The Buc Stops Here

The eyes of the country turned to Dallas and the changing of the guard. While some may deny it, the Cowboys are still of interest and America's Team. Else why would ESPN offer up the press conference and post-pone their six o'clock sportscast?

Let's go live to Valley Ranch," so began the onslaught of information eclipsing anything of note in the sporting world. Jerry Jones, the master manipulator and P.T. Barnum of the NFL once again caused fingers to pound keyboards and pens race over paper.

He turned the national eye away from the college bowl games and focused them on a press conference announcing a coaching change of the Cowboys.

"Bill Parcells is the most qualified coach in our sport…," Jones mused. "There is no doubt in my mind, that when the opportunity presented itself for Bill Parcells to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, we took it."

Jerry took more than a risk in luring Parcells from his retirement. Jones also took the Bucs for a journey down a somewhat painful memory lane.

Just this time last year Bill Parcells and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were courting. Vows were ultimately exchanged. But before the couple could dash off to the nearest NFL motel to consummate the relationship, Parcells had a change of heart. He suddenly removed himself from the ranks of the Bucs employee roles and sent the Tampa Bay management into a frenzy to fill his shoes.

Ultimately they hired John Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders. A feat that cost the Bucs several top draft picks in the future and 8 million dollars. The Bucs petitioned the league for compensation when Parcells ended up in Dallas.

Rich McKay, the Bucs General Manager commented after no compensation was granted by the league commissioner Paul Tagliabuie, that the Bucs needed to put this behind them and get back to the business of winning. What may be lost here are the whys and wherefores of Parcells joining the Cowboys instead of the Buccaneers.

Parcells stated flatly in his remarks to the press about Jones, "He didn't have to convince me very much. I could tell he wanted to win. That's something that's important to me, because I've never felt like there is a totality to that everywhere." And that sums up the difference Mr. McKay as to why Parcells is in Dallas and not in Tampa Bay.

Jones has a commitment to winning. A hackneyed phrase right out of an Oakland Raiders media guide. Yet everything about Jerry over the past 14 years suggest that is his core. Where Jones has dropped the ball in the past, since Jimmy Johnson was his first head coach, was his belief in the importance of having a winning coach in regard to winning itself.

Parcells brings with his 15 years of experience a 149-106-1 record. Only Dan Reeves 197 wins in 22 years and Marty Shottenheimer's 166 in 17 years of service are better amongst working head coaches in the league. Yet only Reeves can match Parcells in Super Bowl visits. And among the coaches leading teams in 2003, Parcells has more Super Bowl wins than any other accept Mike Shanahan.

Unlike the Tampa Bay team where being in the play-offs is a goal, Dallas has been to the mountaintop and won. And part of the commitment to winning is writing the paychecks and underwriting whatever it takes to get there. Something the Glazer family in Tampa have shown a reluctantancy to become involved both financially and intellectually. Lip service to winning is the easy part and the Bucs pay dividends here.

"Deep down, you know whom you really have to fight and whom you don't really have to fight," Parcells said. A comment on the difficulties of winning when an organization isn't as committed as the coach.

Few teams could offer an unbridled aggressive attitude to all out winning like the Cowboys. And this desire to regain the top caused Jones to return the call to Parcells when the initial contact was made.

But winning also means having a united front. The most asked question during the press-querade is how Jerry, with his unfettered ego, and Bill with his demand for autonomy, can mesh.

"We are both kind of in the same place, and we both want to go to the same place," Parcells said. "I'll make my very best effort to bring what I can to the table, and I know Jerry and the support staff here will do the same thing." That can mean only one thing. First the play-offs and then the Super Bowl. The goals are clearly defined and all parties will work in unison.

It remains to be seen if Parcells can pull another rabbit out of his hat. But Dallas is poised with cap space and high draft picks and a few good men. The defense is close to play-off caliber. The addition of a defensive tackle and cornerback and this squad becomes a beast.

Offense is where Parcells should focus his attention. Bring in skill players that can move the chains and change the scoreboard. He hasn't shied away from taking offense in the past. With the Patriots he selected Drew Bledsoe and made him into a 4000-yard per year man.

The eyes of the country turned to Dallas and the changing of the guard. While some may deny it, the Cowboys are still of interest and America's Team. Else why would ESPN offer up the press conference and post-pone their six o'clock sportscast?

Yet issues that change the team will be on a short lease with the new regime. Information will be tight because Parcells is not the most gracious coach in dealing with the press.

"I don't always feel compelled to tell everything I know though. I'm always interested in collecting information, not necessarily exchanging it." A new development from the last owner of the Dallas hot-seat.

The exchange of information on how to build a champion should pass from Bill to Jerry without a hitch. The real conundrum begs an answer. Will Parcells tell Jerry everything? Because if Jones can create a media event to capitalize on free publicity, Parcells perhaps should pass the buck.

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