Cowboys need Parcells' trademark finish

November 28th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Cowboys need Parcells' trademark finish


Associated Press

IRVING, Texas - More than ever, the Dallas Cowboys need the old Bill Parcells, the one who used to coach the Giants, Patriots and Jets.
At all three stops, Parcells had an amazing knack for making his teams better as seasons went along. Whatever problems they had the first three months, he usually found answers by the time Thanksgiving came. That's how he won two Super Bowls with the Giants, got the Patriots to one and came a win away with the Jets.
The Cowboys haven't had anywhere near that kind of success in Parcells' first three seasons. It's probably no coincidence that they've been pretty lousy in December, too.
Consider this:
In 15 seasons with the Giants, Patriots and Jets, Parcells' teams were an outstanding 51-24 over the final five games of each seasons. He had a winning record 13 times, including three 5-0 finishes.
In Dallas, however, the Cowboys have gone 2-3 all three years. That's more losing records than he had at all his other stops combined.
This season, though, could be different. It should be different. In fact, it better be different or else Parcells' reputation will take a hit.
"All I know is that we're a team that's got time to take advantage of getting a lot better," team owner Jerry Jones said after the Cowboys beat Tampa Bay on Thursday for their third straight win. "We don't have to say 'Next year, this ...' or 'Next year, that ...'"
Why use the final five games as a barometer? Because Parcells always says so.
Every year, he defers sizing up a season until after Thanksgiving. Maybe he does it to avoid answering questions, but his track record indicates he knows what he's talking about. By letting a season play out, you see hot teams get cold, cold teams get hot, and injuries that can change everything.
In late November, things will have fallen into place one way or another, with enough time left that the clubs still in the race can do something about it - which is exactly what is happening to Dallas now.
Since Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe the Cowboys are 4-1 and are doing things elite teams do.
They made big plays in the fourth quarter to beat unbeaten Indianapolis at home, then came back a few days later to rout inferior Tampa Bay.
They're committing fewer penalties (certainly fewer costly ones) and turning over the ball a lot less than they did early in the season. At least three of Dallas' four losses could be traced to those bugaboos.
Uncontrollable things seem to be going the Cowboys' way, too, from a favorable schedule to a lack of costly injuries. The only recognizable names on the injured list are linebacker Greg Ellis and kick returner Tyson Thompson. While losing Ellis was a big blow, the team is 2-0 without him.
At 7-4, Dallas is first in the NFC East, a game ahead of the New York Giants. Chicago (9-2) is the only NFC team with more wins.
Dallas was in a similar position last season, except for one thing: The Cowboys were coming off a demoralizing Thanksgiving loss. Now they're coming off what Jones calls the best back-to-back performances in 10 years.
Parcells usually will only say they look "pretty good." Yet Thursday he made a point of telling the public he thinks they are capable of doing more.
"I think my team is more mentally geared for the battle," he said. "This confidence thing is a word that's used ambiguously and vague. I have always felt like you don't really have genuine confidence unless you demonstrate the ability to do something. Recently, we are starting to demonstrate the ability."
Now they've got to keep it up, starting Sunday on the road against the Giants.
A loss would stop the Cowboys' momentum and make winning the division more difficult. While technically they'd be tied at 7-5, New York would have the tiebreaker, meaning Dallas would have to finish with one more win than New York to still win the East. It's doable, just difficult with only four games left.
But if the Cowboys win, spirits would be soaring, as would their chances of winning the division. They'd also be eyeing New Orleans and Seattle for a first-round bye and perhaps even Chicago for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The last time Dallas enjoyed either of those rewards? 1995, the year of the Cowboys' last Super Bowl title. And, as most fans are painfully aware, the club hasn't won a playoff game since 1996.
After the Giants, the Cowboys play the Saints at home in a game that's already so anticipated that kickoff has been changed to prime time. Dallas ends the season with three games against teams possibly playing out disappointing seasons: at Atlanta, then home for Donovan McNabb-less Philadelphia, and the finale against the lowly Lions.
"This year, guys really know opportunities are there," said cornerback Aaron Glenn, who was part of Parcells' tremendous closing kicks with the Jets. "These opportunities don't come around too often."
They certainly haven't in Dallas.

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