Throwing In the Towel

evaluations before heading to the Jersey Shore for good.

Now no one is sure if Parcells will assist Jones in locating his successor, but there is a good chance Parcells, if asked, will function as a sounding board for Jones, who will be looking for his sixth head coach in 19 years.

So what happened? Why indeed is Jones looking for the Dallas Cowboys' next head coach?

Maybe, just maybe losing four of the last five games, which included the shocking 21-20 loss to Seattle in the playoffs, was the haymaker putting Parcells on the mat for good. Maybe he just couldn't muster up the effort to get up.

After all, it's pretty devastating when you blow a two-game lead for the division title with four games to go - losing three of those at home. It's even more devastating when you get yourself into position to basically kick an extra-point of a field goal to grab a 23-21 lead in the final minute only to have the snap fall out of your holder's hands.

As Cowboys public relations director Rich Dalrymple pointed out after having a discussion on Monday with Parcells, "It's just so hard to get back to the 1-yard line in Seattle again."

That takes a lot of wherewithal, starting with heading to Mobile on Monday, then Indianapolis for the NFL Combine in a month, then the draft in three months, then the mini-camps and training camp and 16 more regular-season games. See, in this game of professional football, nothing is guaranteed.

Just because you went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons, there is no secure line of progression that basically assures you of going 10-6 or 11-5 the very next year to qualify for the playoffs and then win that elusive playoff game. The Cowboys were right there, and didn't get it.

A left-cross to the kisser for sure.

To me, this had nothing to do with Parcells' physical stamina or energy, even though he would turn 66 before the start of the 2007 season. As Parcells said in his release, "I am in good health." And he really seemed to be, to the point of physically looking refreshed when I bumped into him out here Friday evening about 5:15 p.m.

Let's put it this way. He looked tons times better than when you last saw him on a sideline.

So to me, this was Parcells being emotionally whipped - just couldn't bare the thought of starting all over from scratch. You know, sort of like the team that loses a championship, and then next year, they don't just grandfather you back into the playoffs, they make you play all those regular-season games all over again just to have another chance of winning it all.

He evidently didn't still have the stomach for the fight.

That's too bad. This team is sitting on the verge, appearing to finally have found a quarterback it can sink its teeth into; having upgraded the defensive talent significantly, along with the talent at wide receiver and tight end, but still needing a boost on the offensive line.

As Parcells repeatedly has said, you can't lie to yourself. Evidently he had a come-to-Jesus moment with himself over the weekend.

So it's not as if whoever takes over this team is inheriting The Little Sisters of the Poor. This will not be one of those New Orleans fairytale seasons from this year. In fact, chances are there will be no grace period for this new head coach. He will be expected to produce, which is not normally the case.

Coaching changes usually are born out of abject failure, and why those new coaches enjoy a honeymoon. That will be replaced next season in Dallas by pressure to win 10 or 11 games right out of the box, something certainly Sean Payton didn't face when taking over the 3-13 Saints, nor Eric Mangini faced taking over the 4-12 Jets, nor Mike McCarthy faced taking over the 4-12 Packers.

The cupboard is not bare.

So to me, let us not look back at Parcells' four seasons with disappointment. Sure, he didn't quite get this team to the promised land, and say what you want, but he was held hostage by the quarterback position. Remember, he took over after 8-8, 5-11, 5-11, 5-11. Don't minimize his 34-30 regular-season record.

Could this have been better? Did you expect better? Certainly. But it could have been worse when you consider the Cowboys had but one winning

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