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Thursday, January 2
Updated: March 26, 4:56 PM ET
Parcells ends hiatus to become Dallas' sixth coach

By Chris Mortensen

Bill Parcells told ESPN on Wednesday that he has officially agreed to become the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Parcells undecided on
Smith, Hutchinson
Bill Parcells, who will be introduced as Cowboys coach later on Thursday, said on his nationally syndicated weekly radio show that he hasn't decided whether running back Emmitt Smith or quarterback Chad Hutchinson will remain with the team.

"I've given it some thought, but I haven't had ample time to really talk to the people in the organization," Parcells said on Sporting News Radio, adding that he plans to address the issue soon. His comments appeared in a story on the Dallas Morning News' Web site.

Parcells admitted the keys to his NFL success were his ability to "establish a good quarterback situation" and "come up with a good running back that could take the pressure off that quarterback."

At quarterback, Parcells had Phil Simms with the Giants, drafted Drew Bledsoe in New England and acquired Vinny Testaverde his second year with the Jets. He had Joe Morris, Otis Anderson and Dave Meggett at running back with the Giants and Curtis Martin with the Patriots and Jets.

Parcells said he intends to stay for the entire four years of his Cowboys contract, but knows that progress must be made.

"In this climate of football as we've witnessed, you have to show some progress or there's a good chance you won't be in some place for very long," Parcells said.

Parcells said he and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finalized the deal Wednesday morning. Another source told ESPN that Parcells had signed a copy of a four-year contract worth $17.1 million.

Parcells will be formally introduced today in a 7 p.m. ET news conference in Dallas as he assumes the reins of a team that has suffered through three consecutive 5-11 seasons.

"I'm going to do it," said Parcells, breaking a three-year hiatus from the NFL.

Parcells, 61, becomes the sixth coach of the Cowboys -- but the first with previous NFL head coaching experience -- replacing Dave Campo, who was fired Monday. He has not coached in the NFL since the 1999 season with the New York Jets. He won Super Bowls XXI and XXV with the New York Giants, reached Super Bowl XXXI with the New England Patriots and went to the AFC championship game in his second season (1998) with the Jets.

Parcells' career record is 138-100-1, a .579 winning percentage. He's also 11-6 in the playoffs; only Tom Landry, Don Shula and Chuck Noll have more postseason victories.

The majority of issues between Jones and Parcells were solved in two face-to-face meetings and through more telephone talks after Campo was fired. Only one issue -- not a deal-breaker -- remained Tuesday, but a source said it was more hypothetical than anything else.

"I just needed to think some things over and sleep on it one last time," said Parcells, who has been working as a studio analyst for ESPN. "All these other reports were premature until this morning. You know, this is important to both Jerry and me. We don't want to fail. It's got to work and I feel good about it.

"Jerry has invested a lot in the Cowboys and the thing that drives him more than anything else is his desire to win. That's the biggest common (denominator) we both have."

Parcells' two meetings with Jones, totaling about 11 hours, dealt with numerous practical and hypothetical issues. Parcells will have control of his coaching staff, the 53-man roster and, after a review, will be involved with Jones in remaking the scouting department, a league source said. Jones will remain as general manager of the team, but many of the hypotheticals the two discussed dealt with personnel issues such as scouting, the draft and free agency.

The Cowboys have the fifth pick in April's draft.

"There's no question that Bill is going to be the greatest authority in the football operation because Jerry wants it that way, even if every detail is not necessarily in writing," a source close to Parcells said. "That's why there was so much time that lapsed. Bill and Jerry both had to reach a comfort level. There had to be a feeling of trust and I think both guys worked through the various hypotheticals that were raised. ... Bill raised a lot of them. Jerry made it clear that the organization will defer to the head coach on the football matters."

It seems unlikely Jones will be as visible in the bench area during games as he was under the Campo regime, but he will not forsake his visibility as the frontman of the Cowboys, the source said.

"The one thing Bill understands is that Jerry put everything he had on the line to buy the Cowboys, and he has poured his life into it since then," said the source. "He is very respectful of what Jerry did and what Jerry has invested. The bottom line is, he knows Jerry will do whatever it takes to win and get back to the Super Bowl. They both know there are no guarantees but you're going to see the best of them, I think."

Parcells' hiring also is expected to jump-start disenchanted Cowboys fans. Jones has numerous luxury box suite holders at Texas Stadium whose leases had expired with six-year renewals pending.

That also helps explain why Jones was willing to make Parcells the first Cowboys coach to exceed $1 million in salary. Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer both received that amount, but Chan Gailey and Dave Campo were under the million-dollar mark.

In fact, salary was never an issue. The two men solved that barrier in "about 30 seconds" at the first meeting held Dec. 18, the source said, when Jones asked Parcells, "what's it going to take?"

Sources close to both men said Parcells answered by telling the Cowboys owner to "throw out Spurrier's contract" -- $5 million annually -- and just basically pay him the average of the top five highest-paid coaches in the NFL. Jones said that was fair.

Parcells' Memphis-based agent, Jimmy Sexton, then worked on the specific numbers with Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' executive vice president and Jerry Jones' son, and those two hammered out many of the other details.

A Cowboys source said Jones appreciated that Parcells "didn't try to hold him up" by demanding to be the highest-paid coach in football.

As for the coaching staff, Parcells will interview some assistants who served under Campo, such as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. But none of them is guaranteed a job and Parcells is researching potential assistants across the NFL who are available after this season. Even though many of his former assistants from his days with the Giants, Patriots and Jets will not be available, a source said Parcells is comfortable that he can hire a competent staff.

Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN.

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 Tuna in the can
ESPN's Mike Golic weighs in on Bill Parcells' new coaching job in Dallas.
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