Parcells retires from coaching


Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

IRVING, Texas — Bill Parcells could have returned to the Dallas Cowboys for one more shot at becoming the first coach to lead three teams into the Super Bowl.

He could have come back to try ending the longest playoff drought in the franchise's proud history. Or he could have come back to finish what he started in developing quarterback Tony Romo and a 3-4 defense.

Instead, 15 days after a gut-wrenching playoff loss in Seattle, Parcells decided Monday to call it a career, ending a four-year run in Dallas and a 19-year tenure in the NFL that included three Super Bowls and two championships.

"I am retiring from coaching football," Parcells said in a statement. "I want to thank Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones for their tremendous support over the last four years. Also, the players, my coaching staff and others in the support group who have done so much to help. Dallas is a great city and the Cowboys are an integral part of it. I am hopeful that they are able to go forward from here."

Known for a gruff demeanor and colorful quotes, Parcells leaves with the ninth-most wins in NFL history and a career record of 183-138-1. He was 34-32 in Dallas, counting two playoff losses. He had one year left at more than $5 million on a contract extension signed last January.

"I am in good health and feel lucky to have been able to coach in the NFL for an extended period of time," the 65-year-old coach said.

Although he failed to make the Cowboys champions again, Parcells leaves the Cowboys better than he found it. The club went from three straight 5-11 seasons before he arrived to making the playoffs twice in four years.

"His contributions to the game of football and to the NFL are immeasurable," team owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "We will always be grateful for his dedicated effort and commitment to the Dallas Cowboys."

Parcells expected big things in 2006 and, thanks to the emergence of Romo, Dallas had a two-game division lead in December. Then the Cowboys lost four of their final five games, including the last three. The capper came against the Seahawks after Romo bungled the hold of a short field goal with a little more than a minute left.

"I did the best I could," Parcells said following that game. "But it wasn't quite good enough."

The going theory was that Parcells wouldn't end his career that way. The longer he waited to make an announcement, the likelier it seemed that he would return — especially since he was going to his office every day.

Then came Monday's statement via a morning e-mail. He didn't even hold one last news conference to entertain with old stories and witty lines.

But Parcells isn't exactly rushing out the door.

"Bill will continue to come to work here at Valley Ranch throughout at least the end of this week, and we will continue to meet and address the present status of our team while also discussing the future," Jones said. "Clearly, we wanted Bill to return for next season, but I am completely understanding and respectful of his decision to retire from coaching."

A team spokesman said Jones and Parcells will discuss various aspects of the organization — though not necessarily whom Parcells thinks should take his place.

Expect Jones to handle that himself, as he's done with varying degrees of success since buying the team in 1989.

His first two hires, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, combined to win three Super Bowls, keeping up the reputation started by Tom Landry.

But the Cowboys haven't even won a playoff game since 1996, under Switzer. Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and now Parcells all tried and failed.

"To our fans, I would like them to know that it is still all about winning," Jones said. "We have made progress on that front in the recent past, and we will continue to build on that progress with the belief that we have to do better."

While Parcells spent the last two weeks-plus deciding whether to return, four other teams picked new coaches and a fifth, Oakland, is well into its search.

Jones has given no indication of what kind of coach he'd hire next. The only hint in his statement was this: "Bill's coaching the Cowboys represented a willingness to embrace a different philosophy and approach toward winning. This experience will reinforce that willingness to be flexible."

Jones could go for proven commodities like Tennessee's Jeff Fisher or Bill Cowher, recently resigned from Pittsburgh, but both would require compensation for their teams and massive salaries. He also might chase a big-name college coach, from Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to Southern California's Pete Carroll, who replaced Parcells in New England a decade ago.

Or, maybe Jones will pursue Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, or former NFL coaches like San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips or San Francisco offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner would be a popular choice locally; he called plays for Dallas' Super Bowl team in 1992 and remains close to Troy Aikman.

All candidates will have to accept Jones being the general manager. That might have driven away others before, but four years of avoiding ego clashes with Parcells likely has changed his reputation.

The next coach also will face a decision of what to do about receiver Terrell Owens, who is due a roster bonus in March. T.O. certainly isn't Parcells' problem any more.

The first time Parcells walked away from coaching, his heart was an issue. The next time he supposedly was content that coaching was out of his system.

He turned down several chances to return before accepting Jones' offer. He said he took it because he liked the challenge of trying to make the Cowboys champions again, comparing it to playing on the main stage instead of being a lounge act.

After four well-paid years, Parcells could be serious about retiring this time. He's already built a home in Saratoga, N.Y., to spend his post-football days near his family and the racetrack.

Parcells' influence will remain because of all the coaches who worked for him, from three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick of New England to New Orleans' Sean Payton, this past season's coach of the year. Tom Coughlin of the Giants and Romeo Crennel of Cleveland also paid their dues under Parcells.

"Bill's an excellent football coach and a very good friend," Coughlin said. "We're going to miss Bill Parcells on the sideline and we'll miss him in the NFC East. I look forward to the continuation of our friendship at a different level now. I think Bill's looking forward to having the opportunity to do some of the things he truly wants to do. I wish him well."

Parcells' specialty in football was defense. His greatest trait as a coach, though, was his ability to turn around downtrodden clubs.

All four teams he coached had losing records before he arrived, but all four were in the playoffs by his second season. No other coach has taken that many franchises to the postseason.

"We're losing one of our all-time great coaches in our profession," Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

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