DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -The man with the familiar frown and fishy nickname observes practices from the sideline and games from a skybox. He brainstorms with his staff, spends hours studying film and prods players in private. He arrives for work early but, at 67, sometimes calls it a day around early-bird-special time.
And while Bill Parcells goes about his business quietly, the Miami Dolphins' 8-5 record speaks volumes: Their first-year football czar might be having the best season of anyone in the NFL.
A year ago this week, the Dolphins were 0-13. Five days before Christmas they hired Parcells as executive vice president of football operations, and the franchise has been on the rise ever since.
The Dolphins are 6-1 since late October, and no team has a better record over that span. They're tied with the Patriots and Jets for first place in the AFC East, and if the Dolphins sweep their final three games, they're assured of making the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
y schedule, it's nonetheless a remarkable turnaround by a team still stinging from the derision that came with last year's 1-15 record.
``When I go to the mall, people come up and ask for my autograph,'' linebacker Matt Roth says. ``Before they would head in the other direction.''
The Dolphins' new direction is due largely to Parcells, who has reinforced his reputation as a revivalist to rival Joel Osteen. As a coach, the Tuna took over losing teams with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys and transformed them into winners.
In Miami, Parcells first brought in general manager Jeff Ireland, who acquired the 29 newcomers on the 53-man roster. Next Parcells hired another protege, Tony Sparano, the Dolphins' fifth coach in five years and a strong contender for coach of the year.
A rookie coach might feel diminished by Parcells' presence, but Sparano says he solicits the help of his boss.
``I know exactly what Bill Parcells wants,'' Sparano says. ``I'm pretty sure that's why I'm in this seat. And I'm pretty sure he knows exactly what he got.
``There's a great trust there. Obviously, having someone like Bill Parcells 20 yards down the hall is tremendous for me. I'm sure any young coach in my situation would love that ability to have somebody like him with that kind of knowledge in the building to bounce ideas off.''
ormer quarterback, Chad Pennington, who was waived by the Jets in August to make room for Brett Favre. As Miami's 13th starting QB since the retirement of Dan Marino, Pennington has undergone a revival of his own, answering doubts about his arm strength and durability with the best season of his nine-year career.
Pennington says the Dolphins' success is a reflection of the cohesion between Parcells, Sparano and Ireland.
``It's a good dynamic,'' Pennington says. ``These guys have done an excellent job preparing us and bringing in the right people and making sure that all of us as players understand what this thing is about and what they're about.''
Parcells' primary role has been to the guide personnel decisions, but he also offers the coaching staff tips on things he sees on film, in practice or even in warmups.
And he serves as a motivator.
``A great strength of Bill Parcells in my opinion has always been his ability to poke and probe players, coaches, probably family members,'' Sparano says. ``So there are a lot of times where he and I might have a conversation on how we want to get a message to a player, and sometimes I kind of like him to give that message. Having somebody like that around to be able to do those kind of things with our players is of tremendous value.''
Thomas, the focus seemed to be on the long term rather than winning right away.
That makes it even more surprising the Dolphins could become the first team to win 10 games one year after going 1-15.
``With the situation that we came into, I think the natural reaction was that you were going to maybe rebuild, and this thing was going to take some time,'' Sparano says. ``Well, I know I don't have the patience for that. I know Bill Parcells doesn't and Jeff Ireland doesn't.''
Impatient to end the longest playoff drought in franchise history, the Dolphins play their final home game Sunday against San Francisco (5-8), then visit Kansas City (2-11). They close against the Jets in a game that could be much more significant than anyone imagined when the season began.
``Our record was so bad last year nobody believed we could do what we're doing,'' says NFL sack leader Joey Porter, another player rejuvenated under the new regime.
The Dolphins may not be ready for January. They've beaten only two teams that have a winning record, and they've outscored the opposition by a grand total of nine points. They have a shaky secondary, little pass rush beyond Porter, a makeshift offensive line and a group of wide receivers that has totaled two touchdowns.
quarter. And even if they finish 8-8, the season's a success.
It's unknown what Parcells makes of the team he revived; the one-time quote machine hasn't met with reporters since last December. He prefers to remain behind the scenes, where he can fix a franchise and let the results speak for themselves.

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