Kudos to Big Bill for flexing his muscle here. Continuity is a good thing.
Emptying out the mid-week notebook:
The Cowboys' shifting staff: Word from Valley Ranch is that Tony Sparano will be blocked from moving to New Orleans with Sean Payton. Dallas boss has the right to keep Sparano, and while Tony's work as the supervisor of the Cowboys' offensive line doesn't exactly make him a hot commodity to the rest of the league, kudos to Big Bill for flexing his muscle here. Continuity is a good thing.
More credit to Parcells for "creating'' so-called "Parcells Guys.'' Most coaches are creatures of habit, which explains why speculation about a new offensive coordinator skips right over "name brands'' like Mike Martz and instead focuses on Chris Palmer, a long-time "Parcells Guy.'' But I'm impressed that the head coach has found ways to have top assistants be "made'' and not just "born.'' Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, now likely staying in Dallas after interviewing elsewhere, qualifies. So does an emerging top defensive aide, Todd Bowles. Neither Zimmer or Bowles "grew up'' with Parcells; instead, they and he have worked hard to be on the same page. Same thing on offense, where Payton was not truly a "Parcells guy,'' but sort of became one. Moving up the offensive ladder, we believe, will be Todd Haley, part of the Parcells family tree. A gifted guy just a notch lower on the totem pole is running backs coach Anthony Lynn. He's been here just one season, yet you can see that relationship develop with the boss.
We reported here last week that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was prepared to sign a one-year re-up with flagship radio station KLUV-FM -- but for $2.5 mil, almost one-fourth of the usual fee. Well, now we hear the reason that deal has fallen through: Jerry is upset that the somewhat embarrassing dollar figures leaked out. (Oops. Sorry.) So what does Jerry do now? Buying a radio station at this late date seems unlikely. It would probably be easier to forge a quickie relationship with a radio company that has an established radio network throughout Texas, deal with that for one season, and then in 2007 launch a well-conceived plan that could include a radio station that is a Cowboys property.
Not long ago, conventional wisdom held that the baddest boys, the worst behave'ers, were your Dallas Cowboys. Recently, the Minnesota Vikings injected themselves into the misbehavior contest. I've long believed that there are 32 teams that employ athletes who behave in ways they wouldn't want to tell their mothers about, and every day my argument is given more exhibits. Or didn't you notice that the almost-undefeated and almost-sainted Colts have a starting cornerback with a knife wound in his knee? Or didn't you notice that the NFC Championship Game favorite Seahawks probably need to keep bail money at hand, just in case?
And if you look hard enough, you'll find the Steelers and the Broncos and the Panthers have skeletons in their closet, White Houses in their neighborhoods and Love Boats at their docks. I promise you they do.
If you believe that the freedom given Gary Gibbs to leave Valley Ranch to join Payton is some sort of sign of dissatisfaction with Gibbs' work with the Cowboys, you believe right.
So the Final Four QBs are Delhomme, Hasselbeck, Plummer and Roethlisberger, and since none of them was a first-pick-in-the-draft guy, that's proof that you don't need a great quarterback to win, right?
Wrong. Ridiculously wrong.
Think in a non-linear way with us for a moment: If you can get to the Final Four with ex-mid-round picks and street free agents and previous-life flops, think what you could do with a Troy Aikman?
The advance to the Final Four of teams without Aikmans make it look like you can do it without one. In fact, all it really does is emphasize how ahead-of-the-game a team would be -- and ahead of Carolina, Seattle, Denver and Pittsburgh, too -- with a true franchise QB.
I'm always amused (and no longer amazed) at the "draft experts'' who pretend they know which player will go where and to which team -- especially when they attempt to do so in, say, December. You'll recall in this space some skepticism regarding Matt Leinhart as the "lock as No. 1'' back in November, not because we don't like Leinhart, but because it was simply too early to make such a declaration. And son of a gun, a month later he wasn't even the best player on his own team. And by the time we get to the Scouting Combine, there will be people you've never heard of creeping up on Leinhart and the rest, too.
Trust me on this: This week, I talked casually to a Baltimore scout, a Dallas staffer, a Chargers assistant and a Denver assistant coach. None of their teams have assembled a "Big Board'' ranking players in prospective draft order. If the Ravens, Cowboys, Chargers and Broncos don't bother having a projected draft order, how can you believe Mel Kiper Jr.'s?
Is it just me, or is the hullabaloo made over a player who hustles sort of offensive? Yes, it was impressive to see Patriots tight end Ben Watson "hustle'' to run down Denver's Champ Bailey post-interception (and it is also interesting to y'all that both are U of Georgia guys), but. ... well, play this game with me: The Cowboys just drafted you. It's what you've worked for all your life. It's a dream come true! If you, sir, played in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, wouldn't you hustle?
The folks at Valley Ranch are preparing to head to the Senior Bowl, and this is where the way Jerry Jones handles his business comes in so handy: the coach analyzes people his way, as does the staff. Scouts do their thing. And in Dallas, an added bonus: Jones is part of the evaluation process, in his way. No, it's not Jerry with a stopwatch; it's Jerry with 50 years of dealing with people, reading people, knowing people. Invaluable.