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Parcells-Gibbs: End Of An Era?

The NFL lost one of its dominant personalities and best leaders on Monday when Bill Parcells retired from coaching. If, in fact, Parcells never coaches another game in the NFL, his record is worthy of Hall of Fame status.

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He leaves the Dallas Cowboys after four seasons, which represented the most recent stint in a coaching career that includes three Super Bowl appearances and two championships.

The decision, coming 15 days after Dallas ended its 2006 season with a painful 21-20 playoff loss in Seattle, means the end of an era in terms of the battles between Parcells and Gibbs over the years.

Before joining the Cowboys, Parcells led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles, got the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl and took the New York Jets to the AFC title game.

These are the two coaches most responsible for bringing the NFC East to prominence in the 1980s and for producing so many legendary Redskins-Giants and Redskins-Cowboys matchups.

In his 19 seasons as an NFL head coach with four franchises, Parcells' record versus the Redskins stands at 16-11. In head-to-head matchups versus the Hall of Famer Gibbs, he was 14-9.

The heart of the matter: between 1983 and 1990, Parcells' Giants and Gibbs' Redskins defined the NFC East with a no-nonsense style of play. During those eight seasons, the Giants won 11 of the 17 matchups.

Gibbs' Super Bowl teams--in 1982, '87 and '91--swept the Giants each of those years in the season series. Meantime, the New Yorkers won three times in 1986, including 17-0 in the NFC championship game on a cold and blustery day in the Meadowlands.

When Gibbs returned to the sidelines in 2004, the Week 3 matchup between the Redskins and Cowboys--and Gibbs and Parcells--was featured on Monday Night Football.

Appropriately enough, Gibbs and Parcells were 3-3 against each other the last three seasons.

In what will go down as the final Gibbs-Parcells meeting, Gibbs and the Redskins won in unlikely fashion last Nov. 5 at FedExField. Troy Vincent blocked Mike Vanderjagt's field goal try, Sean Taylor staged a dramatic return and Nick Novak lifted Washington with a 47-yard field goal.

Before joining the Cowboys, Parcells led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles, got the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl and took the New York Jets to the AFC title game.

"The Big Tuna," as he was known in New York, departs the NFL coaching scene with the ninth most wins in NFL history and a career record of 183-138-1.

Asked in November about the ups and downs of coaching in the NFL, Parcells said: "I think this is a humbling game. Both of us [Parcells and Gibbs] know it. We've both been in it long enough to know that there are going to be, from time to time, things that don't go well.

"When you get to our age and things don't go well then you get to hear about how the game is passing you by. I think both of us rely on what has been good for us in the past. We have this reservoir of information and experience."

No matter where he coached, Parcells will always be most prominently associated with the Giants. He looked out of place with the Patriots and Jets, even more so on the Dallas sidelines.

Sean Payton once was thought to be Parcells' heir apparent in Dallas. But Payton took the New Orleans position and became NFL coach of the year.

As the Cowboys begin a search for a new head coach, what is certain is that Parcells' decision will add a new dynamic to the NFC East and to the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.

Among current Redskins, Randy Thomas and John Hall played for Parcells with the Jets. Prior to games at FedExField, Parcells always sought them out with a message of good will.

Parcells was especially fond of Chris Cooley's style of play as well and considered drafting Cooley when he was coming out of Utah State in 2004.

Late in the 2006 season, Parcells said: "One of the things that's helped me is when I got away from the game, which was several years ago, I worried less about what peripheral people have to say. I got away from that and just stayed with the idea that the game is going to tell you what you are. You don't need anyone else to tell you.

"Once I got to that point, [coaching] was better for me."

Judging by his record, the NFL game can tell Bill Parcells that he was one of the game's all-time great coaches.

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