An article in the Sept. 22 Sports section incorrectly quoted National Football League coach Bill Parcells. The quote should have been: "Don't tell me about the pain, just show me the baby." (Published 10/12/04)

Notice all of the attention on Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells this week. The focus on the coaches, this newfound knack for letting the legends teach and the players play.

You wonder if Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones have it in them to keep being peripheral figures around their franchises, even if one of them falls to 1-2 with their respective coaching deity. Or whether "Monday Night Football" amounts to the Owner's Referendum Bowl:

Loser gets in his coach's business, starts fiddling with the playbook and roster again -- angering the fans, pacing, putting the organization on edge and notice.

How long can they go before they want to give their business partners a little "help"?

Or is this who Snyder and Jones have become -- ardent fans in a luxury box, tucked safely away where they can watch other men become the face of their franchises?

Either way, Gibbs plays human chess against Parcells for the first time in 14 years on Monday night, two Hall of Fame coaches renewing their NFC East rivalry from the 1980s.

And that's it, the whole plotline -- give or take a quarterback dilemma.

No sideshows. No salacious reports of meddlesome owners playing fantasy football behind their coaches' backs. None of the distractions that served to weaken the franchises' healthy animosity on the field.

It's Cowboys vs. Redskins on Monday night, and no one is talking about Jerry or Danny.

Within a year of each other, two of the wealthiest, most egocentric men in professional football decided: "Enough already. We're going back to the tried-and-true fix. We've suffered enough humiliation."

Their fan bases skewering them, their reputations severely damaged by the losing, Jones and Snyder made two of the most important moves of their ownership tenure. They essentially deactivated themselves off the 53-man roster. Then they went on separate archaeological digs, unearthing two of the game's 63-year-old relics.

Parcells turned Dallas around, from 5-11 to 10-6 and a playoff berth last season. Gibbs, away from the sport for more than a decade while he ran a successful NASCAR operation, is 1-1 after his layoff yet still very much in the throes of a nostalgic homecoming.

For the moment, the spotlight is off the futility of two of the NFL's most profitable and storied organizations. The owners aren't writhing in petri dishes, explaining away their mistakes. There is reason to tune in again, a rivalry to remember.

Soon after Snyder announced proudly on a dais in January that he had persuaded Gibbs to right the Redskins' listing franchise, the coach got an e-mail from his old nemesis on the New York Giants' sideline.

"Basically, it said, 'Does this mean we can't talk for the next five years?' " Gibbs said. He never got around to formally replying to Parcells, but Parcells knew the answer was "no."

The last time Gibbs and Parcells stood across from each other in headsets was Oct. 28, 1990. Parcells left after that season, and by 1993, he was off to New England to recast his second of four franchises in his Alpha male image. "Show me the pain, don't show me the baby," he once said to an injured player.

Parcells is still gruff, occasionally crass and very gray. He could go a little lighter on the testosterone and the formaldehyde. But the number of motivators in his class are few and, unlike Gibbs so far, he has shown he can negotiate the maze of the salary cap and evaluate talent.

Neither coach appears in need of an all-pro quarterback to win. Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks, including Mark Rypien. Parcells won a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler and an AFC championship with Drew Bledsoe. He almost got to the Super Bowl with Vinny Testaverde, his balky-knee quarterback now in Dallas. Parcells cut Quincy Carter, the man who led him to the playoffs last season.

Along those lines, Patrick Ramsey has a chance to prove whether he is Gibbs's kind of player for the duration of his Washington career.

Gibbs and Snyder, who talk almost daily, appear to be building a good working relationship. Ramsey is the kind of player who could test that relationship. Snyder had a key say in drafting Ramsey. Gibbs decided as soon as he looked at tape that he needed another quarterback, and he went out and got Mark Brunell.

At what point, if you're an owner, do you wonder why your coach did not wait on some of the other veteran NFL quarterbacks who switched teams this offseason, such as Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner or Kerry Collins -- just in case Brunell, nursing a hamstring injury, is too brittle at 34?

Can Snyder summon enough restraint to let Gibbs, the man he gave the title team president to, do his job without interference?

How long can Parcells go, for that matter, before the push-and-pull with Jones begins? Upon leaving New England over a personnel-control fight, Parcells said if the Patriots wanted him to cook dinner, the least they could let him do was shop for the groceries. He set the standard for coaches having total control in personnel matters.

If you're Snyder or Jones and neither Gibbs nor Parcells works out, who do you turn to after you've dealt the last card? What other choice do you have but to make some noise?

The younger Snyder is much more affected by the meddler stigma than Jones, whose Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Fly-fishing on a northern California trout stream this past July, you could tell someone you just moved to D.C., and the first thing out of the guy from Fresno's mouth is, "How 'bout that nutball owner the Redskins got?"

Not, "You ever run into Dubya?" or "What's the new World War II Memorial like?" Just, how 'bout that nutball owner.

Never having met Snyder, you infer, like most of us, he prefers to be liked. And that these kind of perceptions eat at him, and that every time he reads a story embellishing his maniacal behavior, he feels just a little more singed and he retreats inward. Which may be why he refuses in-season interviews of any length or depth.

But there is an irony here. His internal restraint, his ability to let Gibbs be Gibbs, is probably the best chance of image rehabilitation Snyder has. The one guy who wants to shout to the world how desperately he cares for his franchise might make a grander noise by simply staying silent and letting Gibbs keep doing his talking for him.

Because it's all about a football game now. Nothing but a crisp, autumn eve in Landover. The yearning for those NFC East donnybrooks of yore.

Of course, this annoying hyperbole is patronizing in a sports-anchor kind of way. But let's be honest. You can't use "donnybrook" and "yore" for Spurrier vs. Campo. Or Norv vs. Chan.

Monday night is not about Ramsey. Or Testaverde. It is about two men who took the game back and two owners who, when they ran out of every option, stepped aside to let them have control.

It's about Parcells vs. Gibbs, for everything in the Monday night kitty. And it's about time.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones, left, has remained in the background as Bill Parcells attempts to return Cowboys to championship glory.