The Doctor (Parcells) Is In

IRVING, TX -- Let's get this clear: Wondering why Cowboys followers want to hear from Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is like a patient expressing befuddlement over why the doctor wants to check his heart rate, shine a flashlight into his ears, and poke around the ol' prostate.

I'm not attempting to toss a match into the apparent media-vs.-fans debate regarding Punxatawney Bill's rare offseason state-of-the-team addresses; The fans are on the coach's side (which is understandable), and the media is, after all, an ungodly conglomeration of fat people with dandruff who could never really play sports and therefore have an inferiority complex. (Stretched skin, dry skin and thin skin: The Unholy Trio of the Sportswriter's Condition).

But. ...

Dr. Parcells recently addressed the patient, stethescope around his neck, flashlight in one hand, rubber glove enveloping the other. And if we listened closely -- ignoring whatever biases we have about his bedside manner -- we were given great insight into the Body Cowboy. No, not Sunday's declaration that Bill, after fielding 35 T.O. questions two days earlier, would no longer speak on the issue.

That was, well, silly. And if the media had any balls to go along with all its skin problems, it would've ignored the coach's order and asked anything it damn pleased.

No, it was last Friday's 51-minute dissertation that truly took us inside the mind of the coach and inside the heart of the team. Three important examples:

BILL VS. JERRY: I once barked this into the face of Skip Bayless, the former Dallas-based reporter who is a sort of leper in all the towns he's worked despite his high profile nationally. "Why,'' I asked Bayless, "do you make up stories about the Cowboys when there are so many real, true stories unfolding at Valley Ranch every day?''

Then, with such easy access to the team, Skip had no excuse.

Do reporters writing about the Cowboys of today have one? After all, there might be stories occuring at the Ranch -- but Parcells spends a great deal of time and effort trying to keep a lid on them.

My answer is "no''; there are still truths available, and there remain avenues available to arrive at those truths, too.

Nevertheless, the "lid'' is the explanation for why so many writers (especially national writers) used Parcells' long silence to guess at the secret meaning. The No. 1 misplaced guess? Bill hates Jerry. And he hates him even more because of the Terrell Owens signing.

From what I can gather from years of one-on-one dealings with the owner: His disagreements and debates with the coach are no different, and no more frequent, than the disagreements and debates that occur in every NFL front office, or for that matter every business in America. Parcells addressed the issue:

"Contrary to what a lot of the people have been writing here, we work as a team here," said Parcells. "We make decisions as an organization and we do it collectively, more now than ever. Whatever decision we make, then we all support that. And I support whatever decisions we make in the organization. I was part of it. I continue to be part of it."

Good stuff. And it means that Parcells is devoted to the cause (though, I caution, he can "un-devote'' himself at season's end). And it means that while Bill runs the football stuff, Jerry is still his boss.

And it's a good and healthy, abnormal not because of the conflict but because of the assembled power.

GETTING STATS AT WIDE RECIEVER: Parcells talked of how Owens will make an adjustment away from the West Coast Offense, saying, "he's been in the league quite a while. I don't worry about him making that adjustment. But it is going to be different. And in this offense, you're not going to catch 100 balls. It's just not going to happen. You have to be ready for that."

By the numbers, this is notable because a) it's been a long time since T.O. has caught 100 (in 2002 with the 49ers), b) that's the only time he's ever done it, c) when he did that he also contributed 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns, so maybe 100 balls to Owens isn't such a bad idea, and d) this comment speaks to Parcells' wise handling of T.O. so far.

Some reporters have made an issue out of Parcells referring to the receiver by "Terrell'' rather than by his nickname, "T.O.'' That's stupid. Better to notice how Parcells is easing Owens --- and his public -- into realistic goals. He's telling the receiver and he's telling us not to think this is a savior situation.

A wise move.

A greater reality: Keyshawn Johnson's best Cowboys years saw him catch 70 or so passes. So Owens gets in excess of that, but something short of 100.

I'm betting no Cowboys fan will complain about that. And I'm hoping that under the steady hand of Parcells, T.O. won't, either.

AN OVERALL PHILOSOPHY: The specifics were in regard to Terrell Owens. But Parcells comments on "gambling'' and "expectations'' were insightful in a far greater big-picture way. "I don't view it as a gamble," Parcells said of the Owens acquisition. "It's in my best interest that he's successful. And it's in his best interest that he's successful. And so we really, I think want the same thing. ... The only problems I have with players is when my expectations are higher than theirs."

Good again. And wise again.

It raised eyebrows in the room full of media people who had already made up their minds regarding what they thought Parcells thought, but downplaying the "gamble" aspect was a sincere move. The Cowboys are essentially an 8-8 team with a one-year commitment to a brilliant player who will either make them better. ... or be released.

And then there is this classic line, one that has to do with every single player on the roster, one that has to do with Parcells' drive and his historic success: The only problems I have with players is when my expectations are higher than theirs."

I bet Parcells has said that to a kid 1,000 times. "My expectations for you are higher than that, son.'' Can't you hear my saying that to everybody from Lawrence Taylor in the mid-80's to a practice-squadder in the mid-2000's? Holding a press conference once ever other eclipse is not my personal preference for the way to run a pro football team. And Parcells' bullying style, and my belief that it's excessive, is well-chronicled in this space. But in one 51-minute visit with the media, Dr. Parcells offered three pieces of medical advice that spoke volumes about the future health of the Cowboys, about his relationship with and respect for the owner, about his wise handling of his sometimes-troublesome new star and about the way he motivates not just T.O., but every potential achiever he's ever coached.

The Doctor was in. And the Doctor was right on. Now if the Doctor can just do something about those media skin problems. ...

CowboysHQ Top Stories