The Cowboys' Parcells era officially begins

Team owner Jones brings coach out of retirement

January 03, 2003|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones started out last night on the same page, of like minds and identical goals.

How long they stay there will determine whether the Dallas Cowboys are restored to prominence or chaos.

The NFL's most unlikely union was forged when Jones, the Cowboys' owner and most dominant personality, introduced Parcells as the sixth coach in team history.

Three years after he left the New York Jets' sideline, and one year after he said he was finished coaching for good, Parcells, 61, resurfaced with a reported four-year, $17.1 million contract.

He replaces Dave Campo, fired Monday after his third consecutive 5-11 season.

A strong-willed personality in his own right, Parcells built a reputation for turning bad teams into good ones during stops with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Jets.

He is tough and fair-minded, yet often comes across as gruff and close-minded. He is one of the league's best motivators and is quick to engage his players in locker room mind games.

But it is his relationship with Jones, his new boss, that will be scrutinized more closely. Parcells and Jones pledged support for each other last night with a common bond.

Having drifted from two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Jimmy Johnson to Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and finally Campo, Jones seemed to admit a past discretion when he said, "I'm not going to grow careless with this relationship."

It took two meetings and some 11 hours for the two men to reach an agreement that will allow Parcells the kind of authority he needs and Jones the comfort level he seeks.

"I became convinced in talking with him that this was the opportunity at this point in time that was right for Bill Parcells," said Parcells, who will be able to hire and fire assistants, and also will have a strong say over personnel and draft matters.

"We kind of joked about both of us being in the same place in life and really just wanting to attempt to do the same thing. It became apparent to me during those conversations that this is a partnership that could work for me and hopefully will work for him."

Parcells made this concession: "If it were to come down that there were disagreements, and I don't think there will be, ownership will resolve that. I don't have any problem with that."

Parcells was noncommittal on the future Cowboys career of Emmitt Smith, the league's all-time leading rusher who will carry a prohibitive salary-cap charge of nearly $10 million next season. He also declined to appraise a quarterback position that was filled unspectacularly by Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson last season.

"I know certain cards are on the table," he said. "They're not all bad cards, I know that. Some are good cards. Some cards are unturned, and maybe I can turn them over. I don't know what will transpire at that position.

"I know it's a critical position ... and requires a special individual to play it. I will attempt to find that person. Maybe he's already here."

The Cowboys learned earlier in the day that they do not owe Tampa Bay anything for hiring Parcells. The Bucs signed Parcells to a four-year contract last year before he backed out, so sought compensation.

In his three previous stops, Parcells quickly turned things around. The Giants in the playoffs by his second season and won a Super Bowl in his fourth. The Patriots were 2-14 the year before Parcells arrived, and went to the playoffs in two years. The Jets were 1-15 before he was hired and went to the AFC title game two years later. His 15-year record is 149-106-1, including 11-6 in the postseason.

In Dallas, he has a chance to do it all over again.

"Quite frankly, I know - and I told Jerry this - Bill Parcells is not for everyone in this league," he said. "But I think we're both in the same place now. It would have been easy for me to go up to Saratoga and watch the races ... but in the back of my mind, football was still there. It's what I am and what I do. I'm not ashamed of that anymore. I readily accept it."

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