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Long Term Planning = Short Term Silence?

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Can we finally dispense with all the chatter that Bill Parcells will not finish his contract in Dallas? Or can we at least disabuse ourselves of the thinking that Parcells is going for broke this year and will bail on the team if he fails?

The eight players selected on Saturday and Sunday do not fit the plans of a man in a hurry. By selecting four defensive players ideally suited to a 3-4 scheme, Parcells finally put his stamp on this organization. This was the biggest philosophical sea change for the Cowboys since Jimmy Johnson shredded Tom Landry's flex defense and his motion-intensive offense in 1989. I cannot see Parcells walking away before the transformation is through.

The critics who emerged after the team's regression to 6-10 following Parcells' 10-6 debut showed the shortest of short-term memories. Their thinking is that Parcells, at the age of 63, had finally hit the coaching wall. In fact, he has been down this road before. In New England, a 10-6 wild card season in Parcells' second year was followed by a 6-10 letdown. But the second of two superb drafts put the Pats back on the winning track and in year four, New England made the Super Bowl.

That's not to say the 2005 Cowboys are Super Bowl bound, but Big Bill's tenure in Dallas is showing signs of deja vu. In his last team meeting following a disappointing last minute flop against the Giants, Parcells informed his players and staff that things would be different. What's followed has been the most active, breathtaking offseason since '89, when Johnson began a steady turnover of the roster that did not relent until he had exhausted the Hershel Walker horde of draft picks in the spring of '92.

Parcells has mixed the short-term with the long. The additions of Drew Bledsoe, Jason Ferguson and Marco Rivera are moves for the now. The drafting of Demarcus Ware and Chris Canty, two talented but raw players, is designed for tomorrow. The challenge falls now to the coaching staff, to see how soon that tomorrow will come. The reason Johnson was able to go from 1-15 to 13-3 in four years is that he and his assistants were able to convert green rookies into hardened veterans faster than any other staff in the league. The speed with which Parcells' people can do this will be the true measure of his time in Dallas.

When Parcells left New England in a huff after that glorious '96 run, he complained that the organization was no longer committed to his plan. "If you're going to cook the meal, they should let you shop for the groceries," was his lament after GM Bobby Grier and owner Robert Kraft drafted WR Terry Glenn against his wishes. While Jerry Jones has prefaced his explanation of every Cowboys' selection with the most personal of pronouns -- "I watched tape of Demarcus Ware last night before I picked him" -- do not be fooled. There is only one chef in the Cowboys' kitchen now and his name does not end in Jones.

It's hard to believe that Parcells would buy all these fabulous groceries and let somebody else cook his meal.