Parcells Leaves Miami In Better Shape?

Bill Parcells is considered the architect of modern NFL Football. But questions surround the Super Bowl coach's recent stints in Dallas and now Miami. Did Parcells leave Miami in better shape than when he arrived?

Wherever he is these days, Bill Parcells -- who recently cleaned out his office at the Miami Dolphins' headquarters and will apparently pursue his duties as executive vice president from somewhere other than on-site at the team premises -- probably is hopping mad with frustration.

During his 19 seasons as a head coach, Parcells used to regularly suggest that he primarily wanted two things from his quarterback: avoid turnovers and get the ball into the end zone when provided the opportunity.

A pretty simple recipe, right, even if Parcells probably wasn't the first to conjure up the two-pronged formula, and maybe just the best to articulate it. Parcells wasn't one to fret over statistics such as yards per attempt or completion percentage or passer rating. Secure the ball, don't beat yourself, and give the other guys a long field. And when you get the ball into the red zone, don't settle for field goals.

It has been four seasons since Parcells coached what was presumed to be his last NFL game, since 2003 since he piloted a double-digit winner, and the simple blueprint for success in the league hasn't changed a whole lot in his absence. Parcells might be delivering his sage nuggets long-distance these days - probably from the finish line at Saratoga, given his affinity for thoroughbreds and bloodlines and long shots - but the advice still holds.

Much has been made this week, and rightly so, of the replay-reviewed non-fumble with just over two minutes remaining in Miami loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday. Angry Dolphins fans, and some radio talk-show rabble-rousers have pointed out that two members of the officiating crew that day are from the Pittsburgh area.

As for Tony Sparano, the Parcells disciple who just happens to be the Miami coach ... well, he fumed over the call, as he should have. But echoing the sentiments of his mentor, stealing a page from the first chapter of the Parcells manual for quarterback play, he noted that the Dolphins would not have been in a position to fritter away the game had they scored touchdowns, not field goals, on their first two possessions.

And his players agreed.

"You get two breaks like we did, right off the bat to start the game, you've got to take advantage and score (touchdowns)," acknowledged quarterback Chad Henne.

To refresh readers' memories: Miami began its first two possessions, following Steelers fumbles, at the Pittsburgh 22- and 13-yard lines. Both times, the Dolphins settled for Dan Carpenter field goals. There is a world of difference in a 14-0 lead and a 6-0 edge less than four minutes into a game. And much of it, agreed some players around the league this week, is psychological.

Down 6-0, you're just one Ben Roethlisberger pass away from the lead. A two-touchdown advantage in the NFL certainly isn't insurmountable. But the mountain definitely is a lot steeper.

"I'm not saying there is a letdown or anything after a field goal," said Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White, who is gaining note, particularly after last Sunday's 201-yard performance, as one of the NFL's premier pass-catchers. "But you (subconsciously) feel like you could have done more. It's one thing to kick a 50-yard field goal. It's another feeling when you make, like, a 25-yarder."

Added Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez: "You feel like you kind of left something out on the field."

And on the scoreboard, too, it might be correctly posited.

Raw statistics might suggest that there isn't a whole lot to red-zone touchdown success. Only six of the top 10 teams in the league in terms of red-zone touchdown efficiency have winning records at this point in the season. Notably, of the bottom 10 teams in red-zone touchdown percentage, there are also six with winning marks. Only three teams in the top 10 among field-goal attempts per game - normally an indicator of red-zone shortcomings - have losing records.

The numbers indicate that scoring period - not just scoring touchdowns - might be the imperative. But the numbers don't necessarily reflect the way things really are.

Take the latest pratfall by the woebegone Dallas Cowboys, the disastrous loss to the New York Giants on Monday night. The Cowboys started the game with a pair of takeaways on the Giants' first two series and began drives at the New York 5- and 18-yard lines. Dallas cashed in the first opportunity on a touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten, but stalled on the second and got a 26-yard field goal.

The outcome of the game might not have been any different had the Cowboys gotten a touchdown on that second series, particularly with the subsequent clavicle injury to starting quarterback Tony Romo, but Dallas' failure in the red zone breathed some life into a fairly moribund New York sideline. Ironic, of course, is that Parcells once coached both teams involved.

"When the defense held (Dallas to a field goal), there was a feeling that things were back in order," said Giants wide receiver Steve Smith. "Despite a (rocky) start, we were able to settle down a little. Our chances were good."

Chances are good, too, that no matter where Parcells is bivouacking these days, he was paying attention.

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