History, not Parcells, says playoffs

Originally Published: October 14, 2003
ESPN

IRVING, Texas -- Big Bill won't say the P-word yet.

Come on, coach. It's only two syllables and it means so much.

"I guess that's the term down here. I never use that word," Parcells said. "I have another word for it."

OK, we'll take that one.

"Well, I'll let you know when it's appropriate, if it ever is," he said.

Parcells won't say it. But history does. The Dallas Cowboys are headed to the playoffs.

Dallas has started 4-1 or better 18 other times. The Cowboys missed the playoffs only once after such a start, in 1984 when they finished with a 9-7 mark good enough only for fourth place in the once-brutal NFC East.

And the odds are even better if the Cowboys win Sunday at Detroit (1-4). Dallas is 15-for-15 playing in the postseason after starting 5-1 or better, including the Super Bowl championships during the 1992 and 1995 seasons.

But let's stick to the P-word.

Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since 1996. The Cowboys lost in the NFC wild card game their last two postseason appearances, in 1998 and 1999.

That's why Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hired Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, took the New England Patriots to the big game and got the New York Jets to the AFC championship.

In each of his previous jobs, Parcells took teams from losing records to the playoffs in just two seasons.

Parcells is on a faster pace in Dallas. But even Jones, who just two years ago was predicting a 10-win season, is not ready to say the P-word yet.

With a win Sunday, the Cowboys would match their win total of each of the past three seasons. They already have a 1{-game lead in the NFC East and a 2-0 record against division foes following a 23-21 win Sunday over Philadelphia that broke a six-game losing streak to the Eagles.

"We're excited about winning, but none of us are saying playoffs yet," said receiver Joey Galloway.

"We've been able to get over that hump, and we're winning earlier than in the last four of five years," said running back Troy Hambrick. "Good things are happening. We're headed in the right direction. But it's too early to tell if we've turned the corner."

They must have looked the rest of the schedule. It gets much tougher.

The Cowboys haven't beaten a team with a winning record. Their five opponents so far have a combined record of 7-20 (.259 winning percentage), and Atlanta hasn't won again since beating Dallas in the season opener.

Next after Detroit, which had a bye week and extra time to prepare for a Cowboys team they've beaten the last two years, is a game at defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. The game against the Buccaneers is the first of six against non-division teams that have a combined 21-12 record (.636 winning percentage).

But history doesn't lie. It just repeats itself, right?

"History doesn't mean anything in football," Parcells said.

Parcells only wants his team to live up to its potential as he perceives it to be, though he's not really saying what that is. He's certainly not worried about other people's perceptions, though he knows what they are because of the excitement the 4-1 start has generated.

From the coach fond of horse racing: "Big deal, the finish counts."

This team isn't even to the halfway post.

"We're going to have to keep stringing these wins together so we can get into November. That is what we have to do," Parcells said. "If you get on that seesaw, then you usually wind up having to hope somebody else does something. Right now, if we could string some more wins together, that would allow other teams to hope we do something. That is the position we want to be in."

So the goal is the playoffs, even if Parcells won't say the word.

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