It's possible that all Greg Ellis was trying to do was "deliver a message.' It's possible that all Bill Parcells was trying to do was profanely stamp a resounding "Return To Sender" on the envelope.
It's possible that this is the tip of an iceberg of dysfunction in the Dallas locker room. It's possible that this is the natural result of competitive people experiencing anxiety, stress and growing pains on the eve of training camp.
We may never know the intimate details of a reported coach's office session between Parcells and veteran defensive end Greg Ellis
. But following Friday morning's scoop as reported by colleague Newy Scruggs of NBC5 in Dallas, and then an ensuing conversation between me and Newy on Friday afternoon, here's what I think I know and what I think I think:
Following the recent minicamp, Ellis requested a meeting in Parcells office. On Ellis' agenda: Expressing disgruntlement over his coming assignment, a move from a defensive end in the 4-3 to work as an interior lineman. Ellis explained that he isn't comfortable with the role and that he doesn't feel it is the best way to use him.
At some point during the session, Parcells responded in loud, clear and profane terms.
At some point in the session, Ellis – not only the club's sack leader but also seen by teammates as a quality guy and leader – suggested that a trade might be the best solution.
Newy did not get his version of the story directly from Ellis, but from another Cowboy player who is close with Ellis. Newy tells me he is "very convinced" of the veracity of the story, but I'll concede that we are getting third- and fourth-hand stuff here.
Why would anyone associated with the Cowboys allow this story to seep out? Don't dismiss a good journalist's ability to also be a good friend of a player; Newy's a fine one, has solid relationships with players, and his information could have simply come as the result of a casual interview/conversation.
Or, the "Ellis Camp" – or better yet, any "Anti-Parcells Contingent" that exists within the Cowboys – wants this spin released as a pre-emptive strike. Cowboys fans don't want to believe it, but even with a leader as credentialed as Parcells, there remain in his locker room dissenters and disbelievers.
Says Newy: "This is one of many blow-ups that have happened out there because of conflicts with Parcells. Maurice Carthon had a blow-up with him. Why did Maurice Carthon jump ship? There are plenty of guys who aren't on Parcells' bandwagon. Some of them have told me that after they leave, some of them tell me because they want to leave. Hey, if you're one of ‘Parcells' guys,' you don't have a problem. You've got it easy. If you're not, you don't.'
How many "Ellis guys" are in that locker room? If this is really a divisive issue, how many players will privately or subconsciously take the side that pits itself against the coach?
Some people are lumping Glover's circumstances in with Ellis'. With all due respect to Greg, Glover is a different kettle of fish. If it's up to me, something within whatever defensive scheme I've designed must feature Glover. Ellis' talent doesn't demand the same sort of playbook-tailoring.
You know, as stone-age as it seems, one way to motivate a disgruntled athlete is to "F-bomb" him. I mean, if you want a hug, maybe you should go call Dave Campo.
Somebody on YheRanchReport.com message boards described Parcells as a "despot." What a cool, fitting word.
You don't have to be a Pollyannaish Cowboys follower to believe the following: That a player who wants to discuss switching positions is too commonplace to lose much sleep over, and that a coach who tells said player to "go piss up a rope" (or whatever) is pretty commonplace, too. Along those lines: We spoke to five Cowboys-related people on Friday afternoon in search of other leads (no, we didn't get hold of Ellis yet) and none of them had any knowledge of Newy's story. In the early evening, we got word of another journalist who spoke to Ellis and confirmed the gist of the story. Still, it wasn't exactly causing Cowboys employees to jump out of Valley Ranch windows. (Of course, Valley Ranch is an expansive one-story building, so we wouldn't have accrued much suicidal damage anyway.)
I'd rather hang around the barroom, the water cooler and the barbershop and chew the fat about any unimportant Cowboys controversy than any "important" baseball story, wouldn't you?
Newy's take on what he heard is that Parcells essentially tried to "bully" Ellis, and that Ellis wouldn't "back down." Part of that must represent some Newy spin: Parcells' interpersonal style IS bullying; it wasn't a strategy designed specifically for Ellis. And "back down?" This was a meeting, not a couple of grade-school kids challenging each other to meet at the flagpole at 3 o'clock! It's completely viable to believe that Parcells' position is this simple: "Don't Come Into My Office Asking For Anything. See You At Camp. Period. Goodbye. Get Me A Cup Of Water." And isn't that exactly what this franchise needs?
Was there some dissension on this club last year? Yes. Might there be some this year? Yes, and the Ellis story, like the Larry Allen story before it, reminds us that one needn't be a bad apple to conflict with Parcells. It also reminds us that one needn't be an inconsequential roster member; Pete Hunter makes a wave, it's easy for Parcells to let him drown in it. Greg Ellis makes a wave, and Cowboys fans are justified in thinking about tossing him a life preserver.
I should reiterate here: Newy is not a Cowboy basher, a muckraker or a trouble-maker. He's reporting what he hears, and opining on what he believes. So let's take a breath and count to 10 before we kill the messenger and instead attempt to evaluate the message.
And what is the message? That the potential-deposed Ellis is concerned. And that given the circumstances, he should be. That the Bullying Bill Parcells is a "despot." And that given the circumstances, he should be.
Mike Fisher is the editor of www.DallasBasketball.com and hosts a daily sports-talk show, "Fish For Lunch,'' noon-to-3 on 990 Texas Talk Radio (990am in North Texas, and www.990texastalkradio.com on the web.) Contact him at Fish@DallasBasketball.com.