Ex-Cowboy Assistants Seek SB Glory

When Tony Dorsett ceremoniously handled the trophy to the NFC titlists on Sunday, the bittersweet joke revealed itself: "As long as we're held hostage by Bill Parcells, that's about as close as a Cowboy is going to get to a championship,'' you might have moaned into your Fritos.

There are, however, Cowboys ties in the coaching leadership of both the NFC champion Bears and the AFC champion Colts, the two teams that will vie in Super Bowl XLI in Miami on Sunday. Neither of them made massive impacts during their time at Valley Ranch; in fact, it could be argued that neither Wade Wilson or Ron Meeks accomplished much in Dallas that would hint that they would someday be pivotal difference-makers in a Super Bowl.

Wilson was a Cowboys backup QB from 1995-97. He was part of a long chain of solid insurance policies who played behind Troy Aikman. He was also a product of East Texas State, a former Pro Bowl quarterback with the Vikings, and a guy whose easy-going southern style made him a good fit as an Aikman sounding board. When he was finished playing, he was hired by the Cowboys to be a quarterbacks coach -- no coincidence that his first year as a coach came while Aikman was still playing -- and from 2000-02 he supervised the likes of Clint Stoerner.

Hardly the stuff of Super Bowl futures.

But in 2004, he joined the Bears. He again oversaw QBs who are something less than Hall-of-Fame quality -- before there was the whipping boy Rex Grossman, there was the whipping boy Kyle Orton -- but Wilson's approach took hold. And Grossman is the unlikely triggerman for a team that outscored the Saints 39-14.

Wilson has said that when plans are laid for teams and players, politics come into play.

"Somewhat, yes," Wilson said. "The higher you are drafted, the more they would like you to succeed because it makes management types look a little smarter or whatever. There certainly are politics involved. Salary comes into that, as well. It's been that way as long as I can remember."

So it's sort of odd that against all odds, a former eighth-round draft pick from East Texas State who was once deemed not good enough to stick with the Cowboys as a coach is about to be thrust into the Super Bowl spotlight, as the mentor for Grossman, who seems poised to serve as an all-time punchline. (For instance, when Grossman celebrated the end of the game by launching the ball into the stands. ... I thought he was trying to throw a screen pass.)

And speaking of punchlines. ... How about that Colts defense?

It was only a few weeks ago that Colts QB Peyton Manning complained that he and the offense could not completely carry Indianapolis, that "it's not like basketball'' where the same guys play at both ends of the floor. Indy, which allowed 100 yards rushing to every single opponent this year, has shifted defensive gears in the playoffs, manhandling Larry Johnson and the Chiefs, allowing next to nothing to Jamal Lewis, Steve McNair and the Ravens, and in the AFC title game, surviving Tom Brady and the Patriots.

One of the brains behind it all? Some guy named Ron Meeks. And if you don't remember Wade Wilson being a Cowboys assistant. ... you damn sure don't remember Ron Meeks.

This will be the third Super Bowl staff Meeks has worked on; he was with St. Louis in 2001 and with Atlanta in 1998. He was, however, a small contributor on the Cowboys' '90's Super Bowl path. In 1991, after having begun his coaching career at his alma mater Arkansas State (where Larry Lacewell is a god), one of his stips was the University of Miami (where Jimmy Johnson is a god.). In '91, the Cowboys added him as a defensive assistant.

What were his duties? I vaguely recall joking to him that when Jimmy needed a pencil sharpened, he asked Wannstedt, who asked Butch, who asked Campo, who got Meeks to sharpen Jimmy's pencil.

But now, Meeks has sharpened up the Colts defense to the point is it certainly not a liability. After falling behind 21-3, the Colts allowed New England virtually nothing in the second half.

"I knew we had played nowhere near our capability, nor with the energy and sense of urgency I believed we had in us,'' Meeks said recently. "So, there was criticism and rightfully so. . . . Nobody wants to hear that you've got guys out injured. People just expect you to put a product on the field. And that's my job, to get that product working. . . . But throughout it all, (head coach) Tony (Dungy) was great. He just allowed me to keep doing my thing."

Meeks will soon get head-coaching interviews. Wilson might not be far behind. Both of them are "doing their thing'' -- even if, during their times with the Cowboys, nobody was quite sure what they're "thing'' was.

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