Any good jeweler places his shiny diamonds on a dark velvety cloth to magnify his precious gems. Cowboy fans can do the same with coaches. Of course, any coach will ultimately be compared to Tom Landry, and few can hang with such august company. But the Cowboy's second coach, Jimmy Johnson produced three Super Bowl victories - and he wasn't even coaching for the last one. So Barry Switzer rode the momentum left behind by Johnson, winning that last championship before the team turned south. Possibly, Chan Gailey could have been a decent coach. Who knows. He didn't last long enough to show us. Such is the history of Dallas Cowboy head coaches.
Which leads us to the foil (dark velvety cloth) for Bill Parcells. Dave Campo.
No doubt, Parcells was brought in to produce a championship. He didn't accomplish that. But should we really judge his tenure solely on that fact? Are the Cowboys not truly leagues above where they were when Campo got his walking papers? Have they not moved very far in the right direction? Without a doubt.
Let me refresh your memory:
"They're a good football team. They're what we're trying to get to, but we're not there yet." -Dave Campo.
"It was a tough game, a rough game... we had a chance to get some things done today." - Dave Campo.
"That was my fault." - Dave Campo.
Yep. Ryan Leaf to Darrin Chiaverini. Just what championship teams are made of. And Dave Campo sat at the helm. Three straight 5-11 teams. THE DALLAS COWBOYS!!! The team that made playoff appearances for 20 straight years. The team that won three superbowls in four years. The team of Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and....dave campo. Yes, how far we had fallen. 5-11, 5-11, 5-11 ad infinitum.
Something happened during those three years that I had never seen before and hope I never see again. Every Dallas Cowboy fan in the world entered each season knowing we didn't have a chance. No matter that Jerry Jones was predicting ten victory seasons and shots at the post season - we knew better. We could see what was happening. Campo was (is) a nice guy. He was (is) a very good defensive coordinator. But he was a lousy head coach. He was overmatched, outcoached and befuddled. He lost control of his team and did not inspire confidence. (Admittedly, he did have a mastery over the Redskins, so we will cut him a little slack). When he limped off slowly into the good night, a sigh of relief was heard throughout the Cowboy world.
Enter Bill Parcells. He took essentially the same team that Campo led to 5 victories and put them in the playoffs in his first season as head coach. OK, he added a few of "his" players, but Quincy was behind center. 10 wins. Campo was a distant memory. So we lost that playoff game to Carolina. At least we saw something besides 5-11. Optimism returned. Perhaps that should be the Tuna's Cowboy heritage. He helped us to believe again.
Without a doubt the Testaverde 6 win season was dissapointing, but Parcells still inspired confidence and we were sure that if we just had a non-geriatric QB we might just make it. Year three started out strong, but faded in the end. But we entered this past year, knowing that we had a shot. We never felt that with Campo. Again, we returned to the Playoffs. Again we lost. Now we look to next year and expect to have a chance. Thanks, Bill.
Just as Switzer achieved championship status riding the crest of the wave left by Johnson, so Wade Phillips can ride the Parcells Tsunami toward victory. If the team goes far in the playoffs (or wins the big one, as I expect - thank you for the confidence Mr Parcells), then much of the credit should go the Parcells. Certainly, it will be Phillips retooling and re-imagining that accomplishes it and I don't want to take anything from him. But many of those cogs and pieces will be where they are because Bill was here.
Have no doubt. Landry was in a class by himself. Johnson did something few other coaches will ever be able to do. Parcells did not reach the level of either of them. But I do place him above Switzer (in ability), Gailey and Campo. The team is in much better shape as he leaves than it was when he arrived. He restored sanity and vision to a lost team. For that reason alone, it is appropriate to consider his tenure a success.
Bill Parcells came to Dallas with one purpose in mind: to win a Super Bowl. Now, I'm not going to try and argue that it was Super Bowl or bust for Parcells, but not only did he not accomplish that goal, the only goal for Jerry Jones' Cowboys, Tom Landry's Cowboys, he didn't win a division title. He didn't win a single playoff game. In fact, the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since Barry Switzer was the head coach. Parcells had four years to get it done, to "restore the luster of America's Team" and he failed. And there are no excuses. He was given plenty of time, a lot of money and carte blanche to run the franchise.
Parcells switched the Cowboys defense over to the 3-4 because it was his defense of choice. Yet, the best performance the Cowboys had defensively under his watch was in 2003, his first season when the team ran the 4-3 under Mike Zimmer. Parcells 3-4 defense was easily figured out by opposing coaches. Opponents were able to dictate to the Cowboys defense and force Roy Williams into deep coverage too many times, negating his strengths. The defensive ends were forced to stay at home and the Cowboys rarely blitzed an extra defender, which made for a non-existent pass rush, further pressuring the secondary. Parcells was unwilling, or unable to adjust. Parcells 3-4 defense looked very different when Bill Belichick was on his staff, which makes it pretty clear who the real defensive mastermind was on those teams.
Parcells is given a lot of credit for the current state of the team, because many fans believe the roster is much more talented now than it was when he arrived. And I agree, the roster is better. Much better. The biggest reason is because the organization's philosophy changed. Jerry Jones spent too many years reaching for players in the draft, too many traded away draft choices and too many bad free agent signings, trying to hold the dynasty together and keep a team around his stars, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. The roster was in bad shape when Parcells was hired. But he was fully aware of the situation and he had draft choices and plenty of money and cap space to use and rebuild the team. And he did. I give him credit for that. He certainly didn't hit on all of them. Stephen Peterman and Jacob Rogers were horrible draft choices, and the Cowboys don't have a starter on the offensive line drafted by Parcells. There were plenty of free agency misses too, like Ryan Young and Marco Rivera. But he hit on enough draft choices and free agents to rebuild the roster and field a competitive team.
The Parcells era was a failure in Dallas because ultimately it was not only his job to "buy the groceries" (and he had a credit card with a high spending limit) but it was also his job to "cook the meal." What good is dinner if the ingredients are hand picked but the chef screws it all up? Maybe the kitchen has passed Parcells by. Maybe he just couldn't grasp all the new-fangled culinary tools like the convection oven and the microwave. But a 34-32 record in 4 years, with zero division titles, zero playoff wins and yearly collapses in December and January does not constitute success to me. I wasn't the first to say it, but I'll repeat it: bad person, mediocre coach, good riddance.