Although 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.