Parcells bracing Cowboys for inevitable adversity

Updated: October 23, 2003, 4:38 PM ET

IRVING, Texas -- Bill Parcells often says he's waiting for adversity to hit the Dallas Cowboys.

In his 16th season as an NFL coach, he knows setbacks are inevitable, so he's merely bracing for it.

"This isn't going to be without several crises," Parcells said Thursday. "There's no doubt about it. They're coming."

And they can come in many forms.

Injury is the most likely. Incompetence can hit, too, such as a four-interception game by Quincy Carter. There also could be a fluke play that costs Dallas a win. Or, worse yet, it could be a boneheaded play that costs the Cowboys.

With a combination of those, or even merely a run of bad luck, a losing skid is another possibility. Especially considering the upcoming schedule.

Dallas' next six games are at Tampa against the defending Super Bowl champs, home against rival Washington then Buffalo led by former Parcells pupil Drew Bledsoe, at New England on a Sunday night in another reunion game for Parcells, then two tough games in five days -- Carolina and Miami.

Those six foes have a combined record of 24-15. Compare that to 10-27 for the six teams the Cowboys have played. While Parcells notes that his team has contributed to that woeful record, it's still 9-22 after subtracting the Dallas games.

Parcells will learn a lot about his players by how they respond the first time things stop going their way. So far, though, they've done an excellent job of preventing small problems from turning into big ones.

Start with Game 2 against the New York Giants, the one that looms larger with each victory.

Carter threw an interception on his first pass and it was returned for a touchdown. Down 7-0 early in a Monday night game at the Meadowlands, Dallas could've cratered. It didn't. Then, after building a big fourth-quarter lead then blowing it, the Cowboys recovered with several key plays in the final 11 seconds to force overtime. That victory became a confidence-building launching point.

Another near-miss came this past Sunday, when Detroit returned a fumble by Troy Hambrick for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Then Aveion Cason fumbled the ensuing kickoff.

Had Detroit recovered it, Dallas might have spent "all day digging out of that hole," Parcells warned.

But they didn't.

"Things are going to happen during the course of games, during the course of a season," defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "You've just got to bounce back, be resilient and do your job. It's got to continue."

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^LESS IS MORE:@ A big reason why the Dallas defense gives up the fewest yards per game in the NFL is because it's not on the field very much.

Despite big plays that have quickly ended some drives, the Cowboys' offense has done a great job of chewing up time of possession. Getting first downs and avoiding turnovers make it possible for longer drives, which wear down defenses and keep the Dallas defense fresh.

The best example was the third quarter of the Detroit game. The Lions offense had only three snaps.

"If you want to be a championship team you have to do something like that most of the time," coach Bill Parcells said. "It's a complementary way to play. It not only helps our offense and our point total, it helps our defense. It helps our field position. It helps the things that allow you to win games. "

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^LITTLE LBs:@ Playing linebacker for Bill Parcells isn't easy. As a former linebackers coach, Parcells is a tough critic.

He admits he has a pretty high standard for the position because of the star players he's coached: Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Mo Lewis, Pepper Johnson and Brad Van Pelt.

Making things tougher for Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen is their size, or lack of it. Parcells prefers big guys, and both of them are under 6 feet.

After six games, though, they've earned his respect.

"They really have because they're football players and football players come in all shapes and sizes," Parcells said. "These guys are doing a good job. They hustle. They scamper."

Parcells has gotten to the point where he expects Nguyen to do his job, so he rarely talks to him. He realized that recently and after the Detroit game made sure to congratulate him.

"I put my arm around him and told him, 'I just take you for granted, and that's not right. Just want you to know I think you're doing a good job," Parcells said.

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^FAMILIAR FACE:@ A broadcaster named Jimmy Johnson recently visited Valley Ranch and chatted with the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Asked if it was awkward being around someone who once had his job, Bill Parcells laughed.

"I like Jimmy a lot," he said. "We have always gotten along. I asked him if he wanted the whistle back. He said no."

Parcells said he respects what Johnson did with the Cowboys because it was under such difficult circumstances.

"When he first came here everything was new. Everything in the building was new. That is a hard transition for a guy to make," Parcells said. "The support staff was new. Everybody trying to find out what to do is new. It is not easy. to his credit and to other people here they managed to get that done.

"I am not sure I could have ever have done that."

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^TUNA ON CHUCKY:@ Bill Parcells doesn't know Jon Gruden. But he likes what he's seen from afar.

"He's got a lot of passion," Parcells said of Gruden, whom he will coach against for the first time Sunday when the Cowboys face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "I know he is a dedicated football guy. ...

"He's trying to win. He's very passionate about the job, and he seems to be pretty good at his job. I appreciate that."

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