Two-time SB champion Parcells retires from coaching

Updated: January 23, 2007, 4:02 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

IRVING, Texas -- Bill Parcells could have returned to the Dallas Cowboys for one more shot at becoming the first coach to lead three teams into the Super Bowl.

Say what?
Is Bill Parcells really retiring? He's said he was finished before, only to return:

May 15, 1991: Bill Parcells announces his retirement as Giants head coach after eight years. When asked if he could possibly coach another team someday, he said "I'm not dying."

Jan. 31, 1996: Parcells delivered a letter to Patriots owner Robert Kraft that said he had "no desire to continue as an NFL coach" or have other comparable positions for the 1997 season. He signed with the Jets just eight days later, with the Patriots' permission.

Jan. 2, 2000: Parcells resigned after three seasons as coach of the New York Jets. Parcells said he could no longer devote the amount of time needed to be a coach. ''I've coached my last game,'' said Parcells, ending rumors he might seek another job. When pushed on the subject, Parcells firmly reiterated, "... My intention is to stay retired as a coach.''

-- ESPN Research

He could have come back to try ending the longest playoff drought in the franchise's proud history. Or he could have come back to finish what he started in developing quarterback Tony Romo and a 3-4 defense.

Instead, 15 days after a gut-wrenching playoff loss in Seattle, Parcells decided Monday to call it a career, ending a four-year run in Dallas. Over 19 seasons in the NFL, Parcells led teams to three Super Bowls, winning two championships.

"Physically, I could still do it," Parcells told ESPN's Ed Werder. "But, mentally, this is a 12-month-a-year job and I've been doing it since 1964. It was time to stop. I just have to let go.''

Parcells released a statement late Monday morning confirming his decision to step down and expressing gratitude toward the organization.

"I want to thank Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones for their tremendous support over the last four years," the statement read. "Also, the players, my coaching staff and others in the support group who have done so much to help. Dallas is a great city and the Cowboys are an integral part of it. I am hopeful that they are able to go forward from here."

Known for a gruff demeanor and colorful quotes, Parcells leaves with the ninth most wins in NFL history and a career record of 183-138-1. He was 34-32 in Dallas, counting two playoff losses.

"I am in good health and feel lucky to have been able to coach in the NFL for an extended period of time," the 65-year-old coach said.

A source told Werder that there was no money exchanged in Parcells' resignation and that the coach will receive no portion of the $5.5 million in the final year of the contract he signed last January.

Although he failed to make the Cowboys champions again, Parcells leaves the Cowboys better than he found them. The club went from three straight 5-11 seasons before he arrived to making the playoffs twice in four years: his first season, 2003, and his last.

"I'd first like to say that my respect and appreciation for Bill Parcells has only grown since the first day he joined the Dallas Cowboys," team owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "Our relationship, both on the professional and personal levels, is something that I am grateful for and something that will continue on into the future.

"It is a relationship that was structured around the fundamental element of applying all of our joint resources, energy and efforts into winning and being successful in every aspect of the organization.

"We are now prepared to move forward as an organization and pursue our goals of achieving at the highest level with the same dedication and enthusiasm. Fans of the Dallas Cowboys expect nothing less."

Not everyone seemed sorry to see Parcells leave, however.

"I am just hoping his retirement brings promise to what the team has to offer," embattled wide receiver Terrell Owens told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday. "This past year was a big letdown. On paper we were as good as anybody we played against every week. The end result didn't show that. Our play was not indicative of what we could have done. What we should have done. Hopefully, the owner will hire a coach to take the team to the next level."

Parcells expected big things in 2006 and, thanks to the emergence of Romo, Dallas had a two-game division lead in December. Then the Cowboys lost four of their final five games, including the last three. The capper came against the Seahawks after Romo bungled the hold of a short field goal with a little more than a minute left.

"I did the best I could," Parcells said following that game. "But it wasn't quite good enough."

Parcells Reaction
Terry Glenn
Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn is "bummed out" that Parcells is retiring and says the lows of the trying season outweighed the highs. Listen Insider

Other takes:
Clayton: 'Boys left in bind
Burning Questions
• Joe Theismann Insider
• Michael Irvin Insider
• SportsNation: Fans respond
Vote: Will Parcells stay retired?

The going theory was that Parcells wouldn't end his career that way. The longer he waited to make an announcement, the likelier it seemed that he would return -- especially since he was going to his office every day.

Then came Monday's statement via a morning e-mail. He didn't even hold one last news conference to entertain with old stories and witty lines.

"I will never leave this game with anything but good feelings about it," Parcells said during a Jan. 3 conference call. "It's been a great experience for me, and it's also been a lot of fun. I've met a lot of good people: players, coaches, owners, personnel guys, guys that I like."

Now Jones will have to find someone to pick up where the Big Tuna left off. Jones was not immediately available for comment. The team said he, too, would be releasing a statement.

