Wednesday, February 23, 2005

IT SMELLS LIKE THE TUNA WENT BAD…

Did you hear that grimace of pain? Do you know what that sound was? That was Bill "Don’t call me Duane" Parcells, a.k.a. "The Tuna" getting kicked in the groin by Jeffri Chadiha over at SI.com Tuesday morning.

Chadiha ripped into the Tuna mystique with a scathing look at his work for the Cowboys the past two years. For instance: "the longer he sticks around Dallas, the more people are going to wonder if Bill Belichick had more to do with his success than anybody realized. I'm already thinking that, by the way. Secondly, Parcells already has significantly improved his financial situation. He lost quite a bit in his '02 divorce from his ex-wife Judy (including an undisclosed monetary settlement and two homes), but the four-year, $17.1 million deal he signed with Dallas has surely eased that pain."

For the rest of the article, click here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/jeffri_chadiha/02/22/chadiha.parcells/index.html

After Parcells kicked himself upstairs for the Jets and Belichick bailed-out on him as "HC of the NYJ" I thought his days as a coach were over. He had built his legacy, and he almost went out on top. Of course, as Chadiha suggested, Belichick achieving success without him and his divorce are factors that could have led him back into coaching. Plus, it was the COWBOYS, America’s team, the Landry legend, as American as apple pie, that offered a unique challenge.

Parcells success with the Giants is irrefutable. He took a bad team in a strong division and made them a consistent contender and two-time Super Bowl champion. He left the Giants on top as a champion, and then let poor Ray Handley flounder as coach afterward while Belichick moved on to take a beating in Cleveland.

How the Patriots ever convinced the Tuna to come aboard remains a mystery to this day. Maybe it was the proximity to New Jersey, a chance to turnaround a moribund franchise, the money, the chance to add to his legend, but I’ll never know; however, I will always be thankful he did come to New England. What the Patriots are today is thanks to the Tuna & Drew. Without them, this team wouldn’t exist. They’d be the St. Louis Patriots and we’d be the Houston Texans. Yuck.

He turned around the Patriots, and he should have beaten the Packers. Did he hurt the team by courting the Jets from his hotel room during Super Bowl week? Of course he did. That’s a major distraction to him, his coaches, and the players.

The next question became, why the Jets? Again, like the Patriots job, location, money, the challenge, and the ego no doubt were major factors. His very public feuding with Bob Kraft certainly was a factor as well. And, once more, the Tuna turned around a laughingstock franchise. He had the Jets in the AFC Championship Game tied at the half before they fell apart against John Elway and the Broncos. OK, mission accomplished. Turn the team over to the trusted lieutenant. But things went awry as Belichick bailed out and joined up with, gasp, Bob Kraft and the Patriots!

The Jets, of course, fell back to the pack while the traitorous Belichick started getting mentioned as a genius. So Parcells leapt back into the spotlight. Was he out to prove he could win without Belichick? With Quincy Carter at quarterback he took over a fairly talented, but overachieving, team and led them to an almost astounding 10-6 record and into the playoffs. The "Parcells is a genius" talk was back at full force. They lost to the Panthers, but that was all right: the legend of the Tuna was back.

I was convinced he was done. I kept waiting for him to walk out on the Cowboys. I’m sure there were numerous ego clashes with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He must have known the Cowboys weren’t going anywhere with Vinnie Testaverde and Keyshawn Johnson as his playmaker. What was the deal with him letting that punk Antonio Bryant mouth-off to him and whip his jersey in his face during training camp?

As the season snowballed Parcells seemed almost distant and uninterested. His passion appeared to be gone. He had a bizarre press conference after a game where he seemed defeated and beaten down, basically blaming the players for the losses. Is he just collecting a paycheck? Is he challenging Jerry Jones to fire him? Does he secretly have an ace up his sleeve and Tony Romo is going to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl ala Tom Brady? I don’t know.

All I know is the longer he hangs around with a team that has no chance of competing (see also, Joe Gibbs in Washington), the longer and harder it is going to be to rehabilitate his image as "the genius". The expected overhaul of the franchise never took place. There are too many questions left unanswered right now. Maybe he’ll prove us all wrong and the Cowboys will return to respectability. But like a heavyweight hanging in for that one fight too many, I think it’s going to be a sad ending to the story.

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