INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a bad year for Bill Parcells in Dallas, and the offseason has not started any better.
Sure, the Cowboys made the playoffs. But Dallas crawled to the finish in a weak NFC. The Cowboys had by far the healthiest team in the NFC East and the division title was ripe for the taking, yet they could not beat out the Eagles. Then they lost in the Wild Card round to a Seattle team that wouldn't have made the playoffs in the AFC.
A playoff loss might be OK in some cities, but not in Dallas, particularly in Year Four of the Parcells regime.
Parcells made the wrong call by bringing in Drew Bledsoe as his quarterback. It didn't work. The Cowboys might have hit the lottery by finding Tony Romo to replace him. It's too early to tell. But while the offense put up good numbers, it wasn't good enough against the best teams down the stretch. Dallas should have attacked Seattle's weak cornerbacks in the playoff game but it didn't, probably because the coaches were concerned about protecting Romo.
The defense finished 13th overall but collapsed in the end, allowing 30 points a game over the last five weeks. Dallas' 3-4 defense was too static and predictable the last month of the year.
Now owner Jerry Jones is left hanging while Parcells tries to decide whether he's coming back. He has a Feb. 1 deadline to make a decision. Meanwhile, two of his assistants -- defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven -- have jumped ship. Zimmer took the same job in Atlanta. DeHaven moved to Seattle rather than wait to see what Parcells will decide. If Parcells decides he's not coming back, then Jones will be left to find a coaching staff when all the other vacancies have been filled.
There is speculation in Dallas that Jones' ideal scenario is for Parcells to coach one more year then quit. Then Jones can try to win the bidding for Bill Cowher next offseason. There's also talk that he might try to lure Bob Stoops away from the University of Oklahoma. That's probably wishful thinking in Big D.
The bottom line is Jones paid Parcells $20 million the past four years and is due to pay him another $5.5 million this year. If Parcells comes back, Jones needs better from his legendary coach.
It's understandable that the Chargers wanted stability after a 14-2 season. But instead of keeping Marty Schottenheimer for one more year, they should have let him go and promoted either offensive coordinator Cam Cameron or receivers coach James Lofton. Cameron got scooped up by the Dolphins. Lofton will make an outstanding head coach if he ever gets the chance. Now Schottenheimer should give the coordinator job to Lofton. Or he should lure Ernie Zampese, the former Cowboys play-caller, out of retirement.
Schottenheimer knows how to build a winner. But his 5-13 postseason record is not coincidental. The key question in looking at that record is how many times did he lose when he had the better team? A lot.
In 1986, Schottzy's Browns were the AFC's top seed but lost at home in overtime in the AFC final to a Denver team that had a great quarterback but not a great cast. Bad loss. The next year he lost in Denver in the AFC final when Ernest Byner fumbled on the Broncos' 3 with a minute left to thwart what should have been a Browns win. Not Marty's fault.
In 1995, his Chiefs had home-field advantage in the AFC but lost at home in the divisional round to a pedestrian Colts team, 10-7. Bad loss.
In 1997, he stuck with Elvis Grbac at quarterback over Rich Gannon (mistake!) and lost at home to Denver in the AFC divisional round. Granted, Denver had Elway and Terrell Davis. But the QB decision, coupled with the fact the Chiefs botched the clock management during the last four minutes of the game, made it a bad loss.
In 2004, his Chargers lost at home in overtime in the first round to a mediocre Jets team and again played too conservative at the end of regulation. Bad loss.
Last week, the Chargers were more talented and needed to find some way to beat the Patriots. Bad loss.
The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the pool of teams in contention to host the NFL's lone game in Europe next season is down to three -- the Bills, Dolphins and Saints. The NFL denied that any decision has been made on the matchup. The NFL previously announced that six teams had been picked as potential "hosts" -- with Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco joining the aforementioned trio. The "visiting" team is not necessarily restricted to those six. The game will be played in London. The Post reported that the Seahawks and 49ers are out of the running because the league doesn't want to send West Coast teams to Europe.
Bills guard Chris Villarrial is back home in Pennsylvania recuperating from surgery he had to repair a tendon in his foot, near his ankle. The injury forced Villarrial to miss the last seven games of the season. Villarrial, 33, is under contract for one more year at $1.45 million (he took a pay cut last season) and intends to return.
"I was excited for our team," Villarrial said of the Bills' 7-9 finish. "This team's going to be a contender. Dick [Jauron] has brought in a whole different attitude than we had before. With him and Marv [Levy] running the team, things are going to just get better and better."
When you have three Super Bowl rings on your fingers, you make $10 million a year and you have movie-star good looks, it's simply impossible to "outkick your coverage" when it comes to finding a girlfriend. Case in point, Tom Brady.
Brady apparently didn't waste any time getting over his recent breakup with actress Bridget Moynihan. Standing outside the visitors locker room in San Diego last Sunday waiting for Brady was not only his agent, Donald Yee, but also Brazilian Victoria's Secret model Giselle Bundchen, once the main squeeze of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Last season, Bundchen was at Gillette Stadium hustling Victoria's Secret wear and was asked about Brady by the Boston Herald. Her reply then? "Tom Brady? Definitely not too shabby. He's pretty cute. All-American, that's a good way to describe him."
Asked if she was interested in the then-taken Brady she replied, "He's cute but if he has a girlfriend he's gay to me. There are too many men in the world to go after a man who has a woman. Life's too short."
Seattle scored a coup by signing DeHaven from Dallas. DeHaven, the superb former Bills aide, did another good job in Dallas this year. He groomed young punter Matt McBriar, who made the Pro Bowl. Dallas ranked second in kickoff coverage and second in average drive start after its own kickoff returns.
For those few Buffalo fans who get the NFL Network, one Senior Bowl player to keep an eye on in the all-star game Saturday is Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. He's projected to go in the top half of the first round. He's 6-foot-1 and 310 pounds. Other defensive tackles playing in the game who are expected to be first-day picks in the draft include Tank Tyler of North Carolina State (a first-rounder), Quinn Pitock of Ohio State and Ryan McBean of Oklahoma State. Michigan behemoth Alan Branch, who may be too good for the Bills to get at No. 12 overall, isn't playing. He's coming out as a junior.
Lee Evans' 178 receptions are a Bills franchise record for most receptions by a player in his first three seasons.
Donte Whitner ranked fifth among all defensive backs in the league in tackles with 104, according to the NFL's statistics.
Mike Sheppard, Gregg Williams' first offensive coordinator in Buffalo, got hired as receivers coach in Cincinnati.