Legacy not tarnished by record

What happens with T.O.? What's next in Dallas? Our experts know all.

Updated: January 22, 2007, 4:27 PM ET
ESPN.com

With Bill Parcells announcing his retirement, it's time to go to our experts to get answers on Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys in a special edition of Burning Questions.

1. Are you surprised?

Ron Jaworski: No, I'm not surprised -- I'm shocked. I really thought with the way Tony Romo had evolved that Parcells had found a quarterback he could count on to lead the way. Normally a quarterback and a coach are joined at the hip so I expected Parcells to stay and follow Romo as he continued to evolve. This is a shocking decision.

Sean Salisbury: I'm very surprised and bummed. I really thought Parcells would stay another season or two to try and see this through to the end. Instead he's decided to leave the organization and he's leaving it in better shape than it was in when he went there. This is not a bare cupboard by any means and whoever takes the job will have the opportunity to lead this team to the Super Bowl with Parcells' guys.

Joe Theismann: I'm not completely surprised by this. Parcells was put in some precarious situations this year because of some personnel decisions that were made by other people. The situation in Dallas doesn't seem to be one where he thinks he can get the job done. I hope this isn't a true retirement because the entertainment value alone is worth having him around. I don't like the notion of not having a postgame and Monday press conference from Parcells to comment on next season.

Mark Schlereth: Yes, I am. I thought he would be around for a while. It did catch me off guard. But at the same time I understand what an arduous task it is coaching in the league. It's a tough, tough job. I understand that it wears on you. It would wear down anyone.

Merrill Hoge: Not really. This league is brutal. Not just from the physical standpoint of a player, but the daily grind. The grind of coaching is exhausting. Especially for someone like Parcells who has been around a long time, and this past season was vigorous with all the off-field activities.

Darren Woodson: I was definitely shocked. I just didn't think he'd go out this way. This team was a bobbled snap away from making it to the next round of the playoffs and possibly to play for the NFC Championship so I think he was in the position and this team is in the position to make a run at the Super Bowl in the next couple of years. I just felt that he didn't want to go out that way, with a bobbled snap.

I think this loss ate away at him. The entire season his wins were good wins, but in the end I think the lows definitely outweighed the highs. They'd lose a game and he was seriously in the dumps. He expected a lot out of this team this year. He expected this team to truly fight for the NFC title and win the Super Bowl. He brought this team up from being a very bad team to a very good team talent-wise and in the end they fell short and that took a toll on him.

2. What's next in Dallas?

Ron Jaworski: It's very interesting because I don't see a lot of coaching candidates out there for the Cowboys to choose from right now. The top assistant coaches have already been gobbled up … not to say that there aren't any good assistants out there, but this is going to be a tough hire for Jerry and Stephen Jones.

Sean Salisbury: They have to decide what philosophy and attitude they want to take on next for the Dallas Cowboys. There aren't a lot of big names out there for the Cowboys to choose from, but they still have one of the marquee positions in all of sports to offer to someone. Once they decide what they want to do and who they are as a team then they should hire a coach.

Joe Theismann: The first step for the Cowboys is to look at the quarterback situation because I'm not sure it really has been solved. Tony Romo started off with a bang, but finished with a whimper and you have to wonder which Romo is the true Romo. That has to be the first move the Cowboys make.

Mark Schlereth: I expect them to do a thorough search. There are candidates out there that Jerry Jones will speak with. Jerry Jones has a lot of money and if we know one thing, he's going to make a splash. It's too early to say who the candidates are at this point.

Merrill Hoge: If they get a players' coach, that organization could be in turmoil. They need a whip-cracking disciplinarian who can get this team back into the playoffs. Too much has happened there in the past year for them to get a coach who doesn't lay down the law. They have a few holes to fill, but they need someone who is going to take control of that team.

Darren Woodson: I guess they have to get on the wire and find a coach. Jerry Jones wants to win and he's not going to sit back on his laurels and waste any time. I know he loved coach Parcells and what he was about, but I think Jerry Jones is looking for the future. The trend right now is to hire a young coach so I wouldn't be surprised if you saw Bob Stoops or a Mike Singletary-type of young coach become the next head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

3. Does his 34-32 record with Dallas tarnish his legacy?

Ron Jaworski: Absolutely not, he's one of the best coaches in history and he could've gone 2-64 and that wouldn't have changed. His tenure with the Giants, Patriots and Jets through differing times and styles proved his greatness.

Sean Salisbury: Not in my eyes. Bill Parcells is one of the best coaches ever and while he wasn't able to lead this particular group of players to a Super Bowl, he's still a great coach. This is still the same guy who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, took the New England Patriots' moribund franchise to the Super Bowl and led the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game. Parcells belongs on the NFL's coaching Mount Rushmore.

Joe Theismann: His legacy isn't tarnished one bit. In fact I don't think many people will talk about him much as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He's always going to be a New York Giant in a lot of people's minds.

Mark Schlereth: No. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants and turned around organization after organization. Whether it's taking the Patriots to the Super Bowl or taking the Jets to the AFC Championship game, he is a great coach. His legacy will not be tarnished even though he did not have the same success with the Cowboys. No matter what his future holds, he will always be considered one of the greats.

