If not for fumble, would Bill Parcells have coached on?

IRVING, Texas -- As Todd Archer reminds Cowboys fans, quarterback Tony Romo is returning to Seattle for the first time since the 2006 NFC playoffs.

In that wild-card game, Romo fumbled the snap on a potential game-winning field goal attempt, and the Cowboys lost 21-20 to Seattle.

Afterward, then-coach Bill Parcells retired.

If the Cowboys had won that game, would Parcells have continued on?

"I always had a good understanding and a good feel to where Bill was, relative to his motivation, relative to his clock if you will," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "So his decision to not coach anymore wasn’t a shock to me. I wanted him to continue if he wanted to continue. I knew a time frame that he was looking to when he took the job. I didn’t anticipate anything, but just was not shocked."

Parcells rebuilt the Cowboys after three consecutive 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo. Several players from the Parcells era remain as major contributors -- Jason Witten, Marcus Spears, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Miles Austin and Romo.

Since the Seattle loss, the Cowboys have won the NFC East twice, earned their first playoff victory since 1996, were a No. 1 seed and have had two coaching changes.

"When you think about a team, especially all the guys coming together, you grow each year from that adversity," Ware said. "You build character from that, and it's where we are right now. We're the veterans of the team, and all those little adverse times from when we were younger has molded us to where we are right now. We're a much more mature team."

Are the Cowboys a better team after the 2006 playoff loss?

Maybe. You can look at the 2007 season, when they finished 13-3 and were the NFC top seed -- only to lose in the divisional round to the New York Giants at home -- as maybe the high-point of the Parcells era.

Yes, Wade Phillips was coaching that team. But it was mainly Parcells' players that fueled the season.

Romo, meanwhile, is still judged on that 2006 bobbled snap and, despite a Pro Bowl season (36 TDs, 4,211 yards) a 2007 loss to the Giants after a trip to Cabo during the playoff bye week. Both still upset Cowboys fans.

"I think you have some, in his case, a person and player who is continuing striving for ways to get better," Jones said of Romo. "It’s one of his best qualities. He never sits still or thinks in the now. He’s always trying to think ahead, get better in different circumstances (and) how it can help him be a better player and better for the Cowboys."

Parcells helped the Cowboys get better, but you have to wonder: If not for the fumble, what might have been?