Who will be the new Parcells' "guy" come draft day?
In a draft that is filled with pass rushers of all shapes, sizes and skills, the question of which one(s) Bill Parcells will select is driving Cowboys fans to madness. That's because Parcells, despite his reputation as a hard-nosed coach who like hard-nosed players, does not always select pass rushers who mirror his personality. There is not one Parcells type, but several. And there is not one Parcells draft profile but two. Figuring out which Bill will "pick the groceries" this Saturday is anybody's guess.
The brutal Bill Parcells has one mentor and one collaborator. As a young assistant and later as head coach with the New York Giants, Parcells was taught the draft game by George Young, a master evaluator who helped build the Dolphins Super Bowl teams in the early '70s. From Young, Parcells learned what he termed the "planet theory" of selecting linemen; there are only so many large human beings with athletic skills on the planet, and when you get a chance to select one, you don't pass it up.
Young put this theory in practice when he built the defenses that won titles for New York in '86 and '90s. The cornerstones were two king-sized outside linebackers, Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks. Both were 250 lbs., in an era when lineman averaged 270 to 280 lbs. They were big enough to stuff tight ends and take on tackles, and they funneled all action inside, where the Giants had big linemen and inside linebackers ready to scrum. The Giants were a physical team, and on draft day they were always looking for big front seven players who liked to play rough.
The other major influence on Parcells is his close friend Ron Wolf. Like Parcells, Wolf learned the NFL game with an organization that preached size and brute strength. As a young scout with the Raiders in the '60s, Wolf helped build one of the AFL's premier defenses. The Raiders had a fearsome line that featured oversized ends Ben Davidson and Ike Lassiter flanking tackles Tom Keating and Dan Birdwell. Only the Chiefs redwood forest of Aaron Brown, Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp and Jerry Mays could compare with the '60s Raiders in terms of brawn.
Oakland was, in effect, fielding a 4-3 scheme with four tackles. When Wolf became an NFL GM with the Packers, he drafted according this philosophy. When Green Bay won the Super Bowl in '96, it had the NFL's largest line, with 305 lb. DE Reggie White and 285 lb. DE Sean Jones flanking 370 lb. DT Gilbert Brown. The runt was Santana Dotson, a 285 lb. speed tackle in the LaRoi Glover mold. When Jones retired, Wolf drafted Vonnie Holliday, a 295 lb. defensive tackle from North Carolina, and moved him outside.
Wolf's Packers tried to overmatch their opponents physically. With four tackles across the line, few teams could run on Green Bay effectively. The superhuman rushing skills of White helped the Packers muster an effective push with just four men.
Perhaps no football man outside the Cowboys organization is trusted more by Parcells than Wolf. When the Packers were looking for a head coach in the wake of Mike Holmgren's departure for Seattle, there were strong rumors that Wolf would hire his buddy Parcells.When Parcells took over the Cowboys in 2003, he summoned Wolf to attend Dallas' practices and give him an honest assessment of his new team's talent level.
If you go by the planet theory, the Cowboys' pick is simple. There is only one lineman from the crop of defensive ends who fits the draft schema preferred by Young, Wolf and the younger Parcells -- LSU end Marcus Spears. It's no secret that Parcells likes the 6'4", 307 lb. Spears, who played like a "man among boys," according to several draft pundits who watched this year's Senior Bowl practices. He's physical and is a good fit for both the 4-3 and the 3-4. (A player Spears is often compared to is Richard Seymour, the multiple-Pro Bowl 3-4 end for the Patriots.)
Parcells' planet theory should, in theory, make pick eleven easy. Let's put Spears on the roster and move on to pick 20, right? Not so fast. While Parcells has expressed an allegiance to the planet theory in the past, his history as a drafter shows another personality.
Parcells is also a horse racing fan and at his New England and New York stops, he has shown a preference for faster, more agile ends. In 1994, Parcells' Patriots picked fourth. The top rated player that year was Ohio State's enormous DT Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson. Another planet-sized option was Texas A&M's DT Sam Adams. Parcells watched as Wilkinson went number one and Adams was picked 8th. He settled on USC DE Willie McGinest, a 255 lb. tweener who has swung between a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE in a distinguished eleven year career.
In '97, Parcells' Jets had the top pick overall. Most pre-draft speculation had New York selecting USC's mammoth DT Darrell Russell. After much deliberation, the Jets passed on Russell and traded down with the Rams, who used the top pick on OT Orlando Pace. Parcells' misgivings about Russell have proven to be well founded; Russell sabotaged a promising career with a litany of off-the- field incidents and is now out of the game.
In 2000, after much wheeling and dealing, the Jets had consecutive picks at twelve and thirteen. Here, Parcells drafted to both tendencies, selecting 295 lb. end Shawn Ellis with his first pick and speedy 255 lb. end John Abraham with the second.
The bottom line is that Parcells has drafted both brawlers and speedsters at his many coaching stops. I am convinced that Spears is a prime target, but with many recent mock drafts suggesting that Spears could be available at pick 20, it would not surprise me at all to see Dallas pick a faster 3-4 OLB type like Demarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman if the Cowboys stay at pick eleven.
Will Parcells go big or go fast? My gut tells me we might see a replay of 2000, where he went with bothoptions. Do not be at all surprised if Dallas leaves round one with two rushers, a masher and a speedster.
Copyright 2005 by Rafael Vela