Just the Beginning

The Cowboys' 2004 season might as well be called the season of Bill Parcells' discontent. <BR>

He seemingly made all the wrong moves from the beginning.

He promised following the surprising 2003 season that he would leave no stone unturned in improving the Cowboys for 2004. Yet Parcells didn't go far enough in improving the team. Either he didn't want to spend Jerry Jones' money or he thought the Cowboys were further along than they actually were. It was probably a little bit of both.

But his decision to not address the right cornerback position and instead go into the season with unproven players haunted the Cowboys throughout.

Several other players he deemed ready for breakout years did not live up to expectations and they Cowboys were mistake prone and unfocused from training camp to the end of the season.

Parcells was at wits end at times and even thought about retiring because he had no answers on how to reach the Cowboys and get them to behave as he wanted them to.

The end result was a Cowboys team that took a step back, going from 10-6 in 2003 to 6-10 in 2004. It was the first time since Parcells became a head coach his team has not improved from the first year to the second. It certainly the first time the team took a step back.

The highlights of the season were the play of second year tight end Jason Witten, who developed into a Pro Bowler and rookie running back Julius Jones.

Jones started the final seven games of the season after overcoming a shoulder injury, topping the 100-yard barrier three times and scoring seven touchdowns.

The lowlights were the decision to cut quarterback Quincy Carter in the preseason, forcing the Cowboys to start aging Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde was mediocre at best, throwing 17 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions.

The Cowboys also did not learn anything about rookie quarterback Drew Henson for the future.

The Cowboys defense was the biggest source of frustration. The Cowboys had no playmakers on defense and they gave up big play after big play.

Parcells told the team at the end of the season that their will be changes in 2005.

He plans to go back to being the bad guy to the media.

He plans to bring in players act and behave as he expects on the football field.

The Cowboys have $18-to-$20 million in salary cap space to work with. They also have two first round draft picks, thanks to the last season's trade with Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys have their 11th pick and the Bills' 20th pick in the first round.

The Cowboys must fill holes across the board. They need a speed receiver to stretch the field and another complementary running back to share time with Jones. They need help at guard, tackle defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback and safety. A catalytic player on the line to create sacks and force turnovers is a high priority.

Because Parcells is toying with idea of shifting from the 4-3 to the 3-4 on defense, they may have to make wholesale changes at linebacker.

The Cowboys could also be making coaching changes. Tight ends coach Tony Sporano has replaced the fired George Warhop as the offensive line coach. The Cowboys also fired Steve Hoffman. He will not be replaced. Special teams coach Bruce DeHaven will handle the kickers. The Cowboys may add another coach to handle tight ends.

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