Former NFL Towel Boy John Clayton
Cowboys' staff changes designed to better fit Parcells' intensity
Sorry if this is a repost. I looked back a page or two and didn't see it.
Cowboys' staff changes designed to better fit Parcells' intensity
BY JEAN-JACQUES TAYLOR, TODD ARCHER AND MATT MOSLEY
The Dallas Morning News
IRVING, Texas - (KRT) - The Cowboys' 10th loss was not yet 15 minutes old, ending their disappointing 2004 season. Inside the coaches' dressing room at Giants Stadium, the head coach was on a rampage.
The door was closed, but it couldn't drown out the profanity-laced tirade Bill Parcells was directing toward his 14-man staff as he questioned its cohesion.
Then he went out and did something about it.
In the last five months, the 63-year-old coach has reshaped his staff. Those changes occurred even before Parcells and owner/general manager Jerry Jones altered the roster through free agency and the draft.
While the Cowboys spent their two minicamps in May familiarizing themselves with recently acquired draft picks and free agents, another important bonding exercise continued at the team's Valley Ranch training complex as Parcells worked on the field with his revamped staff for the first time.
Four coaches are gone from last year's staff, including offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, who had played and coached under Parcells and knew him best. Paul Pasqualoni (tight ends) and Todd Bowles (secondary) have been added, and others have had their duties altered.
"I looked at this past year as shaking it up to better fit him," Jones said.
Working for Parcells can be challenging because he doesn't follow NFL norms when it comes to providing assistant coaches with job security, allowing assistants to speak with the media during the season and developing close friendships.
He's looking for coaches devoted to the game.
"Football guys," said Parcells, when explaining what type of coaches work best with him. "You got politicians. You got self-promoters, and you got ringmasters - seals to the left, trapeze to the right."
Since the end of last season, The Dallas Morning News has spoken with a dozen NFL head coaches and assistants, including some of Parcells' current and former staff members, about his demanding, intense style and how it affected the morale and cohesion of his staff during a difficult season.
Several spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
"He's willing to do whatever it takes to succeed," said Carolina assistant coach Dan Henning, a close friend of Parcells for more than 30 years. "And sometimes that means he has to wake up in the morning and become a complete pain in the . . . (expletive)."
Chipping away at unity
That season-ending tirade was not the first example of Parcells' style.
Although Jones owns the team, Parcells controls the fate of the staff because of his authority to hire and fire coaches.
In his first two seasons, Parcells made a habit of not giving assistant coaches automatic rollovers - one-year contract extensions that assure an assistant always has two years on his contract. According to several sources, these rollovers are the norm in the NFL.
The average salary for an assistant coach is $231,000.
The Cowboys had six coaches facing expired contracts by the end of last season. At the other end of the spectrum, Dallas also had two of the NFL's highest-paid assistants - defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Sean Payton - each of whom earned $1 million.
Carthon earned half that much.
Zimmer and Payton received $500,000 raises before last season after being offered head coaching positions. Carthon, who had interviewed for a head coaching position but did not land an offer, did not get a raise.
"I don't think it was an issue at all," Jones said of the raises Zimmer and Payton received. "In both cases, the additional consideration was done after they had made their decision. It was basically a decision on my part to adjust their salaries and make them more commensurate to what they would've been making."
The party's over
Former coach Jimmy Johnson regularly took his assistants to a Mexican restaurant during the season for chips and salsa, beer and bonding.
"It's not always popular to have fun in the NFL because people tend to think it means you're not working hard," said Joe Avezzano, an assistant with Dallas from 1990 to 2002, "but the season is such a grind that you need to have some fun."
For much of the last decade, Jones has sponsored a weekend trip to Las Vegas for the coaching staff.
Those trips to Las Vegas stopped in 1998 when Jones hired Chan Gailey, a man with strong Christian beliefs who didn't want to spend a weekend in Sin City.
When Dave Campo became the head coach in 2000, the annual trips to Las Vegas started again.
But Parcells persuaded Jones to cancel the trip, according to current and former assistant coaches and team officials. Those sources said Parcells worried the trip would create a bond between the assistants and Jones that might ultimately affect their loyalty to the head coach.
Under Parcells, there are no staff barbecues or outings to area restaurants.
"For me to sit here and say that staff cohesion is the most important thing, I can't do that because we went 5-11, 5-11 and 5-11," said Campo, who also hosted staff barbecues and took the team on training camp trips to a dude ranch and Sea World. "I thought we had some cohesion. It didn't work, but it is important."
When Jones plucked Parcells from ESPN and made him a head coach for the fourth time, skeptics wondered whether Parcells could win without "his guys."
They were talking about former assistants such as Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Romeo Crennel, Dan Henning and Bill Muir, whose expertise allowed Parcells to focus on motivating players and managing the team's direction.
"He was all football and all focus, and he wanted that out of his staff," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, an assistant under Parcells from 1988 to 1990. "There was only one purpose: trying to win."
Parcells is a relentless taskmaster who's admittedly consumed by a fear of failure. He demands his teams perform a certain way, especially under pressure. And he has a desire to win that can't be quenched.
He puts the same type of pressure on his assistants.
"I'm not into sensitivity," he said.
Even Parcells' favorites, such as Zimmer, a coach's son, are scrutinized.
Parcells spent his first season in Dallas praising Zimmer and the top-ranked defensive unit he produced. He spent much of last season defending Zimmer, whose defense allowed 405 points and 31 touchdown passes.
Now he's putting pressure on Zimmer to learn the 3-4, a scheme Parcells prefers and used in 13 of his first 15 seasons as a head coach. Zimmer has never coached it.
"I told my coaches to prepare for every contingency," Parcells said. "(Zimmer) is familiar with it now because he spent all winter to get familiar with it. Be prepared to do whatever I tell you because it's not going to be a suggestion at some point in time."
Not every assistant can handle Parcells' personality. He makes no apologies for his approach.
Bowles and receivers coach Todd Haley are in their second stints with him. Each worked for him with the Jets.
Each is a football guy.
Haley's father, Dick, worked in the front offices of the Jets and Steelers for more than 30 years. Bowles, who grew up in New Jersey, takes a classic East Coast, blue-collar approach to his job.
"I know his background," Parcells said of Bowles. "That's very important. I know where he played in high school. I know what kind of program it was. I know he got his . . . (expletive) kicked there.
"He came up kind of the hard way. It was no piece of cake for this kid. I like that."
How much he likes his revamped coaching staff, however, might ultimately depend on the team's success.
© 2005, The Dallas Morning News.