377 Days Later

Three 5-11 seasons wear thin on a general manager in the NFL. Most will worry about their job security. In the high profile NFL, you are only as good as your latest success or failure. What have you done for me lately starts at the GM spot and is the day-to-day existence for everyone in the franchise.

Only the owner, equipment managers, and water boy have job security. All else eventually will pay the piper by losing their job. But Jerry Jones is an anomaly in this field of sweating and grunting muscular titans that wage war for the jollies of the great unwashed. He is the owner who oversees everything. As he once stated, he is in charge of the socks and jocks. Presumably Jones finds laundry duties require his supervision.

However, Jerry is also the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys and thus toes the line dictated by the credo, which all franchises, save for the Arizona Cardinals, adhere. Win or walk. Because at the end of the day, Jerry is guided by the turnstiles. Ringing cash registers dictate his every move.

His boss ultimately pays $12 dollars to park and $5 buck to guzzle beer, except in the fourth quarter for public safety reasons. And Mr. Cowboy fan will become mighty antsy if the team continues acting like a franchise that doesn't care about Superbowls, Lombardis, or parades at the expense of the taxpayers of Dallas, Texas. Just win baby isn't the sole property of the Oakland Raiders. It is the rallying cry of every owner to every player, coach, and GM who cashes a paycheck with the owners name firmly attached. So when the Cowboys were sitting at a measly 5 wins and 9 loses last year on December 21st, as they faced the NFC East champs in the Philadelphia Eagles, Jones made a decision which would change the face of the team.

He did not go out and offer two first-round choices to bring in a veteran player to alter the trend started when Dave Campo took over as head coach. Jerry had been stung by that bit of chicanery, brought on by his miscalculation of Aikman's skills and his greed in thinking Joey Galloway could fix what ailed this team. Jones struck at the one factor that had been the bone stuck in the throat of the Cowboys since Jimmy Johnson departed these climes for a sandier locale where the bikinis grew smaller by the season and the Heineken was always cold.

Jones boarded his private plane and headed east to find a solution to a mess, which started as a spilt cocktail when he uttered, "Anyone of 500 coaches could lead this team." Then spread into a muddy quagmire after the likes of Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, and then Campo. After a loss to the Eagles, which sent the Cowboys to their 10th loss of the season, Jones got word that Bill Parcells might be interested in interviewing for the job as head coach of the team.

Now old wives have a habit of tossing out bromides, which cover all kinds of life's little ups and downs. One such platitude states clearly that oil and water don't mix. So when Jones and Parcells sat on a runway in Jerry's Lear Jet talking about football and the Dallas Cowboys, Vegas would have posted the odds on the tote board that both would shake hands and never darken each other's doors again.

But losing and the desire to get back into the game have a way of making strange bedfellows. And dwindling receipts can cause even the bravest millionaire to rethink just how smart he is. Just like the talking head spot on national TV isn't the same limelight as walking the sidelines and winning it all.

So Jones stepped up to the plate with his checkbook in hand and his ego in check and signed a real ball coach. A man that leads men to be a cohesive unit and a group, which plays above their heads. And Parcells once again entered the fray tethered to an owner known for his meddlesome ways. Both men sucked it up to play high stakes poker with the winner walking away with a chalice of silver and bragging rights for a solid year.

There has been a long running debate concerning coaching versus talent. Would a great coach win with lesser talent while a poor coach couldn't win with a team full of Hall of Famers, the discussion goes. While no coach can win without a foundation of skill on the field to execute his game plan, the greatness of a coach can overcome when the fourth quarter rolls around and a team achieves on desire only.

Parcells is perhaps the greatest head coach the NFL has ever seen. His understanding of situations and his eye for detail eclipse many of the names seen in Canton, Ohio attached to bronze busts. And his success with the 2003 Dallas Cowboys should solidify him as the premiere coach in the game today, and maybe ever. It took a mere three months of the 2003 season to show the world that Parcell's guiding hand had taken a boat load of misfits and transformed them into a team. Dallas will enter the play-offs for the first time since 1999 and the reason was bathed in Gatorade after the win over the New York Football Giants on the 21st of December, 2003.

A fitting foe on a day to the year when Jerry decided that not just any coach can obtain the results expected by the rabble who plop down the sheckles which oil the machine. Parcells once led the Giants to a championship, and since this was 365 days from the born on date for the Jones Parcells union, the thumping of the New Yorkers seemed to suit.

But before we anoint this team as greatness, we must interject that Dallas did lay an giant egg in New Orleans last Sunday. Scoring one touchdown, they rallied to lose the game to the Saints who had been eliminated from the play-off hunt the week prior.

Now only the most jaded would think that Bill Parcells would be cagey enough to orchestrate a loss the week before play-offs. An act that surely will cause him to strap up spurs and dig into his team before they meet the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night, primetime. Surely Parcells doesn't play mind games with young athletes who are impressionable and moldable and will give maximum effort after a hide tanning by old Billy Idol.

But for whatever reason the team lost, you can almost guarantee the Cowboys will be playing up to their best efforts when facing the Panthers in the wild card round of the 2003 NFL play-offs. And Parcells will insure that effort with his watchful eye.

One week and one year ago Jerry Jones changed the future history of this franchise by bellying up to the bar and signing someone who could make a difference. He then cemented the team's tomorrows by stepping aside and letting Bill work his magic. A magic that is more powerful than anything Harry Blackstone ever wielded. One year ago things changed at Valley Ranch because of a GM who had the guts to change himself. And ever since things have changed for the better.

Happy anniversary, Jerry. Welcome back to the play-offs.

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