What's Palmer Cut Out to Be?

Some guys, even at a young age, seem cut out to be head coaches. At Valley Ranch in the early '90's, Dave Wannstedt always showed great authority and self-confidence in carrying himself that way. He was upfront and outfront, his chest puffed proudly.

Other guys, even at an old age, seem cut out to NOT be head coaches. Another ex-Valley Rancher, Ernie Zampese, always showed great wisdom and self-awareness in turning down head-coach promotions. He was professorial and quiet, and the only thing he puffed proudly were those endless cigarettes.

The Cowboys have hired Chris Palmer to be their. ... well, their SOMETHING (more on that in a moment). And the hire begs the question: What is Chris Palmer cut out to be?

Dallas spent part of the day Monday being somewhat coy about Palmer's role under long-time associate Bill Parcells. Initial reports even suggested that he was hired without a defined job description. Later came the Cowboys' official announcement, which labeled Palmer as "quarterbacks coach.''

That, by itself, is viewed by most observers as a good thing. If Palmer is to simply replace Sean Payton as the supervisor of Drew Bledsoe and the rest of the QBs, production is to be expected. There are football people who say that Palmer's dismissal as the offensive coordinator in Houston in the first month of the season, while embarrassing, should not impact views of Palmer's ability as a position coach; an educated look at David Carr's work in Houston tells you he isn't the problem with that offense.

Additionally, Palmer's knowledge of the passing game is top-notch.

But who is Dallas' offensive coordinator? And is Palmer about to be Peter Principle'd by being forced into that role?

Even Palmer's greatest supporters concede that is is something less than a "dynamic leader.'' It is that fact, and not some shortage in the X's-and-O's department, that may have led to his departure from Houston, and certainly led to his dismissal from Cleveland, where he was the head coach in '99 and 2000 and compiled a (blecch) 5-27 record.

It would seem Palmer, at 56, qualifies as one of those "not-cut-out-to-be-a-head-coach'' guys. What we don't know is if he's cut out to be a coordinator -- or if he'll even be asked to be one.

Our understanding is that Tony Sparano's request to join Payton in New Orleans was not only denied once by Parcells -- but recently forcefully denied again. As uncomfortable as that might make things for coach Sparano for the moment, the bottom line is that Parcells clearly values him in Dallas.

So on paper, Sparano is likely to be "the running-game coordinator'' (with assistant Anthony Lynn constantly by his side), and Palmer is likely to be working with assistant Todd Haley constantly by his side also.

Of course, Sparano and Palmer will work well together; interestingly, Palmer was Sparano's college coach at New Haven.

For now, we won't look at Sparano and Palmer as being "limited'' by their somewhat unorthodox job titles, or as "promotions'' or "demotions.''

Instead, we'll hope they are good enough to be cut out to be coordinators.

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