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Archive for Sunday, December 29, 2002

Jones, Parcells may need each other

December 29, 2002

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— Jerry Jones is back in his second-most favorite place. He is back in the headlines. This is not as good as being back in the playoffs but is a decent consolation to a man who had grown accustomed to being in both.

Jones' Dallas Cowboys have been in disrepair for too long, and so the NFL's most famous owner -- pending an inevitable lawsuit by Oakland's Al Davis claiming the title -- casts his line to land the big Tuna himself: Bill Parcells.

Parcells is the available, unretirable ex-coach of most prominence, unless it's Jones' own former hire, Jimmy Johnson.

Jones going after Johnson would have been too weird, though, like a reprise of an old George Steinbrenner-Billy Martin vaudeville act. Besides, zoning laws would have prevented Johnson's demand that Jones have Texas Stadium relocated to the Upper Keys. Another sticking point: J.J. signing a contract might have meant putting down his Heineken for several disquieting minutes.

So Jones takes aim at Parcells, who last coached in 1999 but whose resume pulses with two Super Bowl wins and the honorary title of genius, a designation that has grown during his undefeated term away from the sideline.

Many in the extended pro football family cannot fathom a peaceful marriage of Jones and Parcells, perhaps the game's two biggest off-field egos and personalities.

That's nonsense, though.

"There is no doubt in my mind it can work," Johnson said.

Mutual need is why. One has what the other craves.

In Parcells, Jones sees a map back to the Super Bowl, to winning, to leaguewide stature so grievously lost. "America's Team," once a proud title, became an invitation to derision. Who better to round up the glory again?

And in Jones, Parcells sees a vessel to take him back into the limelight. Parcells misses coaching. His ego tells him the NFL misses him as well. And the Cowboys, even tarnished, are a franchise big enough to suit him.

Both men desperately want to get back to what was the calling card of each, once: Winning.

Subplotting the whole thing is Emmitt Smith and his future in Dallas. Uncle Em turns 34 in May, wants to return and is willing to renegotiate a contract that would pay him $7 million next season.

A Jones-Parcells compromise on each man's lust for power and control -- including an agreement to likely bring back Smith -- will happen if each is convinced the other can make him a winner again. Parcells won't make money an issue ($4 mill per year will do) as long as he is convinced Jones will spend enough to give him weapons to win.

Jones' patience has been at once admirable and dumfounding.

Coach Dave Campo, 15-32 entering his swan song today at Washington, has figureheaded three years of wheel-spinning. The Cowboys have been a ghost of their proud past for a long while, six years removed from their most recent playoff victory. Dallas' record since its last Super Bowl victory is 50-65.

So the canning of Campo is imminent as another Super Bowl tournament is set to commence with Jones and Dallas peering in through a knothole. After the firing, Jones will oblige the NFL's new mandate by "seriously considering" a minority candidate (wink, wink) before offering the job to Parcells. Dolphins offensive coordinator Norv Turner is Jones' backup plan, but it's hard to imagine Parcells saying no.

Unretiring is de rigeur in the NFL these days.

Marty Schottenheimer and Dick Vermeil unretired as coaches. One imagines Parcells' ballyhooed return might even draw Johnson in off his fishing boat. Or lure Joe Gibbs in off pit row. Who knows? This might even signal the tag-team return of Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.

Suddenly, I am picturing a bumper sticker: Don Shula: Tanned and Rested ...

It isn't just coaches like Parcells who can't stand being away from the game.

Cris Carter unretired. So did Herman Moore, for about a minute. Now Deion Sanders bugles his possible return next season.

Troy Aikman unretirement rumors pop up like groundhogs. Same with Barry Sanders. And Terrell Davis. I still get e-mails urging Dan Marino to reconsider. I think Brett Favre is hinting he might retire purely for the pleasure of then unretiring.

In the matter of Parcells, he has plenty left to give and would be a pleasant readdition to an NFL coaching corps that has lost a ton of flavor since the blustery days of Johnson, Ryan and Ditka.

Parcells once gave an interview while riding a stationary bike and eating a Dove bar.

How can you not love they guy?

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