Indicting Bill Parcells

ParcellsAlthough I’ve teetered back-and-forth on this all season– and really towards the end of last season– I’ve come to the conclusion that I no longer think that Bill Parcells offers the best chance for the Cowboys to be successful in the short-term or in the long-term. This comes from the person who named his fantasy football teams in previous seasons as follows: “In Tuna We Trust” (2003), “Big Tuna, Year 2″ (2004), and “Faith in the Big Tuna” (2005). Faith, no more.

So for what little it is worth, here is my indictment of Bill Parcells, borrowing liberally from my own posts on the forums in the past couple of days:

Elements of Good Coaching

What is it that a team is looking for in a head coach? I, for one, think that coaches in all sports take a little bit too much blame for their losses and a little bit too much credit for their successes, but there are certainly some elements that we could identify:

– Put the right talent on the field in the right systems.
– Delegate responsibilities to competent assistants.
– Ensure that players are prepared for the tasks at hand.
– Minimize distractions to the team.
– Maximize team discipline.
– Build team confidence.
– Don’t panic when the game gets into pressure situations.
– Take chances when appropriate.
– Don’t take unnecessary chances when the risk greatly outweighs the reward.

There are more, of course. My question, though, has been whether Parcells has satisfied each of these elements during the past four years, given that he is a Hall-of-Fame coach and given the expectations that were placed in him when he came here. I don’t think he has.

The 2003 season was somewhat magical in that he took a team that had gone 5-11 for three seasons and built it into a winner. But even that 2003 season was a little bit misleading, for if you disregard the 5-1 start, you have a 5-5 finish– really, a mediocre football team. And since that time, the team has never played like a confident football team and never really played like a disciplined football team. Parcells seems to make a concerted effort to keep his players’ egos in check, but he does not seem to be able to take steps to ensure that their play remains strong for an entire season. When 7-3 becomes 9-7 one year, and 8-4 becomes 9-7 the next year, there are some organizational problems.

If Not Bill, Then Who?

Part of the problem with the debate over whether Parcells should remain is that none of us will be able to identify a candidate who will guarantee anything, so it is really a matter of whether the Cowboys want to take a risk. I do not think that the Cowboys will do any better if Parcells remains, given that he has not met the burden of proving that he can get more out of this team. The question is really this: do we want the Cowboys to remain stagnant and mediocre, struggling to get to 9-7 or 10-6? That is the most likely scenario if Parcells stays, for he has failed to prove that he can do otherwise. Or do we want to hope that somebody new can get more out of this talent, knowing the risk that (a) the team could perform exactly how it has under Parcells, or even (b) the team could take some backwards steps while a new coach tries to implement new ideas. Really no different than a decision about whether to hire a new C.E.O.: simple risk/reward analysis.

I am convinced that Parcells believes that his systems work, that his methods work, and that he is not going to make changes or relinquish any authority in order to try new ideas. And the bottom line is that what he has done simply is not working, because the team has not performed at a level that its talent level suggests that it should.

People want to revisit the fact that he did better than Dave Campo. But that doesn’t address the facts that Campo didn’t have control over the draft, that the team lost two first-round picks due to the Joey Galloway trade, that the Cowboys didn’t have cap money when Campo was coaching, and that Campo didn’t have control over his assistant coaches. Here is a question: how well would Campo have done if he had everything (authority, money) that Parcells has had. I would venture to say that he wouldn’t have done much worse, because Parcells made several of the same coaching mistakes that Campo made, but Parcells had more talent. That’s not a vote of confidence for Campo, but is rather a vote of no-confidence in Parcells.

What Is the Bottom Line?

Bill Parcells has made $20 million or so and has been given free reign to build the team however he wants to build it. Overspend for Anthony Henry? Sure. Overspend for Marco Rivera? Sure. Same with Jason Ferguson? Sure. Use most of the meaningful picks in two drafts so that the team can convert to the 3-4, even though the defensive coordinator has never run the 3-4? Sure.

I’ve heard a few people try to say, “Gosh, just look at the team he’s put together.” Yeah, look at it. The team had one significant injury all season, and yet it had glaring holes all over the place– nobody was capable of rushing the passer, the defense wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of a blitz is, the offensive line can’t seem to remember assignments on a regular basis, the secondary…. well, you know.

Parcells’ past is absolutely meaningless right now. A Super Bowl championship for the rival New York Giants in 1986 doesn’t hide the fact that his Dallas teams have grossly underachieved in the past three seasons. Same is true for the 1990 Giants, the 1996 Patriots, and the 1998 Jets. His Hall-of-Fame resume needs those teams’ records on there, because what he has done here hardly merits consideration for Canton.

Bill, you’ve done all you can here. It’s time for you to go.


“The Botch,” Reviewed Yet Again

I didn’t make it up, of course, but I would much prefer that the end of the Seattle game have a name: “The Botch.” Buy it? I personally don’t feel any better about the game, but I’ll buy that name.

And here it is, in its entirety:


From the Houston Chronicle:

“Amazing!” shouted Al Michaels.

“Unbelievable!” replied John Madden.

“Words seem somewhat inadequate,” moaned Brad Sham.

“Holy smokes!” screamed Steve Raible.

