Window closing for Dallas' 'Parcells guys'

Friday was the five-year anniversary of the last game Bill Parcells coached in the NFL -- a playoff loss to the Seahawks that most people remember as the game in which Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the snap on a fourth-quarter field goal that would have won the game. Todd Archer spoke with Parcells, who's now an ESPN analyst, about his time in Dallas and the way he looks back on it when he watches the Cowboys play now. Specifically, Parcells spoke of the players he brought in who remain. Those include Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and others:

A few years ago, one of Parcells' picks was telling a non-Parcells pick how the coach would make them run a sprint to the fence at training camp as punishment if things weren't going well. The non-Parcells pick said he never would have let a coach do that to him.

That tough-talking player is no longer a Cowboy, but it spoke to the difference in mentality that seeped into the locker room not long after Parcells left.

"Most of them are pretty talented," Parcells said of the players who remain. "You don't play for that length of time in the league without being talented. But I'd like to think that maybe I helped them get started and put a little foundation in a few of them that maybe helped them go forward. That's the only thing you can hope for. I'm not saying I did, but I'm just hopeful."

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the year following Parcells' departure, but they lost to the New York Giants in the playoffs and have had ups and downs since. They were division champs two years ago and lost in the divisional round to Minnesota, bottomed out last season when they started 1-7 and head coach Wade Phillips got fired, and were looking good this season in first place at 7-4 before a 1-4 finish and two losses to the Giants kept them out of the playoffs once again.

Parcells says in the story that the 2007 playoff loss doesn't seem that long ago, but in a lot of ways it kind of does. Romo will be 32 when next season begins. Ware and Witten will be 30, and Ratliff will be 31. Not old, by any stretch, but no longer young enough to make you feel like unlimited potential lies in front of this core group. When Parcells left five years ago, he believed he was leaving behind a group of players on which championship teams could be built. It hasn't happened yet, and considering the number of obvious needs with which the Cowboys enter this offseason, their fans could be forgiven for starting to wonder if it'll happen before the "Parcells guys" get too old.