Parcells' QB Prescience

IRVING, TX. - Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has done a brilliant job of dousing the flames of his supposed "quarterback controversy.''

If, that is, one can "douse'' with a blowtorch. The boss has spent the week on review of the season-opening loss at Jacksonville fielding questions about Drew Bledsoe's three-interception performance in the 27-17 loss. But he's never actually answered the questions. He hasn't even deflected them, really.

Early in the week, Parcells called it "Assignment-of-Blame Day.'' Asked about the QB position -- for the first time all summer a legit question given Drew's inaccuracy on a number of throws, including ones that weren't intercepted -- Parcells barked back with momentary authority.

"I don't think that should be a consideration, right now, do you?" Parcells said. "Don't make anything out of this, because Bledsoe's starting next Sunday, that's it.''

Good. Excellent.

"Don't make anything out of this'' -- and that's the end of the controversy. It was doused. Bill, you had me at "That's it.''

But then the coach added: "Now we'll see what goes on from there . . . But that shouldn't be the story today, because it's a non-story. It really is. ... That time (to make a change) is not now. Is that clear enough?''

Bad. Not excellent. Not clear enough at all. To Bledsoe's credit, he understands that he deserves most of the abuse being heaped on him this week. Deserves it because he played poorly. And deserves it because that's how the QB position works.

"I know it's there,'' Drew says. "It's the nature of the beast. It's the position I play. But. ... there is no positive to it, so I focus on what I'm doing.''

I get that. I get what Bledsoe is doing in the wake of a poor start. I am struggling, however, to get what Parcells is doing because of all the "yets" and "nows" and "at-this-points."

There are simply certain times and certain situations when you don't want to hear "yets" and "nows" and "at-this-points." When you ask your sweetheart if she loves you. When you ask your tax preparer if he's sure. When you ask the pilot if that malfunction has been repaired.

And when you ask your coach if the starting quarterback is OK.

Maybe Parcells' inability -- unwillingness? -- to defuse the notion of a quarterback controversy in Dallas is simply the result of something hovering in the North Texas air, where for reasons no thinking football observer can understand, people used to wonder if this Staubach kid is really better than Craig Morton and is this Aikman kid really better than Steve Pelluer (and Steve Walsh)?

And now, is this Bledsoe guy really better than one of the most decorated quarterbacks in small-college history?

So why doesn't Bill Parcells eliminate this potential distraction, which he could do with a simple wave of his verbal wand? There are four possible explanations:

1) Parcells is such an admirer of Tony Romo that he sincerely and honestly wants to keep his options open. Now, as we've said in this space before, the Cowboys braintrust truly does envision Romo as being a potential Drew Brees type. But no matter how enamored the club is with Romo, there is no justification for intentionally throwing Bledsoe under the bus. Besides, Parcells being "sincere and honest'' with the media? C'mon.

2) Parcells is being sloppy. The impression of QB instability that he is leaving is unintentional, and the problem spins out of control when he misspeaks. Once again, and let's all say it skeptically together: "C'mon.'' From his hair to his sideline demeanor to his control of the media to his management of his team, there is very little about Bill Parcells that qualifies as "sloppy.'' No, Parcells bumbling through press conferences, day after day, accidentally stepping into the same beartrap? Impossible.

3) Parcells is attempting to light a fire under his quarterback, and for that matter, the rest of his team. Don't let anybody get too comfy? Makes sense. And it certainly follows a pattern of management style in Dallas. Think of all the Cowboys names who've found themselves on eggshells: From Roy Williams and his weight to Terry Glenn and his manhood to Flozell Adams and his St. Bernard-like demeanor to Julius Jones' supposed fragility to Terrell Owens being unworthy of being mentioned by name, Parcells uses words as firestarters. He's got that blowtorch at the ready, like a gunfighter with the thing holstered at his side.

4) Parcells has a deep, non-manipulative concern: Drew Bledsoe, in his 14th NFL season, is hurting. Is it possible that Bledsoe's back is giving him trouble? That Parcells is simply walking the tightrope between preparedness and secrecy? That Tony Romo will frequently be seen warming up on the sideline this season when he gets word that Bledsoe is ailing? That Bledsoe himself will frequently be seen warming up on the sideline, too, between Cowboys possessions, in an attempt to stay loose and/or test his health, a rare sight in the NFL?

On Wednesday, the subject of a quarterback controversy was broached again by the media. Parcells' response:

"I don't know. All I can do is support my player. Time is up, guys.''

"Time is up''? That wasn't blowtorch talk. Nor was it Freudian. The question is, as it applies to Drew Bledsoe: Was it prescient?

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