Parcells faces team he jilted in Week 8 of NFL
Parcells left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at the altar before they paid a king's ransom for Jon Gruden in February 2002. On Sunday, Parcells and his first-place Dallas Cowboys (5-1) will visit the defending Super Bowl champions.
When the Bucs fired Tony Dungy after the 2001 season, owner Malcolm Glazer offered the job to Parcells, who coached the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990. Parcells appeared ready to accept it, but backed out at the last minute and decided to stay in retirement.
The Bucs then pursued Gruden and Steve Mariucci. Both were under contract, but Glazer was willing to pay a heavy price to pry Gruden loose from Al Davis, sending the Oakland Raiders four draft picks and $8 million.
Gruden proved to be worthy, leading the Bucs to their first Super Bowl title last season. At 39, he became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl.
At age 62, Parcells is back in the NFL as coach of the Cowboys and has made an immediate impact for owner Jerry Jones. Before he arrived, the Cowboys did not have a winning season since 1998 and went 5-11 each of the past three seasons under Dave Campo. Now they are riding a five-game winning streak for the first time since 1994.
"It has everything to do with his (Parcells') skill level and experience," Jones said of the rapid turnaround. "Our players believe in him."
Dallas' defense, led by La'Roi Glover and Greg Ellis on the line and a fast trio of linebackers - Dexter Coakley, Dat Nguyen and Al Singleton - has also improved steadily, allowing a total of 41 points over the last four games.
Singleton signed as a free agent with Dallas last March after starting at strongside linebacker on Tampa Bay's Super Bowl-winning team.
The Bucs' vaunted defense proved mighty vulnerable last week in a 24-7 loss at San Francisco. The 49ers rushed for 212 yards and Terrell Owens caught six passes for 152 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.
"We don't look like the best team in the game, that's for sure," said Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber. "We're pretty average, pretty inconsistent. It's unfortunate, because we're a better team."
But injuries are clearly hampering the Bucs. Cornerback Brian Kelly, who tied for the league lead with nine interceptions last season, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a torn pectoral muscle. Kelly's injury is another significant blow for the Bucs, who already have lost fullback Mike Alstott (neck) for the rest of the season. The club also has been without wide receiver Joe Jurevicius (knee) for the last four games.
The Vikings (6-0) and Chiefs (7-0) are the lone unbeaten teams left in the NFL near the midway point of the season. Both will be home this weekend.
The Vikings last started 7-0 in 2000, when they finished 11-5 and won a division title under former coach Dennis Green. However, they were embarrassed in the NFC championship game by the Giants, 41-0.
Since then, the teams have met at the Metrodome each of the last two seasons. The Vikings posted a 28-16 victory in November 2001 as Daunte Culpepper passed for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Three of the scoring passes went to superstar Randy Moss, who caught 10 passes for 171 yards.
But it was a far different story last November 10 when Culpepper was benched after going 9-of-20 for 91 yards in a 27-20 win for the Giants.
Expected to contend for the NFC East title, the Giants are in last place in the division behind Dallas, the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) and Washington Redskins (3-4).
With six wins, Minnesota equaled its total last year under coach Mike Tice. The Vikings already have a 3 1/2-game lead over Green Bay (3-4) and will host the Packers next week.
The Chiefs look for their first eight-game winning streak in franchise history Sunday night when they host the Buffalo Bills.
Already off to the best start in their 44-year existence, the Chiefs have never won eight straight.
Priest Holmes, who is third in the NFL in rushing with 687 yards and nine touchdowns, should provide a test for the Bills' revamped defense that ranks third in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.7 points per game.
The Bills finally got their running game going in last week's 24-7 victory over Washington Redskins. Entering the game last in the NFL in rushing offense, the Bills relied on Travis Henry, who carried 31 times for a career-high 167 yards and two touchdowns.
This is the second straight season that the teams are meeting at Arrowhead Stadium, with Kansas City posting a narrow 17-16 win last November 17.
While Dick Vermeil has the Chiefs rolling, his former team - the St. Louis Rams (4-2) - are on the heels of the Seattle Seahawks (5-1) in the NFC West. The Rams visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) and the Seahawks face the Cincinnati Bengals (2-4).
Danny Kanell makes his first start for the Denver Broncos (5-2) and Chad Pennington returns for the New York Jets (2-4) this weekend. Denver visits the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) and the Jets meet Philadelphia.
Already without starter Jake Plummer due to a broken foot, the Broncos also will be without backup Steve Beuerlein for the rest of the season due to a broken right pinkie. Beuerlein suffered the injury in the third quarter of last week's 28-20 loss at Minnesota.
Kanell nearly rallied the Broncos against the Vikings after completing 12-of-18 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He made his last NFL start on November 12, 2000 while with the Atlanta Falcons. Kanell also spent time with the Giants in his career and went 7-2-1 as a starter in 1997, when they won the NFC East title.
Jets coach Herman Edwards announced that Pennington will play Sunday, but Vinny Testaverde will remain as the starter.
"I'll not let you know when Chad will come into the game. We'll keep that to ourselves," Edwards said.
The NFL leader in passer rating last season, Pennington suffered a fractured and dislocated left wrist when he landed awkwardly after being tackled from behind in an August 23 preseason game against the New York Giants.
The Jets expected him to return sometime in November, but Pennington dressed as the emergency third quarterback in last Sunday's 19-14 win at Houston.
After starting the year 0-4, Testaverde passed for a total of four touchdowns in back-to-back wins over Buffalo and Houston.
The Carolina Panthers (5-1), who hope to bounce back from their first loss of the season, are two games ahead of Tampa Bay in the NFC South. The Panthers visit the New Orleans Saints (2-4) in a division game this weekend.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index