Parcells Will Not Return To Sideline
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
For the third time in his career, Bill Parcells announced his retirement from coaching yesterday, ending a four-year stay as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys that included more disappointments than successes.
"I am retiring from coaching football," Parcells said in a written statement released by the Cowboys. Parcells, 65, has walked away from coaching in the past when leaving jobs with other NFL franchises, only to resurface on a different sideline.
Parcells thanked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones "for their tremendous support over the last four years. Also the players, my coaching staff and others in the support group who have done so much to help. Dallas is a great city and the Cowboys are an integral part of it. I am hopeful that they are able to go forward from here."
The announcement came 16 days after the Cowboys' agonizing loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the NFC playoffs. In that game, the Cowboys' attempt at the go-ahead field goal with 1 minute 19 seconds left was botched when holder Tony Romo mishandled the snap. Seattle won, 21-20.
Parcells had one season remaining on his contract at a salary of about $6 million and had seemed to be leaning in recent days toward returning. He'd been going to the Cowboys' headquarters in Irving, Tex., on a daily basis and had reserved a room at the club's hotel in Mobile, Ala., for this week's Senior Bowl practices. Several of his close associates said they'd expected Parcells to coach one more season.
But he'd told his assistant coaches after the Cowboys' season ended that he didn't know if he'd be back. Three whose contracts were expiring, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, left for other jobs. Parcells said before and during the season that he'd reached the point at which he evaluated his energy level annually to decide whether to keep coaching. At one point during the season, Parcells said that as his coaching career had progressed, the victories had felt like more of a relief than a joy and the losses had gotten increasingly tougher to handle.
With the Cowboys, Parcells didn't win often enough. The team was 34-32, including 0-2 in the playoffs, during his four years as head coach. He inherited a club that had gone 5-11 in three straight seasons under Dave Campo when Jerry Jones lured him out of retirement in 2003. He led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth in his first season, but the Cowboys failed to build on that, missing the playoffs while going 6-10 in 2004 and 9-7 in 2005.
This season, Parcells benched veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe and went to Romo as a first-year starter. Romo was selected for the Pro Bowl after only eight starts and had the Cowboys poised to win the NFC East title. But Romo and the team stumbled down the stretch. The Cowboys lost their final two regular season games and were passed for the division title by the Philadelphia Eagles. They finished 9-7 and reached the playoffs as a wild-card entry.
"It's a young man's game," Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy said. "The way that last game ended, that's tough to bounce back from. I can't speak for him, but I'm sure he feels he's leaving the team in better shape than when he got there and that was his mission."
Parcells spent the season dealing with the headaches generated by the signing of wide receiver Terrell Owens as a free agent. Owens created his usual drama but there were no major confrontations with Parcells, at least none that became public. Parcells told associates, though, that he found dealing with Owens difficult.
There had been conjecture after the season ended that Parcells might be a candidate for the New York Giants' general manager job. But Parcells angrily denied he was interested and the Giants promoted front-office executive Jerry Reese to succeed Ernie Accorsi, who retired.
But Jones said he wanted Parcells to return; he negotiated a one-year contract extension with Parcells after last season, when there also was talk Parcells might retire.
There was speculation in recent months that Jones might pursue Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher if Parcells retired, but Fisher is under contract to the Titans through next season. Bill Cowher retired as the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers but is under contract to the Steelers through next season. The NFL's coach of the year this season, Sean Payton, left Parcells's staff in Dallas to accept the New Orleans Saints' job last year.
Replacing Parcells will not be easy. He has a 183-138-1 record in 19 seasons as coach of the Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants and took the Patriots to a Super Bowl.
"I am in good health and feel lucky to have been able to coach in the NFL for an extended period of time," Parcells said. "I leave the game and the NFL with nothing but good feelings and gratitude to all the players, coaches and other people that have assisted me in that regard."
Parcells's departure means that at least six NFL teams will have new coaches next season. The Steelers announced their hiring of Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin yesterday, leaving only the Cowboys and Oakland Raiders looking for coaches.