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For Now, This New Odd Couple Has a Hit Show

Unlikely pair of owner Jerry Jones and Coach Bill Parcells is working well for Cowboys.

August 15, 2004|From Associated Press

Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells seemed an unlikely pair to work together.

Jones was the meddling owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, a team that had fallen on tough times since winning three Super Bowls in the mid-1990s.

A demanding, do-it-my-way coach, Parcells was retired after taking two different teams to the Super Bowl: winning with the New York Giants (1987, 1991) and losing with the New England Patriots in 1997.

But a mutual desire to win again helped forge a relationship between the men in their 60s, despite their strong personalities.

"I can tell you that this past year, having the opportunity to work alongside Bill Parcells, has been one of the most memorable, enjoyable and productive years of my 16 years in the NFL," Jones said. "Our working relationship has exceeded anything that I could ever have imagined."

Winning certainly helped. The Cowboys, 5-11 in each of the three previous years, went 10-6 and got back to the playoffs with Parcells as head coach last season.

"It's better than I could have ever hoped for," said Parcells, who never had a better first-season record with a team.

Jones and Parcells have found a successful formula without either having to drastically change his ways.

Players such as Keyshawn Johnson, Vinny Testaverde and Richie Anderson, who reunited with Parcells in Dallas, say they've seen "the same old Bill" -- a demanding coach with a no-nonsense approach.

"Perception is reality in this case because he's kind of a straight shooter. I don't think he holds any punches on anything," Anderson said. "It's kind of like what you see is what you get."

Jones remains a very visible figure, not pushed into the background by Parcells, though he kept his distance on the sideline and spent less time there during games than in past seasons.

The owner still watches most training camp practices from the sideline, often chatting with Parcells. Jones also sits in on film sessions and meetings with coaches.

"I know there was some question mark at this time last year of our ability to work together, make decisions and build," Jones said. "I said then I thought that we had the same thing in mind, and that's winning and trying to improve every day. That has been the case."

Jones made Parcells the highest-paid Cowboys coach, giving him a $17 million, four-year contract in hopes of returning to prominence a team that has five Super Bowl titles, but none since 1996.

While his business holdings include about 75 companies, Jones devotes most of his time to the Cowboys.

"I kid him about having too many fish in the pan, too many things going on," Parcells said. "But I know where his heart is.... is heart is still in the football."

And so is Parcells' -- for now.

"You know me. I get going, I get going, and all of a sudden I'm just dead in the water," said Parcells, who at 62 is a year older than Jones. "So, that happens to me. I know that now. But I'm enjoying these guys. I really am. It's fun. I like them and enjoy coaching them."

There's no sign of another burnout yet.

Parcells coached the Giants from 1983-90, leaving after his second Super Bowl win. His stays were shorter with the Patriots and Jets, at both places insisting it was his last coaching job.

When Parcells went to New England in 1993, he said it would be "his last coaching job, without question." After four seasons there, he went to the New York Jets. His book, "The Final Season: My Last Year as Head Coach in the NFL," was based on his third and last season in New York in 1999.

Several talks with Jones, and their lengthy meeting sitting in an airplane on a runway in New Jersey in December 2002, changed Parcells' mind again.

Since then, the admittedly still temperamental and moody Parcells has learned to appreciate Jones' constant optimism and risk-taking approach.

"He's always upbeat and eager to try to do things on the plus side. He's always good for a word of encouragement," Parcells said. "I'm certainly much more difficult to get along with."

Jones had been through three coaches in nine years, and four straight non-winning seasons, since his bitter split in 1994 with longtime friend Jimmy Johnson after consecutive Super Bowl championships.

Parcells was the proven coach Jones needed to get the Cowboys back on the winning track, even if it meant having to share some control of the team. Dallas provided the chance for Parcells to coach again.

"We have had success. Maybe if we hadn't had success, things might have been different. I don't know," Jones said. "But we certainly have positioned ourselves, and I can tell you on a going-forward basis, I'm even more enthused about working with Bill."

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