Don't read retirement into coach's surprisingly calm behavior
Posted: Monday December 13, 2004 10:32AM; Updated: Monday December 13, 2004 3:16PM
IRVING, Texas -- I took Psych 101 -- at Ohio University 29 years ago -- the only psychology training I've ever had. I have no idea what I learned, so I can't say reading people is the thing I do best in the world.
But I have watched the facial expressions, body language and voice intonations of Bill Parcells since I covered the New York Giants in 1985 for Newsday. I know Parcells' get-out-of-my-face look, which I've gotten a couple of times. I know his far-away look that says, "You have absolutely no idea what you's talking about, so why don't you shut up now?'' I know when he gets the ultra-New Jersey accent going that he's fixing to impart a life lesson on you.
I have seen Parcells in many postgame press conferences, and I found the one after Dallas' embarrassing two-touchdown loss to New Orleans on Sunday interesting. First, there was almost no cooling-off period; I'm guessing Parcells spent maybe five minutes in the locker room -- not the 12 or 15 most coaches take, particularly after such a stupid loss. The Cowboys had everything on the line, and they played downright crummy and passionless football, yet Parcells strode into the press conference and just whipsawed into his team in an even, cool -- perhaps calculated -- voice.
"Every time we have an opportunity this year with this team to do something and to make something out of the season, we revert to the kind of thing you saw today, which was a very, very poor example of how to try to win,'' he said.
As Parcells clinically and unemotionally discussed the defeat and the character of his team, I thought: This is no act. This is the same face he just showed his players. He has prepped his team and tried to resurrect Dallas' playoff chances, and he has failed. Rather, his players have failed him.
The time for Lou Piniella-esque rants is over. Parcells has tried those with this team. He ripped into them good after a 26-3 loss at Cincinnati; it was the worst he'd harangued the Cowboys after a game since he was hired by Dallas in 2003. After a while, you can't raise your voice anymore. It's not working, so you live to fight another day.
That's what I believe Parcells is doing now. He thinks he's done what he could with the 2004 Cowboys. They have three games left, and he'll start playing guys he needs to see -- though I don't expect him to throw Drew Henson to the wolves in Philadelphia on Sunday, which could do more harm than good.
Now Parcells seems almost detached.
As he walked out of the interview room on Sunday, I stuck my hand out and said hello. "How ya doin', Peter?'' he said as he walked. "Happy holidays to you and your family.''
I thought I'd also get a disbelieving shake of the head from him. Like, can you believe this crap we saw out there today? That's what he might have done in October, when he knew there was still a chance to salvage the season. But nope. Not now. Just a handshake and a two-sentence pleasantry.
Sure, I'm inferring a lot from a quick postgame encounter. I don't think Parcells has gone soft, and I don't think he doesn't care. I do think, though, that unlike when Parcells first coached -- when he'd chain-smoke and gulp the coffee and let a loss like this one eat his insides -- he knows the hay was in the barn. He's prepared this team as he's prepared his teams for 17 coaching seasons, and if the season goes down the toilet, well, he's not going down the toilet with it.
Parcells is at an interesting point in his life. He's going to live in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., near the famed racetrack, in a new house he's having built, when he retires from the Cowboys. I say that's at least a year away, and Parcells' friends think he'll stay in Dallas for the full four years of the contract he signed with Jerry Jones 23 months ago. Whatever, Parcells will coach next year. His life here is pretty simple. Coaching, lots of chats with Jones, maybe dinner out Friday night at an Italian place he likes, maybe some trips to the see the Rangers or their visitors during the baseball season, a trip to Florida after the football season, and his old Northeast haunts for a few weeks before training camp.
My guess is, whether he can win in the next year or two with this team -- I doubt it -- he'll want to leave the Cowboys in better shape than he found them. That seemed like a lock after last season, but now I'm not so sure. There are question marks, and age, all over the Cowboys' roster. Fourteen of the 53 active Cowboys are 29 or older. Will he rebuild the defense? Will he draft another quarterback? Those, and many others, are questions for another month. But I'll tell you this: Parcells never thought his 17th season as a head coach in the NFL would end with three meaningless NFC East games.
"This year has drained him,'' Jones told me before the game. "He had much higher expectations, as we all did. And as he's been drained, it's taken away some of what he does best off the field, which is his bluster. He's just pulled back a little. The other day, I saw some of that bluster again after our back-to-back wins.''
I wouldn't expect to see much of that this week, Jerry.
THE FINE FIFTEEN
1. Pittsburgh (12-1). Jerome Bettis has my vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. New England (12-1). How lucky are the Patriots to have Troy Brown (third interception vs. Cincinnati) to ride to the rescue of their secondary?
3. Philadelphia (12-1). All Andy Reid does is win.
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
4. Indianapolis (10-3). Enjoy having Edgerrin James on this team while you can, Colts fans. He's a Raider or Dolphin or Buc or Cardinal next year.
5. San Diego (10-3). LaDainian Tomlinson today reminds me so much of Marshall Faulk in 1999.
6. New York Jets (9-4). Losing 17-6 at Pittsburgh, with one of the touchdowns a Bettis option pass, wasn't really that bad. The Steelers know they were in a battle. New York's pretty much locked into the fifth seed, which means if the Steelers win out, the winner of the Jets' wild-card game at San Diego or Indy will play a month from now at Heinz.
