Parcells still manages to surprise

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

Bill Parcells took his Gatorade shower and then added nary a smile to the celebration. What else did you expect? There is a game next week in New Orleans, and practice looms.

"They will enjoy this moment until [Monday] at 1 p.m.," Parcells said of his players. And they'd better be on time.

But around Dallas the party should begin. Get out those dusty tequila bottles. The Cowboys are 10-5 and headed to the playoffs.

The Cowboys are back.

Nobody could ask for more because no one ever could have asked for this much. On Sunday the Cowboys finished something few thought they had even started back in August; they beat the Giants 19-3 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Don't let this moment pass without pause. Don't let Parcells push the accomplishment aside. Take a second to consider how far this team has come.

Oh, everyone knew the Tuna would win in Dallas. But no one thought he'd take a team that had won five games in each of the last three seasons and do this much, this quickly.

"This season is beyond expectations," owner Jerry Jones said. "You have to give credit to Coach Parcells."

Wasn't there concern that Jones and Parcells would clash over who got the credit when Dallas inevitably won? Well, Parcells really has done the impossible; he's left Jerry Jones humbled.

That is how amazing this turnaround was.

In the past, Parcells would take over a bad team, make strides in year one before making the playoffs in season two. It happened with the Giants, the Patriots and the Jets. All the predictions back in August were about Parcells changing the culture before changing the results.

Forget it. Perhaps because of Parcells' past success, resistance to his system was minimal. Everyone got on the same page immediately. The defense got tougher (allowing 16.5 points per game). Quincy Carter turned into a dual-threat QB. Troy Hambrick might still wind up a 1,000-yard rusher.

But most of all, the Cowboys, in classic Parcells fashion, did the little things that create victories.

The NFL is always better off when two things happen: 1) Bill Parcells is pacing a sideline, and 2) The Dallas Cowboys are really good.

Watching Parcells do television the last few years was like watching Michael Jordan play baseball. It wasn't him – and no matter how good he might get at it, it would never be the one thing at which he is truly best.

This is a coaching thoroughbred, a 62-year-old football genius who, with a piercing stare and sarcastic comment, can wobble the knees of any millionaire athlete in the league.

Watching Parcells turn moribund franchises into championship-caliber clubs is a thing of beauty. The script is the same each time, but the ending is always satisfying.

Dallas may not make the Super Bowl this season. But does anyone want to bet the house it won't in the next few years. Anyone?

Which is perfect also. The present-day NFL is all about parity. Nearly every team starts the season with hope and anything is possible each week.

But the loss of dynasty teams that draw in fans and bring out the best in opponents is an unfortunate byproduct of all this competitiveness. For the second consecutive year, neither reigning Super Bowl entrant will make the playoffs.

The days of the Steelers, 49ers or, perhaps more than anyone, the great Cowboys dynasties are over. Which is too bad. The NFL thrives when "America's Team" is a factor. Watching Dallas limp along like it was Arizona has been disheartening.

But now that Parcells is in charge, Dallas again is a contender. So let the celebration begin in the Big D.

Even if the coach sees little to celebrate.

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