They call him the Tuna. But if fish references are your thing, Bill Parcells is really more like a salmon – he can swim for miles and miles upstream, dragging a whole football team behind him. His track record is undeniable. Two Super Bowl titles. Two-year turnarounds with the Giants, Patriots, and Jets. And a whole legion of current and former players who would leap tall buildings and run headlong into brick walls for him any day. In case you’ve been meditating on a mountaintop in Tibet somewhere, I’ll tell you that Parcells is back coaching in Dallas and Cowboy fans have been wearing ear-to-ear smiles since he was introduced as coach on January 2nd.
The Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s were one of the dominant teams of all time, winning 3 out of 4 Super Bowls from ’92-’95. No team has matched that record, and with the restrictions of free agency and the salary cap now firmly in place across the league, perhaps none ever will. But there is a price to be paid for greatness. After their victory in Super Bowl XXX, the inevitable dismantling of the team began. Players moved on, retired, and in a few cases, found themselves behind bars. The Cowboys started to emerge from salary cap hell in 2000, but nice guy coach Dave Campo produced nice guy results, in the form of three straight 5-11 seasons.
Cut to the present day – enter Bill Parcells, who must be wearing a big red “S” under that silver and blue silk tie. Parcells is a lot of things, but nice guy isn’t one of them. On his first day of practice, he had the entire team running to the fence when one player made a mistake, and first-round draft pick Terence Newman became his personal water boy for the season. Tuna doesn’t cut players any slack, and they respect him for it. The players know that Parcells will make them better individually and as a team. They crave the challenge to improve, and Parcells certainly provides it. In a time where multi-millionaire players can practically force a coach to run the offense the way they see fit, a Parcells team is more reminiscent of your local high school squad – every player has a job, and no one player is more important than the team effort.
But enough gushing about what makes Tuna THE coach to have in the NFL – what does it all mean to fantasy owners? Well, for one thing, the running game should be vastly improved. Parcells’ old school, team-first approach lends itself to great blocking and ball control. The scheme made stars out of Ottis Anderson, Curtis Martin, and uh, Curtis Martin. OK, so that’s not a huge list, but grinding out first downs on the ground will be a priority, and Troy Hambrick will have the chance to get comfortable in the starting role. He should be a good sleeper pick at RB in the middle rounds of your draft.
How about the passing game? Parcells has a reputation here too. He has taken QB’s who nobody was impressed with and made them into efficient, if not spectacular passers. Phil Simms and Vinny Testaverde were both considered average at best until Parcells took them under his wing. Can Parcells work the same magic with Chad Hutchinson and/or Quincy Carter? I’m not so sure about this one. I think Parcells may be waiting around to find “his guy” in free agency or the draft. Brian Griese would seem to have been a good fit, but the Cowboys didn’t pursue him. Either Tuna knows something we don’t about Hutchinson and Carter, or he’s just planning to stay in ball control mode and give his QB’s safe plays that will keep their mistakes to a minimum. Bottom line, you will be able to draft either Hutchinson or Carter late, and I wouldn’t count on any big numbers from them in any case. There are better quarterbacks out there this year. The same thing goes for the receivers – although there are some fine young wide-outs on the Cowboy roster, they can all be had late in your draft, and they will continue to be up-and-down players until the passing game is more established.
The Cowboys have made the right choice for a coach to bring them back to the playoffs, where they expect to be every season. It may not happen this year, but you will see Big D back on the fantasy map very soon. They have some very promising young players that will be available late in your draft, or for cheap prices in your keeper leagues. Keep your eye on them.