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Parcells Using Old Tricks With New Team

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer


When Jerry Jones hired Bill Parcells in January to coach his Dallas Cowboys, most NFL observers figured that Parcells would get the franchise turned around. After all, that's what Parcells does.

He went 9-7 in his second season as the New York Giants' coach in 1984 after inheriting a team that went 4-5 in the strike-shortened '82 season. He went 10-6 in his second season with the New England Patriots in 1994 after taking over a club that went 2-14 in '92. And he went 9-7 in his first season with the New York Jets in '97 after inheriting a team that had gone 1-15 in '96.

Many people around the league are astounded, however, that Parcells has the Cowboys leading the NFC East with a 5-1 record after essentially the same team had three consecutive 5-11 seasons. Plenty of NFL types figured when Parcells didn't acquire a veteran quarterback in the offseason that he would use this season to find out which players he wanted to keep and which he didn't, and gear up for a run at a winning season in Year 2. Even Parcells went 3-12-1 in his first season with the Giants and 5-11 in his first season with the Patriots.

"I am surprised," Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay Packers general manager who is close to Parcells, said yesterday. "He's marvelous at what he does. He's able to take guys and get them believing in themselves. It's because of the structure. There's a discipline there. It's his structure, and he's been successful everywhere he's been. . . . It's his belief in his system. He's unique. He's a [future] Hall of Fame football coach, and he's doing it again. And it's even more impressive this time because this is the first time he's really had to do it himself. Before, he always had the group of assistant coaches that he'd take with him, and this time he didn't have that."

But the Cowboys are playing like a typical Parcells team, hard-nosed and error-free, and quarterback Quincy Carter has bought into the program. Parcells likes to tell his quarterbacks that they will have no personal lives because they will have 12-hour workdays even on their teammates' days off. Carter, after struggling in his first two seasons, leads the league's fourth-ranked offense. The Cowboys rank first in the NFL in total defense entering Sunday's game at Tampa Bay.

"He does not have a bad football team," Wolf said. "He has really good wide receivers. He has two good tight ends. He has a more-than-adequate offensive line. What he doesn't have is a runner. If he had a runner, he'd be really good."

Kanell Gets Another Shot

It was August 2001, and the Washington Redskins needed a quarterback. Former Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer's decision to enter the season with Jeff George as his starter already was looking misguided, with George suffering from a sore arm in training camp. Schottenheimer wasn't willing to depend on Sage Rosenfels or Todd Husak, so the club signed Danny Kanell, a former starter for the Giants and Atlanta Falcons who was playing minor league baseball for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

The team brought Kanell to training camp and planned to sign him if he looked decent in his workout and passed his physical. That day, though, the Cowboys abruptly released quarterback Tony Banks. The Redskins quickly changed course and signed Banks, who ended up making 14 starts after George was cut two games into the season. Kanell's forced sabbatical from the NFL continued, and he spent last year playing in the Arena Football League.

Now, however, Kanell is Coach Mike Shanahan's best hope for keeping the Denver Broncos' season of high hopes from unraveling before fellow quarterbacks Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein return from injuries. Kanell is scheduled to start Sunday at Baltimore after relieving Beuerlein in last weekend's 28-20 loss at Minnesota, which dropped the Broncos to 5-2.

In his first appearance in an NFL game since Nov. 12, 2000, Kanell completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in 18 minutes. The Broncos rallied to within eight points after trailing 28-7.

"I sent a letter to the Vikings and about 15 other teams before the season," Kanell told reporters after the game. "They wrote me back and said they were sorry, but their coaching staff is full right now. . . . It's kind of crazy the way things have worked. But I'm grateful to this organization for taking a chance on me."

If Kanell performs well, he could remain the starter for a while. Plummer likely will be sidelined another three weeks because of a stress fracture in his foot, which he reportedly suffered at his home getting up off the couch. Plummer, a high-priced free agent addition in the offseason, also has had shoulder problems. Beuerlein was knocked from the Minnesota game because of a grotesquely dislocated little finger on his right hand and probably will be out a month or longer. At 38, he could be facing the end of his career after being talked out of retirement to return for a 17th NFL season.

Kanell, who turns 30 next month, was coaching at his high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after the Broncos cut him just before the season, opting to go with only two quarterbacks -- Plummer and Beuerlein. But Denver re-signed him 21/2 weeks later when Plummer suffered a slight shoulder separation and now his high school coaching career could be on hold for a while. The Broncos were close to re-signing Jarious Jackson yesterday to back up Kanell.

Vermeil, Then and Now

How different a coach is Dick Vermeil now than he was as a hard-charging up-and-comer with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s and early '80s? After his Kansas City Chiefs moved to 7-0 with their last-minute triumph at Oakland on Monday night, Vermeil essentially gave his players two days off. They were required to report yesterday to run, lift weights and watch game tapes and will have today off. Coaches almost never give their players a Wednesday off, even coming off a Monday night game. The Chiefs host Buffalo on Sunday.

When Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown was tackled one yard shy of a touchdown to end Monday night's 17-10 win for the Chiefs, it was reminiscent of Vermeil's St. Louis Rams' 23-16 victory in Super Bowl XXXIV, in which linebacker Mike Jones tackled Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson inside the 1-yard line on the final play. Vermeil has a picture of that play -- autographed by Jones -- in his office and looks at it practically every day, he says.

Asked during an ESPN Radio interview yesterday whether he flashed back to the Super Bowl after Monday night's game, Vermeil said, "Not on the field, but when I got back to the locker room, I did." . . .

Last season's eight division winners -- the Jets, Steelers, Titans, Raiders, Eagles, Packers, Buccaneers and 49ers -- have a combined record of 23-29. None is in first place and only Tennessee (5-2) has a winning record. . . .

Many thought the Jacksonville Jaguars overpaid for defensive end Hugh Douglas when they signed him as a free agent in the offseason to a five-year, $27 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. They might be right: Douglas, 32, has one sack. . . .

Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington had a passer rating of 7.1 in a 38-7 loss Sunday to the Cowboys before being yanked by Coach Steve Mariucci. He completed 5 of 13 passes for 30 yards and was intercepted twice. He has been bothered by a dislocated index finger on his throwing hand and Mariucci is considering starting Mike McMahon on Sunday at Chicago. But McMahon was only 5 for 20 and threw an interception against the Cowboys for a passer rating of 18.8, and Harrington made a pitch to Mariucci on Monday to keep his job.

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Parcells is up to old tricks.

Since he seems to have skipped that first "transition" year, does this mean he leaves the 'Boys high and dry after next year instead of after his third season?

Reality is about to hit the Cowboys---HARD. That will just make the fall that much more enjoyable.

However, having to listen to people smooch up to Parcells constantly is getting old.

What would the Skins' record be if we had Dallas' schedule? I would love to have played Detroit and Arizona.

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