Parcells Lays It On

Bill Parcells became an NFL head coach the same year Dan Marino became an NFL quarterback. And since that 1983 season, Parcells hasn't seen another young quarterback play as well as Marino - until now.

Parcells, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, exceeded normal boundaries yesterday in his praise of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"He is the best prospect I have seen in 10 or 15 years," Parcells said. "I have not seen anybody come in the league like that. The only guy that I can say came in, and in the first year started playing like he is playing, is Dan Marino. He has done a great job and they have done a good job with him."

Roethlisberger won his first three starts and is hoping to become the first rookie quarterback since Phil Simms (1979) to win his first four when the Steelers visit the Cowboys on Sunday.

So far, Roethlisberger is putting up Marino-like numbers. Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 91.3, compared to Marino's rookie rating of 96, which was good enough for a berth in the Pro Bowl.

The next season, Marino took the Miami Dolphins to the Super Bowl. Can Roethlisberger pull off such heroics?

"It looks to me like he can do about what he wants out there," Parcells said. "You see him. You guys cover him. He is out of the pocket throwing 50-yard passes right on the money. It is not going to be without some growing pains, but I think he is in an ideal situation. They have good balance on offense. They are running the ball well. They have a good receiving corps. They are protecting him pretty well. He has done a good job.

"I am telling you, I am very, very impressed and it is not just because he is an opponent." Well, that's not quite the way some of the Steelers are taking the praise. First of all, here's Roethlisberger's reaction:

"Obviously it's quite a compliment coming from coach Parcells," he said. "Being a guy who's been around a long time, he knows talent. But, if I said it once I'll say it a million times, it's only been three games. It's a little too early to be putting those statements on it. But it's quite a compliment. I thank him for the compliment. If I can be half as good as Marino, I'll be incredibly happy."

Seated at a nearby locker was linebacker James Farrior. He played for Parcells with the New York Jets from 1997-99. He knows his old coach's wily ways.

"He's buttering him up a little bit. That's what coaches do. You never hear a coach say anything bad about a player," Farrior said. "All coaches play those games. Parcells is not the only guy to ever do that. If you've been around the league long enough, you'll hear it from everybody."

So, Roethlisberger's not the next Marino?

"I'm sure he's giving him his due praise because he's doing a good job with the team this year, but a little extra buttering up always helps," Farrior said. "I'm sure Ben's a smart enough guy to know how to take that."

Said Roethlisberger: "I just go out and play my game. I don't let people influence the way I play. I take what coach Parcells said -- even though it's a great compliment -- but I take it with a grain of salt. He's been around for a long time. He knows what he's doing. He has no problem putting those out there and trying to get inside someone's head. So I've just got to go and play my game and hopefully win the football game."

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