Senior executive editor Paul Burka
Senior editor and longtime Cowboys reporter Gary Cartwright
Nationally syndicated columnist and former Cowboys reporter Skip Bayless

Burka: Let’ get right to the point: Can Bill Parcells bring the Dallas Cowboys back to the Super Bowl?

Bayless: Of course he can. The Cowboys will win, and win quickly, because he and Jerry are two old warhorses who are facing their mortality as they enter their sixties, and they both want to win at least one more Super Bowl. They know they have to make this partnership work if they’re going to get what they want.

Cartwright: No way. Not as long as Jerry Jones is the general manager, president, owner, and most of all, the manager of the salary cap. In 1995, to prove he could win a Super Bowl without Jimmy Johnson, Jerry paid Deion Sanders $35 million. He won his Super Bowl, but he crippled the Cowboys for the next seven years. They had no salary-cap room to go after the top free agents.

Bayless: But now it’ different. The Cowboys have salary-cap flexibility, and the good thing about Jerry Jones is that there are only six or eight owners in the league who really, really want to win and are willing to write that big bonus check. Jerry is one of them. He will pull the trigger and make the big move that will put them at the top.

Cartwright: One or two big moves aren’t going to fix their huge holes. The Cowboys have an atrocious record for drafting defensive ends, and they have got to have a shutdown cornerback. On offense, I don’t think Chad Hutchinson is the answer at quarterback. He reminds me of Craig Morton back in the seventies, a big guy with a strong arm but very slow afoot.

Bayless: Gary, Phil Simms [the Super Bowl quarterback for the New York Giants] was Craig Morton before Bill Parcells got ahold of him—just a big, strapping, country, dumb guy, and Parcells did wonders for him. You watch. He’ll turn Chad’s career around.

Burka: But personnel aside, what does Bill Parcells have to do to get along with Jerry Jones?

Cartwright: At every point he’ got to give Jerry a lot of credit for what is happening. Jerry needs that kind of stroking. If he does what Jimmy Johnson did—whisper to various sportswriters, ³This guy is an idiot²—he won’t last long.

Bayless: Exactly. Behind the scenes, Jimmy began to humiliate Jerry and make him the brunt of jokes in front of the assistant coaches and front-office staff. I don’t care how great a coach you are, you will not get away with constantly making the big-ego, high-testosterone owner the brunt of your jokes in front of his employees. Parcells is too smart to do that.

Cartwright: Maybe, but I saw Parcells tell the Dallas media that there are three things a coach has to fight against, and the first was division from within. The staff has to speak with one voice, and that voice is Parcells’. But ever since I read that, I’ve been wondering how he’ going to shut Jerry up. Jerry can’t help himself.

Bayless: It doesn’t matter. Let him do all the interviews he wants. Jerry is pretty easy to deal with, really. Since he considers himself the assistant head coach, all you have to do is pat him on the head occasionally and keep him in the loop about what you’re doing with the team.

Burka: Okay, four quick questions: How soon will the Cowboys make the playoffs? How many years of his five-year contract will Parcells last? Will he leave on his own terms or be fired? Will he win a Super Bowl?

Cartwright: They’ll make the playoffs in 2004, but he has to make the Super Bowl in three years. I say he’ gone by 2005 after he loses in the second round of the playoffs and Jerry announces that there’ a distinct difference in philosophy between himself and Parcells.

Bayless: Wrong. He’ll turn them into a wild-card playoff team next year. He’ll last at least five years, and when he leaves, it will be his decision. He’ll win at least one Super Bowl ring.