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Parcells plans to rescue "America's Team" - ESPN - 6/18/2003


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Parcells plans to rescue "America's Team" :puke: :puke:

By Ryan Early

Wednesday, June 18

Updated: June 20

10:47 AM ET

Bill Parcells' presence in Dallas is filled with contradictions. When he retired from the New York Jets as head coach and general manager, he declared that he would never coach again. Yet after flirting with the Buccaneers last year he is now back with the Cowboys. In his book The Final Season, Parcells talks about owner/operators, giving Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as one example, and says they are "hard to work with. They've got their own ideas." Now he's working for Jones. When he left the Patriots, Parcells uttered the now famous line "They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries" to describe his need to be a team's general manager in charge of acquiring personnel as well as the head football coach. Yet when he agreed to coach the Cowboys, it was with the understanding that Jones would remain the general manager and the two would have to find a way to work together.

When asked about these contradictions, Parcells refuses to apologize for his previous statements or actions, making a comment along the lines of "that's what I thought at the time" or "that was then, this is now." While most observers questioned whether the pairing of Parcells and Jones would last a week, both men were ready for it to happen. Jones has been criticized for having head coaches viewed as lesser personalities, often ridiculed as puppets with Jones pulling the strings. No one would dare refer to the bull-headed and ego-driven Parcells in that manner. Parcells is 62 years old and has battled heart problems for the last 15 years. During that time he has frequently referred to coaching as "a profession that will kill you" because of the pressure and stress that is relentless through the season. Having a strong personality as the team's owner and general manager deflects a good portion of the attention and pressure from Parcells. Besides, the one thing we can all agree on when it comes to Parcells is that he rises to a challenge.

In the NFL right now, there is no greater combination of challenge and allure than the self-titled "America's Team." After three straight 5-11 seasons, the Cowboys finally lost the last star from their Super Bowl years when Emmitt Smith was released and moved on to Arizona. Now with the last gasp of attempting to hold on to the past gone, the franchise is ready for a new beginning. The thought of being the man to return to prominence the NFL's last dynasty was too tempting for Parcells to resist. While he has great facilities and a strong fan base, there are several obstacles he must overcome.

Bill Parcells is looking to teach the young Cowboys how to win.

The first one was his inability to bring his longtime assistants with him to Dallas. When he retired, most of his assistant coaches went with Bill Belichick to New England. Tom Coughlin, the longtime Jaguars coach and a Parcells protégé, declined when offered a position, preferring to sit out a year and try to find another head coaching job in 2004. Only Maurice Cauthon, his former running back and an assistant when Parcells was with the Jets, joined Parcells staff as the offensive coordinator. So Parcells is without his security blanket of assistants. Instead of his guys already knowing exactly what he wants and how he wants to achieve it, Parcells has had to sit down and explain his philosophies and the reasons behind it for the first time in years.

The second major obstacle is a lack of talent at quarterback and running back. Without spending any money for new starters at the position in free agency or the draft, the Cowboys look like they will enter the 2003 with questionable starters Chad Hutchinson at quarterback and Troy Hambrick at running back. Hutchinson was given a multi-million dollar contract when he decided to stop playing baseball and return to football after five years away from the game. When Quincy Carter was benched for having a 3-4 record and a 72.3 passer rating, Hutchinson compiled a 2-7 record and a 66.3 rating. Hambrick quickly got in Parcells' doghouse at the team's first minicamp by showing up overweight, a serious no-no in the coach's eyes.

Head coach Bill Parcells

While Parcells retained defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and his version of the "Cover 2" defense the Bucs used to win the Super Bowl, Parcells will still make some changes. He is a big believer that defenses win championships and thinks the Cowboys defense has too much talent to play the way it has. Despite ranking among the league's worst in sacks for the second straight year, the Cowboys defense was 6th in yards allowed per play, 8th in yards allowed per run, and 10th in yards allowed per pass play. The Cowboys secondary is arguably the best in the league after adding rookie shutdown cornerback Terrence Newman with the fifth overall pick in the draft, followed up by free agent signee Donald Mitchell to go along with Derek Ross, Mario Edwards, Pete Hunter, and standout safeties Roy Williams and Darren Woodson. With that secondary, the Cowboys will be able to blitz more frequently to make up for their lack of a pass rush from their front four.

This is a different style of defense than Parcells is accustomed to. Parcells prefers a 3-4 formation with big linebackers that can deliver a hit and match the offensive running game with size and strength. Instead, he's got small, speedy linebackers and linemen that try to penetrate gaps in the offensive line instead of controlling the gaps and the blockers. Because of the contracts of several of the players and the limited cap space of the Cowboys, he couldn't even push for the types of players he wanted and change the defensive scheme. Here is a case of staying with the scheme that best fits the players on the field.

Offensive Coordinator Maurice Cauthon and Quarterbacks Coach Sean Payton

Bill Parcells' believes the key to winning is to avoid losing. If you minimize your mistakes and play solid defense, chances are you will win the game. To do this, Parcells prefers a strong running game to control the clock, rest his defense, and keep the ball out of the opponents' hands. This is the core philosophy of old school football. That doesn't mean Parcells is afraid to air it out, or that you will never see the Cowboys in a three, or four, wide receiver set. A Parcells coached Drew Bledsoe has the all-time record for pass attempts in a single game, 70, in an overtime game against the Vikings in 1994. As a coach who has been in the NFL for over twenty years, Parcells has seen the evolution of offensive strategy so that he actually knows why the NFL has become so pass happy instead of blindly imitating the latest trends as so many coaches do.

Maurice Cauthon is the man who will implement Parcells' vision of offense on the field, but he might not even be the one who calls the plays. Quarterbacks coach Sean Payton was the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, and was a hot name in the head coach rumor mill after the Giants went to the Super Bowl in 2000, but he had his play calling responsibilities stripped from him by head coach Jim Fassel halfway through last season when the Giants offense was struggling. Fassel simplified the gameplans and the play calling and the Giants went on a winning streak, which led to Payton's dismissal. With Payton's experience, he may call the plays, especially since this is Cauthon's first year as a coordinator. Or Payton may call the passing plays while Cauthon, who also coaches the running backs, calls the running plays. Or Parcells may do the play calling himself. Regardless of who does it, though, control of the process will remain in Parcells' hands. Parcells will guide the play caller through the game, asking for a pass or run at specific times based on what he sees happening on the field.

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