing attempts than their opponents went only 9-5. How about a better stat? In the 45-year history of the Cowboys, they've won exactly nine games when scoring 10 points or less (9-109-1). That means that when Parcells got ultra-conservative inside Seattle's 10 with a 7-3 lead, he was counting on a tried-and-true blueprint that's worked exactly 7 percent of the time since 1960.
Did we all just dream the Eagles game? Or did the Cowboys actually throw deep early and often, setting the tone for a 33-10 shellacking of the defending NFC Champs? Parcells is either too stupid or too stubborn to repeat that recipe. More outdated than old-school, he still wants to establish the run. Of course, he also wears his pants to his armpits and still thinks the Internet is an interesting rumor. In this NFL era of minimum contact, the pass now sets up the run. Yeah, it's that simple. Right, Indianapolis?
Parcells is so in control that he's out of control. Against the Seahawks he not only provided dumb-ass play-calling but also bully leadership. He violently slapped offensive coordinator Sean Payton's arm to get his attention and later gave a two-handed shove/slap to receivers coach Todd Haley. Condescending press conferences combined with physical confrontations. And you wonder how he gets along so well with Bobby Knight? In high school or college Parcells would likely be reprimanded, if not suspended. There are lawyers who would pursue the incident as an "assault." But with the Cowboys, he gets to shrug it off. And, yes, that sound you hear is Tom Landry rolling over in his grave.
Granted, he called a halfback pass and a flea-flicker. But Vanilla Billa wasn't contained to the two late possessions. Leading 7-0 in the second quarter and facing 3rd-and-16 at Dallas' 46: a draw play to Barber. Leading 7-3 in the fourth quarter and facing 3rd-and-13 from the Seattle 46: a draw to Barber. What, is he trying to set up better punting position? From mid-frickin' field? That passive approach produces only one significant number: zero margin for error.
Here's how you know Parcells' play-calling was not only wretched but just plain wrong: Put yourselves in Seattle coach Mike Holmgren's shoes. You're down 7-3 late and your opponent has a first down inside your 10. If you had your choice, what are you hoping/praying they do? That's right, run consecutive dive plays. That way, you only have to survive one attempt into your end zone, and you just might be lucky enough to tip-toe away allowing three points.
When Parcells should go for the knockout, he instead goes rookie rope-a-dope. Leading the Redskins 10-0 late in the game, he gave the ball to Tyson Thompson on three straight runs before settling for a field goal. Leading the Seahawks 7-3, he gave it to Barber twice before settling for a field goal. Dallas lost both games, and we're supposed to wonder why?
Asked about his team's horrible habit of trying to cling to late leads instead of expanding them, Parcells said, "Maybe we're not good enough to get separation." This, of course, is coming from the coach mostly responsible for keeping his team from getting a chance to separate. For a reputed tough Jersey guy, Parcells' killer instinct is emptier than Channel 8's new, stale morning show.
Gailey was dimwitted, bland and generally laughable as Cowboys coach from 1998-'99. But with him instead of Parcells, I say these Cowboys would be 8-0 heading into next week's bye.
But that's just me. Imagine if I were actually a Cowboys fan.