Nowhere are the fruits of Miami Dolphins' President of Football Operations Bill Parcells and General Manager Jeff Ireland’s labor more apparent than in the staggering recent performances of the Dallas Cowboys.
In the past four games, not only did the Cowboys shock the undefeated New Orleans Saints, they also recorded back to back shutouts to end the season, and then demolished the Philadelphia Eagles in weekend playoff action.
This is not to delimit the efforts of Cowboys Head Coach Wade Phillips or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. But rather, our intent is to underscore the thumbprint that Parcells and Ireland left on the team, a thumbprint that stretches back to 2003, when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned to Parcells in the hope of resuscitating a struggling franchise.
Between 2003 and January 2007, when Parcells resigned as head coach of the Cowboys, Dallas went on a massive rebuilding program. Ireland, as the team’s national scout, parlayed valuable input to Parcells and Jones with respect to player selection and development.
Included in the Parcells era acquisitions: quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, cornerback Terence Newman, and the monster draft of 2005 when the Cowboys acquired Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Marion Barber and Jay Ratliff.
The Parcells era Cowboys also landed free agent wide receiver Miles Austin in 2006. The same year, the Cowboys drafted Bobby Carpenter, fullback Deon Anderson, linebacker Anthony Spencer, and OT Doug Free.
Let’s not forget 2003 draft acquisition of Bradie James, a force in the Cowboys drubbing of the Eagles on Saturday.
To put it succinctly, look at the major players who have ignited the Cowboys resurgence in the past four weeks. The vast majority of them bear the Parcells stamp.
This was evident even in 2007, when the Cowboys went 13-3 under Wade Phillips before quickly exiting to the New York Giants in a divisional round loss. The fact that the Cowboys have once again surfaced as a serious Super Bowl contender augments the Parcells legacy, even though the team’s ultimate potential may not have been realized during his tenure as Head Coach.
But the question that Miami Dolphin fans might want to ask: Where are the Demarcus Wares, the Jason Wittens, the Miles Austins, or the Tony Romos on the Dolphins roster?
It’s a legitimate question because the immediate answer is no where.
At the same time, any premature judgement of a team two years in the making is largely absurd, and the extent to which many of the new Parcells-Ireland acquisitions prove invaluable remains to be seen.
Still, you have to wonder if the old lustre will prove to be there.
Jake Long, a first overall selection of Parcells and Ireland, may have been a no-brainer, but Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford have not set the world on fire.
Several Dolphin bloggers are enamoured with first round selection Vontae Davis, but it was the Bills' second round selection of Jairus Byrd who led the league in picks and deservedly made the Pro-Bowl.
And although the Dolphins identified cornerback as a critical need, how much better would their linebacking corps have been if they had taken Clay Matthews Jr., drafted by Green Bay immediately after Miami took Davis?
However, perhaps a year from now, a Packers supporter might be saying, “If only we had traded up to get Vontae Davis.”
Aside from Jake Long, Miami quarterback Chad Henne has become emblematic of the early Parcells-Ireland era. Irrespective of the 2010 draft, if Henne is the Dolphins opening day starter next September, he will be subject to significant scrutiny in his second season as a starter, and comparisons to Romo's development may well surface.
Should Henne develop into a top ten quarterback like his counterpart in Dallas, then many Dolphin fans will likely to continue their emphatic thumbs up to the Parcells-Ireland regime as the fruits of their labor will again flourish for another NFL franchise.
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