By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Bill Parcells is gone. And I know his replacement:
When Parcells went into hiding after the Dallas Cowboys' season-ending loss in Seattle, it was the long-time metroplex TV sports personality who jumped into the head coach's seat for the final two tapings of Channel 11's Cowboys Huddle.
"I sat in his chair," Jones says, "but I didn't get his paycheck."
The show, like Parcells' career, is over. But the party, in conjunction with a coaching search, is just beginning.
Contrary to what Parcells often said in an effort to minimize self-aggrandizement during his reign, yes, actually, it istime to "get out the hats and horns." Because, thanks to his surprising resignation Monday morning, the most obstinate, irrational, egomaniacal, condescending, overrated and underachieving coach in Cowboys history is finally out of power.
The six sweetest words Cowboys fans ever got from Parcells: "I am retiring from coaching football."
Though there's plenty of time to kick shit on Parcells' coaching coffin, because of his selfishness the Cowboys are already tardy in a coaching hunt that just began. While Parcells took 15 days to mull a decision that should've taken 15 seconds, several viable candidates took positions elsewhere. Fortunately, Dallas is a highly coveted job, equipped with a passionate owner, playoff roster and Pro Bowl quarterback.
Since he constantly bit his tongue and grudgingly dissolved in Parcells' shadow, owner Jerry Jones will now hire a coach—the seventh in franchise history—with whom he can forge a comfortable, stable relationship. Tom Landry ruled the Cowboys for 29 years. In the 18 since, Jones has riffled through six coaches. Next?
Assuming Jerry doesn't finally—it's going to happen eventually, right?—name himself coach, he'll consider college coaches such as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and LSU's Les Miles and Southern Cal's Pete Carroll and NFL veterans such as former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner and former Rams head coach Mike Martz.
To a fan base yearning for the '90s and a quarterback learning on the job, Turner is the right choice.
"Norv would be great for Tony Romo," says Channel 11 sports anchor and former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg. "I don't know if you could sell him to any other team in the league, but bringing Norv back here would get the fans excited immediately."
Considering he'd been going to his Valley Ranch office and had made travel plans to attend this weekend's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, to scout college prospects, Parcells' decision shocked everyone. Except Laufenberg, who deftly noticed that as the coach headed toward the team bus moments after Dallas' heart-breaking playoff loss to the Seahawks, Parcells briefly, dramatically paused at the locker room door.
"I knew it was either a sentimental moment, or perhaps he was re-tracing his steps thinking, 'Did I grab my bag?'" Laufenberg says. "Now I think we know. He was stopping to take it all in one last time."
But in the ensuing days, Parcells tried to hoodwink Jones just once more. Under the guise of "I'm thinking it over," he was actually performing his annual negotiating ploy in an attempt to squeeze more time and money from his owner. When Jones smartly didn't bite, Parcells decided against a lame-duck season and joined Chan Gailey and Dave Campo as the only head coaches never to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl.
After leaving Valley Ranch Monday night in his white Lincoln Town Car, Parcells is likely headed back to his 8,000-square-foot retirement home on a golf course in Saratoga Springs, New York, and, eventually, to Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He retires—for the third time, mind you—with two Super Bowls, the NFL's ninth-most wins (183) and a legacy in tatters.
Hired in January 2003 to return the Cowboys to glory, Parcells arrived energized by the chance to "play the big room." But after four years of lukewarm philosophy, ice-cold personality and mediocre results, he's yanking himself off the stage.
What did Jones' $20 million investment in Parcells return? A routine veto of the team's scouting department, resulting in draft-day blunders. Four consecutive 2-3 Decembers. A grating style, not unlike recently fired Texas Rangers manager Buck Showalter, that drained players, created a contentious culture for staffers and diluted the once-proud America's Team image.
And please, though he's pledging to help Jerry in finding the next coach, don't allow Parcells any input or we'll wind up with Phil McConkey.
Under the Fat Fish the Cowboys got better. Three of his four seasons produced winning records, and only two NFC teams (Seattle and Philadelphia) went to the playoffs more than Dallas. But they never won a playoff game and never remotely flirted with super.
Our last, perhaps lasting, images of Parcells? On the field: Expending time and energy in the fourth quarter of a tight playoff game emphatically shooing an innocuous NBC cameraman from his bench. Off the field: Avoiding a gaggle of reporters by sneaking out a seldom-used gate at Valley Ranch.
While our appreciation of Parcells would fit in granny's sewing thimble, we're anxious to get started missing things like...a coach who cherished the Giants' past more than the Cowboys' future...circle-jerk press conferences where his cobwebbed reputation somehow insulated him from criticism...a coach who consistently ignored adoring fans at training camp and games...his favorite press conference trick, "Huh?"...Five-month stretches without a single public comment..."Jap plays"...muzzled assistant coaches...conservative game plans featuring draw plays on 2nd-and-10 every stinkin' time...one-on-one interviews granted only to The New York Timesand opening up about his girlfriend, cat and addiction to peanut butter only to Seattle media via conference call.