Tim Cowlishaw: Parcells gets cooking in 2nd season Leftover players from last year key ingredient in recipe for success 08:41 PM CDT on Friday, July 30, 2004 OXNARD, Calif. – Bill Parcells plays the role of pessimist better than most coaches, but there is one important facet of the Cowboys' organization that he is decidedly optimistic about. That's Bill Parcells. In his opening training camp media conference – the first time he has spoken publicly in more than seven weeks – Parcells fielded lots of questions about Keyshawn Johnson, Eddie George and Vinny Testaverde. They are the big-name additions of the off-season. But if the Cowboys improve on last season, which would mean advancing at least a round deeper into the playoffs, those three former Pro Bowl players will not be the featured story, according to the head coach. "Hopefully, some guys will be improved by virtue of being in their second year here," Parcells said. "That's probably the key to the Dallas Cowboys' success. It's not the players we just brought in but the ones who've been here a year that cross over and do the job. "After your first year, players know what you want, and you're not having to waste time over and over. You're just further down the road." That speaks to Parcells' belief in the Parcells way of doing things. The players who have had two off-seasons and one regular season in his system get it. That's why his teams have always improved significantly in his second year on the job. The Giants went from three wins to nine. The Patriots went from five wins to 10. The Jets went from nine wins to 12. Of course, Parcells will be in line for Coach of the Year if he gets so much as a two-game improvement from this team because so few people believe the Cowboys were a legitimate 10-win team in 2003. That club may have overreached, may have been the benefactor of some poor early-season coaching decisions by former Giants coach Jim Fassel and Eagles coach Andy Reid. Things fell into place perhaps more than they should have. That's why Parcells is warning his players not to view 2004 as an extension of 2003. The Cowboys do not start off with 10 victories and go from there. They start off in Minnesota on Sept. 12, just trying to figure out how to keep Randy Moss from putting on another one of his "I'll show those Cowboys for not drafting me" highlight reels. And the team has to understand that it did make significant strides a year ago. The Cowboys went from 18th to first in defense, from 30th to 15th in offense and had the only special teams unit that didn't allow a touchdown. Improvement will have to come in other areas – fewer interceptions from Quincy Carter, more sacks from the pass rush – and won't likely be as dramatic as it was in 2003. When Parcells ticks off the names of players who can make big contributions this year, they are players who were here a year ago and played smaller roles. Players such as guard Andre Gurode, linebacker Bradie James, defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman and Daleroy Stewart, tight end Jason Witten and tackle Torrin Tucker. Parcells studies the fine line between wins and losses and conveys those findings to his players. In that way, and the vigorous manner in which they train, they become Parcells players. If they don't, they find themselves like Willie Blade – a starter in 2003, cut loose before camp in 2004. With a greater understanding of the Parcells way, the Cowboys should improve. But that improvement won't be judged on whether or not this team gets to 11 wins – at least not by the coach. "I only judge my team by how it plays to its potential," he said. "If my team doesn't give a great effort or play smart, it doesn't matter if we're 12-4 or 13-3. I'm not going to think that we're any good. "Each year is a new year. You never really know whether the team that you've put together on paper is going to result in a better operation." But Parcells knows this team will understand the ways to operate better than it did a year ago. For him, that may be enough to make all the difference.