Parcells Changing the Culture

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has changed the culture and scenery at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters. Signs are posted throughout the facility offering a glimpse of his old-school football philosophy. Cell phones and dominoes are prohibited in the locker room.

And full attention is demanded in practice, where mental infractions are punished by a run to the woods.

This environment might be a new awakening for many Cowboys veterans, but it's the foundation upon which Parcells believes winning teams are built.

Moreover, it's a tried and true philosophy that Parcells has relied on in 39 years of coaching and is rooted in legendary coaches Bear Bryant, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Chuck Knox.

These are men Parcells idolized, and emulated and borrowed from -- on topics ranging from how to get a team prepared in practice to developing players to putting up signs in the locker room.

"This is how I've always done things," Parcells said. "I was raised a certain way as a coach. Certain kinds of coaches coached me, and, then, some people, I tried to be like. As a college coach, there was Woody Hayes, Bear Bryant, Bud Wilkinson. ... I can name 30 names, people I tried to look at and study. As I made the transition to pro football, there was Noll, Shula, Knox and Landry."

Talking to coaches and soliciting advice was part of the culture when Parcells was a college coach, but he continued the practice when he landed his first pro head coaching job, with the New York Giants in 1983. Parcells bent the ear of chums and division rivals at league meetings, over the telephone and before games.

"We talked about everything," said Knox, who is now retired in La Quinta, Calif. "We talked about what coaches' contracts were to what they should be. We talked about assistant coaches, practice organization and setting up practices. We talked about signs you would put in the locker room and meeting rooms. We talked about how to maximize the talent of players, how some needed a push and some something else."

Knox said he always felt Parcells would be great one day -- in 15 years as an NFL coach, Parcells has two Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants and a trip to the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. And Knox believes Parcells will succeed with the Cowboys.

"I thought he was special in that respect," Knox said. "Other people get in that position and think they know it all. It doesn't hurt to ask. I sought out Lombardi and Paul Brown and picked their brains. I can see the things he is doing. Obviously, he has learned a lot more and progressed a lot more. That was a great move for Jerry Jones to go get him."

Noll, who is also retired, doesn't remember going out of his way to help a young Parcells. But the man who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles does recall discussing football with a number of coaches, including Parcells.

"We would be at a league meeting and would talk football," Noll said. "They didn't come and ask for advice. You just talk football. We just discussed the game."

Parcells said he was simply seeking the kind of wisdom a first-time coach doesn't have.

Ironically, Parcells said his biggest source of information was the coach of his biggest rival -- Landry.

"I tried to get information out of Landry every time I talked to him," Parcells said. "He was a great encyclopedia for a guy like me. Even though we were rivals, he had a way of not compromising his position. He saw that I was genuinely interested in what he had to say."

Parcells said the thing he took most from Landry concerned the expectations of players.

"He said if you see something in a first-year player, give him the benefit of the doubt," Parcells said. "He may be immature or nervous. In the second year, you better see something from this guy. You better see a contribution come through. By the third year, if you don't see something, go get a young guy and start over."

Parcells can think of 100 players who survived because of Landry's advice. Woody Dantzler might be 101. The second-year player from Clemson played running back last year for the Cowboys, began the off-season at quarterback and is now expected to be moved full time to safety.

Why? Because he has special skills as a kick returner, and Parcells is trying to find a spot for him on the team.

"Landry said put a player in another situation and see if he finds himself there," Parcells said. "That's what I am trying to do with Dantzler. What else can he do to add to his value? He is willing to do whatever you ask of him. You like guys like that. You want to find places for guys like that."

It's all part of Parcells' old-school philosophy, which he learned from the best.

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