Bill Parcells has left more suitors at the altar than Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride." So it was with great skepticism that people viewed the recent gooma-gooma concerning Jerry Jones secretly jetting into some small New Jersey airport to chat up Parcells. (It's a long way to go for tuna, don't you think?)
But the story hasn't gone away. In fact it's being reported that today Parcells will be announced as the Cowboys' new coach. So if that's true -- if Parcells doesn't back out at the last minute as he did to Tampa Bay -- what does it all mean?
No. 1, somebody revive The Danny.
Not for a second am I suggesting that Steve Spurrier wasn't the right choice to coach the Redskins. Heck, I suggested he was! But Parcells coached two teams (the Giants and the Patriots) to the Super Bowl, and he might well have coached a third team there (the Jets) if he had stayed a year or two longer. Through rain, snow, sleet and gloom of night Bill Parcells always delivers. If after last Sunday The Danny thought he had the Cowboys in his rear view mirror, he had better think again.
Look at how stacked the NFC East is now with coaches. Andy Reid should be the NFC's coach of the year for what he did with the Eagles after Donovan McNabb went out. Jim Fassel led the Giants to the Super Bowl two years ago, and dragged them into the playoffs this year after he took over the offense four weeks ago. Spurrier has no NFL resume yet, but he was unsurpassed as a college coach. And Parcells is The Big Tuna, isn't he? He's the gold standard of coaches. (Only the AFC West is comparable, with Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer; we don't know much about Oakland's first-year coach Callahan yet -- actually, we don't even know his first name.)
It's easy to understand why Jerry Jones would want Parcells.
Two words: He wins.
Some years back, while he was in the process of shoving Jimmy Johnson under the bus, Jones foolishly boasted the Cowboys were so good that any one of 1,000 guys could coach them. Well, after Chan Gailey and Dave Campo, Jones realizes "anybody" can't coach them.
Parcells may be difficult and domineering; he may even be duplicitous (as the late George Young found him when they worked together on the Giants). But you can't argue with Parcells's results. You're hiring a coach, not Stuart Smalley.
It's not as easy to understand why Parcells would want Jones. Jerry Jones is so hands-on, he makes Dan Snyder look like Venus de Milo. Jones doesn't play at being Dallas's GM, he is Dallas's GM. Jones doesn't simply wish to be on the sideline during the game, he is on the sideline during the game. Since everybody assumes Parcells won't tolerate any interference, the over-under on how long this marriage lasts is in the Nic Cage-Lisa Marie Presley range: months, not years. (My feeling is Jones is ready for Parcells, and all Parcells wants. It's Nixon going to China; Jones will surprise everyone by standing beside Parcells, not in front of him.)
Still, we're left with why Parcells picked the Cowboys? There are other jobs open now. And even if none of those were to Parcells's liking, surely there are owners out there who would fire their current coaches for a kiss from Parcells.
Is he going to Dallas for money? The fact of Parcells's recent divorce is widely reported, along with the theory that he's eager to acquire a large chunk of money he'll no longer have to share. But lots of owners would pay Parcells as handsomely as Jones will.
Is it the talent in Dallas? How can it be? Dallas has no quarterback, no offensive line and may or may not have an aging Emmitt Smith. You know Parcells won't stay in Dallas very long. He was with New England less time than he was with the Giants, and with the Jets less time than he was with New England. Parcells will probably be with the Cowboys for three years, four at most. Everybody knows Parcells's history. He takes over a last-place team, and within two years he has them in the playoffs. But the Cowboys appear to be at least five years away. So everybody's asking the same question: What does The Tuna see in Dallas that nobody else sees? (It's the scariest part of all for The Danny, because Parcells always picks the right place.)
If you were Parcells, and at age 61 you unexpectedly found yourself in a position to start your life over, what might attract you? Certainly not a Cincinnati or a Jacksonville. (You've already seen Mike Holmgren leave the great Green Bay for an NFL outpost like Seattle, and get swallowed up by failure.) You've already won two Super Bowls, so you've got nothing to prove. You're from New Jersey, you've spent your entire life in the Northeast; what's going to feel like home for you now? It has to be someplace big, you're used to big. It has to be something consequential, you've coached the Giants and Jets, pillars of the NFL. What's bigger and more consequential than the Dallas Cowboys? In the last 30 years, in the lifespan of your coaching career, nothing is!
Dallas. America's Team. It's the glamour of the cheerleaders. It's the star on the helmet. It's the team Tom Landry left New York for, a team of glory and story, a team you hated and feared, and maybe envied occasionally. How many times have you stood inside that stadium and seen the sunlight stream down through the hole in the roof like heaven? Right there, on that field, that's the center of the pro football universe. That's what everybody is looking for. That's the Lost Ark. If you're Bill Parcells, and you like it when people make way for you, how could you not take a shot at rescuing the Dallas Cowboys?