PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cowboys QB Carter soaring

Updated: October 11, 2003, 1:12 AM ET

IRVING, Texas -- Before Bill Parcells arrived, Quincy Carter was often the punchline to jokes about the ineptness of the Dallas Cowboys' offense.

Now the Cowboys are winning and the offense is leading the way. The reason: Quincy Carter.

Out of favor and nearly discarded before the new coach arrived, Carter has soaked up Parcells' advice and produced stunning results.

Carter is averaging the most yards per pass in the NFC and Dallas has the most productive offense in the entire league. More importantly, the Cowboys are 3-1 and atop the NFC East going into Sunday's game against preseason favorite Philadelphia (2-2).

While it's far too early to be focusing on statistics, Carter's production is noteworthy considering the Cowboys ranked third-to-last in each of his first two seasons.

"What I'm doing on the field," Carter says, "is just a result of how hard coach Parcells is teaching me."

When Parcells was hired, Carter was out of favor and nearly on his way out of the organization. He'd been benched midway through last season, never to throw another pass. Chad Hutchinson had surpassed him as the darling of owner Jerry Jones' eye.

Parcells didn't care. He was going to pick a starter based strictly on what he saw. And the more training camp went along, the more obvious it became that Carter could handle the job.

He opened the season with a decent game in a loss to Atlanta, offsetting some good plays with some bad decisions. Then he opened the next game, against the New York Giants, with an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Carter rebounded to have his best game, throwing for 321 yards, including clutch passes that forced overtime and set up the winning field goal. Carter wasn't as in control in a win over the Jets, but he made big plays at key moments.

Last Sunday, he helped spoil Emmitt Smith's homecoming by throwing for two early touchdowns and 190 of his 277 yards in the first half of a 24-7 victory over Arizona. He had five passes of at least 20 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown on a flea flicker.

Parcells is getting the most out of Carter by letting him roll out often, capitalizing on his mobility. Carter also is throwing downfield, hoping to cash in on the combination of his strong arm and the speed of receivers Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant.

"I've always known the kind of quarterback and leader I want to be for this football team," said Carter, who is averaging 8.18 yards per attempt and 14.5 per completions. "I just go about handling my business as a professional every day, know the God-given talent I've been given and go out and use it."

Parcells hasn't heaped praise upon Carter and often says he's waiting to see how his quarterback responds to his first clunker outing.

But the way Parcells is asking Carter to win games instead of not lose them is a clear indication that confidence is growing.

"At a certain point of time in the season, we'll both know whether he can do it or not. It'll be obvious to everyone," Parcells said. "So far, I think he's doing his best to show people he can do the job. Am I happy with that, am I happy with him? Yes."

It might not have looked like it Sunday when cameras often caught Parcells jawing at Carter. But that's just part of the process.

For a quarterback to succeed under Parcells, he's got to be able to handle criticism. Carter has faced it his entire career, so it hasn't been a problem.

Besides, he saw what Parcells' tough talk did for Phil Simms, Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde.

Hoping to blossom under Parcells like they did, Carter has treated his coach's suggestions as if they were instructions to a paint-by-numbers kit on creating an All-Pro quarterback.

He's eating better and lifting more weights. He's watching more film and speaking up about the plays he feels most comfortable running. Most of all, he's given up a life outside of football, a must according to Parcells, who demands that his quarterbacks be grunts, not glamour boys.

"I thought I was working hard. But the level I've taken it to far exceeds what I was doing in the past," Carter said. "I just take the game a little more serious. When I leave here, I'm thinking about football."

Hours after the Cardinals game, Carter went to team headquarters to study what he did wrong before hearing about it from quarterbacks coach Sean Payton.

"Hey, I admire that," Parcells said. "He could be out having a good time, you know, but he's not, he's in here taking care of business. That means something with me."

It helps with his peers, too.

"He's a lot of fun to play with now because he is prepared, he's confident -- he knows more about this offense than anyone else," Galloway said.

"We come in on a Wednesday and it's fun to look through the plays. We know there's going to be some things that are exciting and new. We know that he can handle it and that our offense can handle it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index