It's Not <i>That</i> Complicated

"I've been through this a few times," Bill Parcells said in reference to his rebuilding job with the Cowboys. "The goal is to get good players, get them in condition and try to get them to play well. That is what it is. It is not more complicated than that. Until you get that done, you are going to suffer."

A new era in Cowboys football began when the team opened training camp San Antonio on Friday July 25th. Bill Parcells is now the star of a Cowboys team that playing without league all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith for first time since 1990.

The change also features an altered philosophy from owner Jerry Jones, who not only is sharing control of his football team with the strong-willed Parcells but is taking a patient more realistic approach to the 2003 season.

The Cowboys are not focused on a quick fix in 2003. Instead they are heading into the 2003 season with future in mind.

"Why is Bill Parcells here?" Jones said. "He's here to instill a winning philosophy, an attitude with this team and he's here because he's done that before. Not once, not twice, but three times. Bill is here to teach -- and hopefully for a long time to come -- young men to win and develop a winning atmosphere in the locker room.

"But we didn't enter this partnership for a quick fix. This 2003 season is important because it will set a tone. We're moving into a new era in the history of the Cowboys franchise."

Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl champion coach who rebuilt the Jets, Giants and Patriots franchises before replacing Dave Campo as the Cowboys coach in January, said his main focus is trying to get the Cowboys ready to compete in the 2003 season and, in time, restore the franchise atop the NFL. He will try to do it with rigid training camp practices and a no-nonsense approach designed to teach discipline and mistake-free football.

"My job right now, as I view it, is ... to try to restore Dallas to a highly competitive franchise," said Parcells, who expressed the same view to his players in their first meeting Friday. "But more immediately, to try to get the right 53 players on this team at the end of this camp, and try to have a vision for each one of those players as to what role they may play. And I think a coach's job is always to try to give the players a good design -- one which allows them to function -- and then to provide the impetus to get them to play with good effort and good determination."

That Jones continues to resist the temptation of making a prediction for the 2003 season is as big a part of the new era as Parcells. The Cowboys owner, who describes himself as an eternal optimist, admits his win-now approach might have played a role in the team's three-year struggle.

Dallas is coming off three consecutive 5-11 seasons, and haven't won a playoff game since the 1996 season. Yet, for much of that time, Jones has shunned the thought of rebuilding and has largely been focused on retooling.

Smith's release in February not only removed the final superstar link to the Super Bowl title teams in the 1992, 1993 and 1995 seasons, but also Jones' fleeting hope for a quick return to glory.

"Most years we focused on right now," Jones said. "To me the obvious was there ... put a supporting cast around Emmitt and Troy [Aikman]. It was about the degree of fixing and degree of adjustments. I have to have a new approach now. This is a change. This is a significant philosophical change as we go from here."

Part of the change in Dallas is that Parcells will have a strong say in where the Cowboys go and how they get there.

He has total control on the football field -- which is the reason the Cowboys will have a toned-down training camp in 2003. And his experience as a general manager (Jets) and Super Bowl architect (Giants, Patriots) has afforded him more influence in personnel decisions than any Cowboys coach since Jimmy Johnson.

To that end, Parcells said the bottom few spots on the roster will likely be in flux the remainder of training camp and throughout the season. There will be a continual search for young or veteran players who can help this season or in the future. As he has in the past, Parcells will get a core of 40 to 46 players. Players 46 through 53 could be shifted throughout the season, especially 52 and 53.

"I've been through this a few times," Parcells said. "The goal is to get good players, get them in condition and try to get them to play well. That is what it is. It is not more complicated than that. Until you get that done, you are going to suffer.

"I know we have improved the team through free agency and the draft. I think the team is in better condition. Now the question is, can we get them to adjust to our philosophy and teach them how to play to win? I'm hopeful by the end of this training camp I'll have a pretty good idea of where we can be in 2003." CAMP CALENDAR: Camp ends Aug. 19. The Cowboys scrimmage the Texans Aug. 2.

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