7. Atlanta (10-3). The Falcons pretty much clinched a first-round bye by routing the Raiders.
8. Jacksonville (7-6). One five-hundredish team you don't want to play now.
9. Buffalo (7-6). The other one.
10. Carolina (6-7). Well, then there's this one. There is no more admirable team in the NFL right now.
11. Denver (8-5). Tatum Bell just might be the next Reuben Droughns. But it'll have to be next year because of Bell's right shoulder separation.
12. Green Bay (8-5). You shouldn't have to struggle that much to beat the Detroit Lions.
13. Baltimore (8-5). I hate to not give the Ravens more credit for a 23-point win, but the Giants are about as low as it gets right now.
14. Cincinnati (6-7). I know you don't count preseason play for anything. But think of the Patriots' two outings against the Bengals this year, one in August, one in December. In six quarters with the first unit playing (even after CarsonPalmer got hurt in the second half yesterday), Cincinnati has scored 56 points on New England.
15. Tampa Bay (5-8). Pretty tough team to beat right now. I know Brian Griese coughed up a fumble and a pick to lose this one, but he, and his Bucs, have been tough and competitive since their 0-4 start.
THE AWARDS SECTION
Offensive Player of the Week
Rookie Maurice Hicks has 283 rushing yards in six games for the Niners.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
San Francisco RB Maurice Hicks, whose only remotely impressive pro outing in two previous seasons was in NFL Europe, rushed 34 times for 134 yards in a 31-28 win at Arizona. Who is he? Only the leading rusher in North Carolina A&T history.
Defensive Player of the Week
San Diego MLB Donnie Edwards. Last week, 20 tackles. This week, a game-turning interception return for touchdown off the Bucs' Griese, a 30-yarder that gave the Chargers a 28-21 lead on their way to a 31-24 win. And he had 16 tackles. And a second interception. And four passes deflected. Edwards has been tremendously clutch for this team.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Green Bay K Ryan Longwell, who won his third game in the last five weeks with a field goal in the final seconds. This time, his 23-yarder through swirling winds, his third field goal of the day, gave the Pack a 16-13 win over the Leos. "The only sure thing out there was Ryan Longwell,'' Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said.
Coach of the Week
Carolina running backs coach Jim Skipper. Stephen Davis gets hurt. Then DeShaun Foster. Then Rod Smart. Then Brad Hoover, converted fullback, runs down. Then new signee Brandon Bennett strains a hammy. Then, four games ago, here comes Nick Goings, who started the year as the backup fullback. The sixth option. Sixth! And in the 20-7 win over St. Louis, which kept the Panthers in the playoff race, Goings had his fourth straight 100-yard game. "You've got to give Jim Skipper some credit when you write about us,'' John Fox told me last week. "The job he's done in keeping our running game afloat under such adverse circumstances is beyond belief.''
Goat of the Week
St. Louis backup QB Chris Chandler. Six interceptions at Carolina, and, by my count, only one was a tipped ball. The worst thing was that Chandler looked tentative, slow-armed. I'm not exaggerating when I say I bet Joe Theismann, right now, could throw with more authority than Chandler.
FACTOID THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME
I Bet This Doesn't Happen To Ben Roethlisberger In Pittsburgh Dept.:
Recently, Eli Manning and his girlfriend were with some some Giants pals at a nightspot in New York. An eligible bacholerette noticed the soft-spoken rookie. Said bachelorette wedged herself between Eli and his main squeeze and made conversation for a while. Nothing else, just conversation.
The girlfriend looked steamed, I am told.
As Cindy Adams would say, only in New York, kids, only in New York.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"He's got four years to go on his contract, and I'm not firing him.''
-- Denver owner Pat Bowlen on coach Mike Shanahan.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Thanks to my HBO pals for giving me the idea for this one:
New Orleans has been outscored 104-0 in the last 11 first quarters.
ENJOYABLE/AGGRAVATING TRAVEL NOTE OF THE WEEK
I had the giggler and the shuffler surrounding me on my American flight to Dallas Saturday.
To my right was a 20ish gal with the Seinfeld DVD collection, making her way through year one, disc one. Mind you, Seinfeld wasn't really funny in year one. It was getting there, but not quickly. Didn't matter. Giggle. Giggle. Pfffft. Ha. Ha! Giggle. Flat-out guffaw. And so on.
Behind me was a 30ish guy and his buddy, both card players. I don't know what game they were playing. But the same guy, the guy on the left, shuffled the cards after each hand. You know the kind of shuffling the guy did -- it's the one where you shuffle, then bend the cards back and listen as they thwack-thwack-thwack back into your hands. The shuffler liked to shuffle. After the ninth or 10th hand, I said to myself: This dude's shuffling 20 times before every hand! So I decided to count. Twelve. Fifteen. Twelve. Ten. Fifteen. Seventeen. Chatting all the while.
Giggle. Shuffle. Three hours of it. Now where was it I saw the ad for those noise-canceling headphones?