IRVING, Texas -- Nearly two weeks after the Dallas Cowboys' season ended, Bill Parcells still hasn't decided whether he wants to keep coaching.
Jerry Jones has told Parcells to take all the time he wants -- at least, until the Feb. 1 deadline that's in his contract.
Fans aren't as patient. Their need for an answer, one way or another, grows each day. His status remains the most-talked-about topic on local sports radio, with shows treating it like a hostage situation: Day X of Dallas under siege. (Thursday was Day 12.)
With no word directly from Parcells, inquiring minds are left to read between the lines. That's led to theories such as:
He's staying because he keeps showing up for work every day. If he was quitting, he'd be out by now. Tom Landry had the job for 29 years and needed only a few hours to gather up all his personal belongings.
He's going because he let trusted assistant coach David Lee leave to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. Parcells has known Lee more than 30 years and he's widely credited with developing Tony Romo's throwing mechanics.
He's staying because of Tony Romo and the chance to have a full season with him as the starting quarterback. Parcells himself said
last season that the combination of "a fiery coach and a young quarterback ... that ought to be enough to perk you up for a while." Besides, he could replace Lee with an even closer friend, Dan Henning, recently fired as offensive coordinator in Carolina.
He's going because he's supposedly thinking about other jobs, like when the New York Giants were looking for a general manager.
He's staying because of how outraged he was to have been linked to that opening.
He's going because Pat Summerall, one of Parcells' best buddies locally, said so on a radio show.
He's staying because Parcells stopped speaking to Summerall after hearing about it.
He's going because Phil Simms said so, although he admitted he was just guessing.
He's staying to spite Simms.
Maybe the holdup is Terrell Owens. What if Parcells has given Jones a me-or-him ultimatum?
Another wrinkle could be money. Parcells is due about $5.5 million in 2007, which is a lot more than Social Security would pay the 65-year-old coach. Television doesn't pay nearly that well, either.
While Parcells has recouped much of what he lost in a divorce that preceded his arrival in Dallas, he knows this could be his last big payday.
So maybe the wait is all about trying to squeeze Jones for an extension with a golden -- no, platinum -- parachute. Having his name linked to the Giants job may have been a negotiating ploy.
But what if it backfired? What if it angered Jones and ruined their extension talks? In that case, Parcells could be dragging his feet while all the top candidates take other jobs, leaving Jones no choice but to bring him back.
Then again, Jones' top candidate could be Bill Cowher and Jones figures he'll have to wait a year to get him anyway. In that case, Jones would take Parcells for one more year -- but only one, and not for more money.
The longer Parcells' status remains in limbo, the more every little thing is going to get overanalyzed and conspiracy theories such as these will make the rounds.
Parcells should be used to it considering he plays this waiting game nearly every year; that's why there's a decision deadline in his contract.
It's been this way since he walked away from the Giants because of heart problems following his second Super Bowl title, back in January 1991. There was even drama surrounding him most offseasons when he was out of coaching because it was always presumed that he was waiting to jump back in.
Last year, Parcells took only five days and came back with the extension through 2007.
This year's wait proves that Jones is in no hurry to get rid of Parcells, an idea that gained traction when the Cowboys lost four of their last five games, culminating with a playoff loss at Seattle. It left Dallas 34-32 in four years under Parcells, including 0-2 in the playoffs. The Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since 1996, the longest drought in club history.
If Parcells is not working on his exit strategy, then he's probably thinking about putting together his staff, starting with a new defensive coordinator because Mike Zimmer took the same job in Atlanta.
Zimmer's contract was about to expire and he didn't want to wait for things to get sorted out in Dallas -- even though he would've been the leading in-house candidate to replace Parcells (if he left) and Parcells told Zimmer he would keep his job (if Parcells stayed).
Lee's departure offered more intrigue.
At Parcells' request, Lee put the Arkansas offer on hold. After five days of stalling the Razorbacks -- Jones' alma mater, by the way -- Parcells told Lee not to wait any longer because he couldn't say for sure whether he'd be back.
Will he or won't he?
The only certainty is that an answer should come by Feb. 1.