Merrill Hoge: No, I don't think so. He didn't have a landslide winning record in Dallas, but he's brought winning wherever he has been. He won two Super Bowls and always had the respect of his players. Although he was not dominant in Dallas, he still remains one of the NFL's best. A lot happened in Dallas the past season with T.O. and Drew Bledsoe. Despite a sour ending to the season, they were on the verge of really becoming an elite team.

Darren Woodson: No, not at all. When Parcells came in he changed the culture around the Cowboys and brought in a winning attitude. His first year we ended up 10-6 and you can't even compare the talent we had back then to the talent they have now. He has changed the culture not only with the players, but with the entire organization as far as the scouting department and coaching staff. I guarantee you Jerry Jones has learned a lot from him the past several years. From top to bottom, the organization is in a better spot now than when he arrived.

4. Should Jerry Jones hire a current NFL assistant coach or a college head coach?

Ron Jaworski: My philosophy is to stay away from college head coaches because the recent history is failure. I do believe the Cowboys should look at getting a young guy like the Steelers did because the position needs a certain amount of enthusiasm and vigor that it didn't need in the past. There is no longer a coaching offseason as there used to be in the NFL and as there is in college football. This is a job that requires 60-70 hour weeks throughout the season and hard hours when the season is over. I'm sure that had something to do with Parcells' retirement.

Sean Salisbury: I'm not sure a college coach can be successful in today's NFL, which is why if I was Jerry Jones my first phone call would be to Jimmy Johnson to see if he has another five or six-year run left in him. They've made up their differences and the possibilities created by having a coach of Johnson's caliber in Dallas would be huge. There would be no letdown in terms of performance at the head coach level if you brought in a guy like Johnson.

He knows how to win, knows the situation, can work with Jones and you can tell he still has a passion for the game.

My second phone call would be to Bill Cowher to see if there was any way to get him to come down to a glamorous job like Dallas' instead of taking a year off. Those are two of the best available candidates for that position in terms of being able to handle not only the coaching duties, but also the ancillary things that come with the position.

Joe Theismann: I'd stay away from college head coaches if I were the Cowboys. There are tremendously qualified assistant coaches such as Jim Bates (who just signed with the Broncos) and the Chicago Bears' Ron Rivera. The Cowboys should start interviewing and see if they can meet up with Rivera during his off week to see if he's a good fit.

Mark Schlereth: I am always big on hiring an NFL coach; someone who has been there before and someone who will have the respect from his players. Unless you have been there, it's difficult to understand the rigors of an NFL player or coach. I am not a fan of hiring someone from the college ranks who doesn't fully understand that. The Cowboys in particular; Jerry Jones has a reputation of hiring coaches but not empowering them. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. Look at the Terrell Owens signing. That was a Jerry Jones deal, not a Parcells deal. That decision completely undermined Parcells' authority and it permeated throughout the locker room. An NFL coach is better equipped to handle this sort of turmoil.

Merrill Hoge: No question he needs to go with an NFL coach. That team is positioned for the playoffs right now. It is not a rebuilding team. It takes more time for a college coach to get acclimated to the NFL life. There's a longer learning curve for a college coach. The Cowboys are a team constantly under the spotlight and they need someone who can handle that and who has had the experience coaching professional players.

Darren Woodson: That's a tough question. I think you have to hire the best qualified coach. Whoever comes in and can help you in a couple of areas. They need someone who uses the 3-4 defensive schemes because this team is set up that way. Maybe they keep defensive backs coach Todd Bowles and make him the defensive coordinator and then bring in an offensive-minded coach who can help coach Tony Romo.

5. What will happen with T.O.?

Ron Jaworski: This doesn't help or hurt T.O. at all. Bill Parcells and Owens didn't have a warm, fuzzy relationship at all. That aside, what it will come down for T.O. is simple: Can he perform at a higher level than we saw last season and will the new coaching staff believe that last year was an aberration?

Sean Salisbury: I personally believe that T.O. is happy with Parcells' decision and especially if they bring in someone he likes. T.O. and Parcells didn't have a relationship so he won't be missing much. I don't think it matters in terms of if he'll be back next season because if Jerry Jones is smart, which he is, he'll allow that decision to be made by the new head coach.

Joe Theismann: I think Parcells' retirement makes Jerry Jones' decision regarding T.O. very simple. Now he's in a situation where he can keep T.O. without fear of losing his head coach. At some point the rubber had to meet the road with this situation because those two weren't going to continue to coexist.

Mark Schlereth: Now it makes it interesting. I really thought -- before the Parcells announcement -- that he was going to be released. T.O will probably find a way to stick around. The Cowboys are going to want to find a way to restructure his deal. From the looks of things, T.O. will probably stick around now.

Merrill Hoge: I still think it is up in the air. I feel that one of the stipulations of a new coach is going to depend on Owens' future with the team. They are still in a position where they could get rid of him. But he cannot continue to be the centerpiece day after day with that team. The Cowboys are not married to him. It's going to be a strong topic of discussion, no matter who the head coach ends up being. And the future of that coach could depend on T.O.

Darren Woodson: I don't know if this decision has any effect on Terrell Owens' status. I think Jerry is going to make a decision on that as far as if he's going to give him this five-million dollar bonus that [Owens is] due in June or if he's going to bypass it. But I think Terrell Owens will probably remain on this team. I don't think Parcells departure will have any effect on Terrell Owens' future