He had the credentials, he had the reputation, he had two Super Bowl rings, and he had that something extra that made him stand out. He was larger than life. He was a character, he was legendary. He was instant credibility for a once triumphant franchise that had foundered and become a wreck. Bill Parcells was the answer for what ailed the Dallas Cowboys back in 2003. But he wasn't the savior he was made out to be, he was merely human.
Duane Charles Parcells, commonly known as Bill, built his career on two New York Giants teams that reached the highest level attainable. He augmented that with resurrections of the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The job in Dallas was supposed to be the crowning glory, the fairy tale ending with the aging coach taking one of sports greatest franchises back to the apex. In Hollywood, this version of the script would've ended up with Disney, who would've turned Parcells into a cantankerous aging coach who passes out wisdom with his quick wit and had a genuine love for his players that all comes pouring out after the Cowboys win the Super Bowl. Instead, the script ended up in some indie house and we got a meditation on dreams unfulfilled, and the very human emotion of realizing when the end is here. This was a reality tale, not a fairy tale.
In the end, just like in all reality tales, Dallas takes away some good and bad from the Parcells Era. Since they didn't take away a Super Bowl championship, there is no doubt that on some levels the experiment failed. When Parcells was hired, the notion with everybody, including Parcells, was that a Super Bowl victory was the paramount reason for his hiring. It didn't happen, and even some of the other expected things didn't happen. Over his tenure, we were only 34-32, so we never became a dominant team let alone champions. We never hosted a playoff game or won a playoff game, and we collapsed down the stretch in two consecutive seasons. For all these reasons, the Parcells Era never met expectations, and those were great expectations.
But not all is lost in Bill Parcells last coaching job - at least we think it's his last. He did manage to leave Dallas with one thing. He left us with something that is second best to actual championships - he left us with hope. Parcells inherited a roster that was stuck in a funk and a team that was being laughed at around the league, and left a roster full of potential and hope. Whoever the new coach is, he already labors under the expectations that he should win right away. The Cowboys have a defense that is young and talented, and despite their late season collapse, they have the potential to be a dominant unit in the NFL. Parcells also leaves behind hope that Dallas has finally found the heir apparent to the Staubach-Aikman legacy. We still need to see Tony Romo's future play out, but for the first time in a decade, Dallas has someone who looks like a cut above the rest and young enough to be here for a long time.
His final legacy in Dallas has yet to be written. Depending on the coach Jerry Jones hires, and the philosophy the Cowboys take towards the roster, this team could be a Parcells creation for a few years. If a new coach comes in and finally realizes the potential on the roster over the next couple of years, we can all thank Bill Parcells for what he left behind. In a few years, we could be remembering the Parcells Era as the time that set the foundation for success. Even if that doesn't happen, he took a team that went 5-11 for three straight seasons, and gave them hope that they could win again.
One thing that will be missed at Valley Ranch is Bill Parcells, the personality. No matter what you thought about him in terms of a coach, he never ceased to be entertaining when talking to the press or to his players. On the day of his retirement, the airwaves were awash in off-the-cuff talk at his press conferences and inside-the-inner-sanctum clips of him interacting with his players and other coaches. There's no other coach who could make that interesting for repeated viewing on ESPN like Parcells. From ribbing his own players by calling them "she", to his dualistic relationship with the press: he loved them, but pretended he hated them, they pretended they hated him, but they loved him - Parcells went beyond the normal bounds of a successful NFL coach. He sealed his legacy with his quick biting wit, his amusing stories and analogies, and his undeniable ability to turn a phrase. Bill Parcells transcended to a level where a single-word nickname, Tuna, was all you needed to say, and everybody knew who you were talking about.
Now Parcells leaves Dallas with dreams unfulfilled. He didn't get that one more championship he desperately craved. His legacy remains pretty much unchanged, even with this last Dallas team being the most unsuccessful of all his teams. Parcells will forever be remembered as one of the very best to coach in the NFL. Part of it was due to his success with the Giants, part of it had to due with his ability to resurrect a franchise, even if they never obtained the same level of excellence as those Giants teams. Some of it had to do with his personality, a fascinating contradiction that left even those close to him unable to predict his actions. He was unique. In a sea of colorless personalities and people unwilling to speak their mind, Parcells was a refreshing breeze of humor and coaching acumen.
We wanted to remember the Bill Parcells Era in Dallas along with the Tom Landry Era and the Jimmy Johnson Era, but that's not reality today. Now, we each remember his time in Dallas colored by our own emotions, our own personal evaluation of Parcells. Some see failure, some see hope, some see a combination of both. Just like Parcells himself, his legacy here is a contradiction, a mixture of the good and the bad. He would say you are what you are. No one's quite sure of what that is today, but we'll find out in the near future, and then we can determine Parcells' final legacy in Dallas.
We already know his final legacy overall, a Hall of Fame coach who was good for the league. And in the end, I think he was good for Dallas. Thanks coach, and good luck.