And, of course, somewhere in Hollywood …

“Dang! I can use that in the show!” cried Peter Berg, creator of NBC’s Friday Night Lights.

I swear to you it’s going to happen. At some point in their fictional lives, Berg’s Dillon Whatevers will win or lose a game because of a blown hold on an extra point or field goal. After all, Berg has attempted to pack just about every other football cliché of the last century into Dillon’s season thus far, and there’s no reason to believe that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s bobbling the snap on a potential game-winning field-goal try Saturday night against Seattle will elude his grasp.

We’ve seen such things before, of course, in fiction and in reality. Reality occurred most recently in the Broncos-Bengals game last month, and fictional variations were used in the movie adaptation of Peter Gent’s novel North Dallas Forty and in our old ESPN favorite, Playmakers.

Sham, however, treated Romo’s mishap as if it were a unique catastrophe, which, I suppose, it was for Cowboys fans.

“This is the most unbelievable thing I think I’ve ever seen in a playoff game,” Sham said. “To have it end like that, and to have the holder, who is the starting quarterback, simply drop the ball, it’s the first time it’s ever happened. … It (the game) ends with the most unbelievable disappointment in the most bizarre fashion that I believe I’ve ever seen.”


Quite a bit more from Don Banks at

Twenty years from now — no, make it 30 or maybe 40 — we’ll still be asking each other, “Where were you when Romo dropped the ball?” Saturday night’s instant classic in Seattle gave us that kind of unforgettable sports moment. The stakes and the stage were that large. The drama that exquisite.

In retrospect, it had to end that way for the Dallas Cowboys this season, didn’t it? With one last wild swing of momentum, one final plunge on the down side of the rollercoaster ride that was their 2006. It had to end with Tony Romo being humbled by his game-deciding mistake, after seemingly having the world at his feet just a few short weeks ago. From Next Big Thing to Bill Buckner, in the span of about a month.

It was the closest thing the NFL can come to Greek tragedy, and it was a devastatingly swift turn of events for a quarterback who had the word “mania” attached to his last name for much of the season’s second half.

Almost everybody fell hard this season for Romo and his rags-to-riches story, but to think that the bitterest of endings awaited him after all that adulation came his way. Must be a lesson in there somewhere. Something about the danger of hubris, or being careful what you wish for. Maybe even a reminder that sometimes it’s the littlest things done well that wind up mattering the most.

Romo’s young enough that his career has time to recover. He’s not doomed to Scott Norwood-type infamy just yet. But he’s going to have to live with his galling failure for a long time. And for the foreseeable future, his name will be synonymous with one gut-wrenching image: Him, sitting on the Qwest Field turf, his head in his hands, the picture of an athlete having lost his grip at the worst possible time.

• You want irony? I’ll give you irony. After all the angst about the unreliable place-kicking in Dallas this season, with Bill Parcells cutting Mike Vanderjagt and hiring Martin Gramatica in late November, it’s the Cowboys holder who ends up costing them their season.

We didn’t see that one coming, did we?

• What a superb effort by Seahawks safety-turned-cornerback Jordan Babineaux on his shoestring tackle of Romo at the Seattle 2. Another two feet, and the Cowboys quarterback would have had a first down at the 1, and all would not have been lost for Dallas.

But Babineaux never would have been in position to make his game-deciding play had Gramatica done anything — and we mean anything — to get in the way of Babineaux when he had the chance, after Romo butterfingered the hold.

You can’t count on much blocking from a kicker, of course, but all Gramatica had to do was throw a half-hearted shoulder in front of Babineaux and Romo would have had enough time to get either the first down or into the end zone. Either way, Dallas wins.

. . .

• I almost felt sorry for the Tuna in his post-game press conference. I mean, after about six questions or so from the media, of which I am a member, it seemed like piling on. What more could have been said? Romo dropped a perfectly good snap, and that was that. To his credit, Parcells didn’t try and make any excuses for his quarterback, even though some reporters were giving him the chance to. He repeatedly pointed out that the field goal was shorter than an extra point, deepening Romo’s pain that much more. Ouch.

• Predicting whether Parcells will retire or not is a fool’s game, but I get the distinct feeling that he’s not going to let last night’s wild ending be the last NFL image we have of him. He keeps talking about making sure he has the “energy” to continue coaching, but I think the disheartening way Dallas’s season ended might serve to re-energize him in some bizarre way.

If you’re making book on it, put me down for Tuna returning in 2007. With or without Terrell Owens as part of the equation in Dallas.

• Speaking of T.O., two catches for 26 yards? All that fuss all year long and come playoff time it only amounts to receptions of 14 and 12 yards? Sheesh.

But did you notice what a great teammate Owens was in his post-game comments, offering his support to Romo and informing the media that he told his quarterback to keep his head up? Then again, who was Owens to take exception with somebody dropping a ball for Dallas this season?

. . .

• I still can’t believe the play Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu almost made when he tried to keep the Terry Glenn fumble in bounds in the Dallas end zone. In the long run it actually turned out better for the Seahawks to have gotten a safety rather than a touchdown out of that play, but Tatupu’s athleticism in getting there, getting the ball, and tossing it over his shoulder blindly while falling out of bounds was impressive.


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