New coaches in Dallas and Detroit have different results

Updated: October 18, 2003, 3:09 PM ET

DETROIT -- Bill Parcells and Steve Mariucci were hired last winter to turn around poor teams.

So far, Parcells has done it and Mariucci has not.

Parcells has helped the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) become one of the top teams in the league. They have won four straight games for their best start since 1995.

"I don't think it's turned around yet," Parcells said. "I don't think you can say that at five weeks. I think if you're a contender for two, three years in a row and everybody knows you're a lot better team, then I would talk about the team turning around.

"But I was telling the guys around here that I like horse racing and if they paid off at the half-mile pole, I would have been rich a long time ago."

Mariucci has not been able to make the Detroit Lions (1-4) winners. The Lions, coming off a bye, lost four in a row after beating Arizona in Week 1.

"Naturally, the coaches are going to be under the microscope because they're both big-name guys who were brought in to fix some things," Detroit's Ray Brown said. "But it's still early. The true determination will be made at the end of the year and in the years to come."

While Dallas looks nothing like its teams that went 5-11 in each of the past three seasons, Detroit's results are quite similar to those under fired coach Marty Mornhinweg the previous two years.

The Lions won only one of their first five games last season, and two of the final 11. In 2001, Detroit started 0-12 and finished 2-14.

Only one team has lost to Detroit twice over the past 37 games: Dallas.

"They figure that they can beat us no matter what our record is," Dallas safety Darren Woodson said. "They have the upper hand. We have to prove to ourselves that we can beat them now."

There are facts -- or excuses -- to explain why Mariucci hasn't been able to do what Parcells has.

"We could be sitting here with the same record or he could be sitting here with our record, I think," Parcells said.

Injuries have hurt Detroit, which began the season with a slim margin of error even if healthy. The Cowboys have had only minor bumps and bruises.

The Lions are without their top receiving target (Charles Rogers), running back (James Stewart), kick returner (Eddie Drummond), three of their top four cornerbacks (Chris Cash, Andre Goodman and Chris Watson) and even their punter (John Jett) because of injuries.

Joey Harrington, who has thrown eight interceptions and four touchdowns since a strong game against Arizona, has played with a dislocated index finger on his passing hand for nearly a month.

Detroit's four losses have come against teams with a combined record of 15-8, and Dallas' opponents have seven wins and 20 losses.

Mariucci, however, refused to say those are the reasons Parcells is off to a better start than he is.

"First of all, he's a heck of a coach. Write that down," Mariucci said. "Second, it's very early in the season."

So far, the Cowboys have made the right plays in important situations and quarterback Quincy Carter has limited his mistakes. Dallas' defense was solid last season, and it has only gotten better by adding free agent linebacker Al Singleton and rookie cornerback Terence Newman.

"They are very, very fast," Harrington said.

Carter and receivers Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn could have quite a day against a secondary that has only cornerback Dre' Bly (four interceptions) who opponents are forced to respect.

Parcells has been pleased with how Carter has dedicated his life to football.

"I think he's doing well," Parcells said. "We haven't let many links out of the choke collar yet. We are still working on that, but he's doing well.

"All I can ask from the kid is what he's giving right now, and as long as he keeps giving that, then I'm going to be his biggest supporter. Once he stops giving it, then I'll be his worst nightmare."

The Cowboys may see a familiar face when they kick and punt, because Detroit claimed Reggie Swinton off waivers from Green Bay on Monday. Swinton, who returned more than 100 kicks and punts for the Cowboys the past two years, was traded to the Packers by Dallas on Sept. 30 after losing his job to Zuriel Smith.

"I can't wait until Sunday," Swinton said, "to see what I can do against my old boys."

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