"We're losing one of our all-time great coaches in our profession," Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

The next coach will be only the seventh in team history and the sixth hired by Jones.

He's given no indication of what kind of coach he'd hire next, always saying he wanted Parcells back.

"To our fans, I would like them to know that it is still all about winning," Jones said. "Winning is the name of the game, and nothing has changed.

"We have made progress on that front in the recent past, and we will continue to build on that progress with the belief that we have to do better."

While Jones waited for Parcells to decide, four other teams picked new coaches and a fifth, Oakland, is well into its search.

Tom Landry made the Cowboys coaching job synonymous with winning during his 29 years, then Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer kept it up by combining to win three Super Bowls.

But the Cowboys haven't even won a playoff game since 1996, under Switzer. Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and now Parcells couldn't end the skid.

Jones hired Johnson and Switzer because he knew them and they were successful in college. Gailey and Campo were successful NFL coordinators who'd never been a head coach. Parcells was an easy choice once he decided to give up television and get back into coaching.

Bill Parcells' Coaching Record
Dallas Cowboys
Bill Parcells retired from coaching Monday after a tumultuous season in Dallas. Parcells is 172-130-1 in his NFL career, with an 11-8 record in the playoffs and two Super Bowl wins.
Year
Team
Record
Playoffs
1983
NYG
3-12-1
None
1984
NYG
9-7
1-1
1985
NYG
10-6
1-1
1986
NYG
14-2
3-0
1987
NYG
6-9
None
1988
NYG
10-6
None
1989
NYG
12-4
0-1
1990
NYG
13-3
3-0
1993
NWE
5-11
None
1994
NWE
10-6
0-1
1995
NWE
6-10
None
1996
NWE
11-5
2-1
1997
NYJ
9-7
None
1998
NYJ
12-4
1-1
1999
NYJ
8-8
None
2003
DAL
10-6
0-1
2004
DAL
6-10
None
2005
DAL
9-7
None
2006
DAL
9-7
0-1

Jones could go for a proven commodity like Bill Cowher, recently resigned from Pittsburgh, but he would require compensation to the Steelers and a massive salary. He might also chase a big-name college coach, from Notre Dame's Charlie Weis or Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to Southern California's Pete Carroll, who replaced Parcells in New England a decade ago.

The Tennessee Titans made it known Monday night that the Cowboys would not be allowed to talk with their coach, Jeff Fisher.

"Dallas has not requested permission to speak to Coach Fisher and in the event they did, there are no circumstances under which permission would be granted," Tennessee chief operating office Steve Underwood told The Tennessean in Nashville on Monday night.

Jones also might pursue Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, or former NFL coaches like San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips or San Francisco offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner would be a popular choice locally; he called plays for Dallas' Super Bowl team in 1992 and remains close to Troy Aikman.

All candidates will have to accept Jones being the general manager. That might have driven away others before, but four years of avoiding ego clashes with Parcells likely has changed his reputation.

The next coach also will face a decision of what to do about Owens, who is due a roster bonus in March. T.O. certainly isn't Parcells' problem any more. Owens got in his parting shots, though.

"You don't know who is doing what," Owens told the Star-Telegram. "You don't know who is calling plays. That is why our offense was up and down. You saw that at the end of the year. It filtered off. We as a team felt the frustration. I felt the frustration. But Bill is Bill."

The first time Parcells walked away from coaching, his heart was an issue. The next time he supposedly was content that coaching was out of his system.

He turned down several chances to return before accepting Jones' offer. He said he took it because he liked the challenge of trying to make the Cowboys champions again, comparing it to playing on the main stage instead of being a lounge act.

After four well-paid years, Parcells could be serious about retiring this time. He's already built a home in Saratoga, N.Y., to spend his post-football days near his family and the racetrack.

Parcells' influence will remain because of all the coaches who worked for him, from three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick of New England to New Orleans' Sean Payton, this past season's coach of the year. Tom Coughlin of the Giants and Romeo Crennel of Cleveland also paid their dues under Parcells.

"Bill's an excellent football coach and a very good friend," Coughlin said. "We're going to miss Bill Parcells on the sideline and we'll miss him in the NFC East. I look forward to the continuation of our friendship at a different level now. I think Bill's looking forward to having the opportunity to do some of the things he truly wants to do. I wish him well."

Parcells' specialty in football was defense. His greatest trait as a coach, though, was his ability to turn around downtrodden clubs.

All four teams he coached had losing records before he arrived, but all four were in the playoffs by his second season. No other coach has taken that many franchises to the postseason.

The entire sports world was taken by surprise by Parcells' move.

LeBron James, an avowed Cowboys fan, was sorry to hear that Parcells retired. "It's disappointing," he said. "I know what he brought to that franchise, and we probably won't be able to get anyone on his level."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ALSO SEE