Cowboys remove Larry Lacewell from his position as director of pro and college scouting.

Associated Press

IRVING, Texas - Although Larry Lacewell is about to turn 68 and has been planning to retire for months, the departure of the Dallas Cowboys' scouting director can be considered the first of many changes for the team this offseason.

And it could be another sign of the power base in the organization shifting to coach Bill Parcells.

Lacewell announced his retirement Thursday, ending a 13-season stay that spanned from the final two years of coach Jimmy Johnson to the first two under Parcells.

Aside from personnel decisions, Lacewell's impact on the club stemmed from his close relationship to owner Jerry Jones. A fellow Arkansas native, Lacewell was a trusted adviser to Jones in areas well beyond evaluating talent. He'll remain a part-time adviser, but his absence from team headquarters likely means more influence for Parcells.

"I just felt this was the appropriate time," Lacewell said. "I'm going to continue to help Jerry and Bill in whatever ways I can in the future, but I'm looking forward to slowing down the pace a little."

Jones said he and Lacewell have been discussing his retirement for two years, adding that Lacewell "has played an integral role" in the future of his department, though no successor was immediately chosen.

"Larry is, and will always be, a very valued member of this organization," Jones said. "His experience and knowledge of the game are understood and respected by football people throughout the collegiate and professional ranks. We will continue to seek his input in the months and years ahead, and we wish him continued good health and gratitude for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys."

Lacewell spent four decades in college football before joining the Cowboys in 1992. He began helping run the team's draft the following year and had mixed results.

Coaches say it takes several years to truly judge a draft class. Well, this past season, Dallas had only one player from its 1999 draft and none from 2000. The Cowboys are likely to be without anyone from 2001 next season.

Under Lacewell's watch, Dallas also took offensive lineman Larry Allen with the 46th pick in 1994, linebacker Dexter Coakley at No. 65 in 1997 and linebacker Dat Nguyen at No. 85 in 1999. Coakley and Nguyen slipped because of their size, but both have been starters for many seasons.

The Cowboys skidded from 10-6 to 6-10 this past season and Parcells has promised to shake up things. He's vowed to reshape the roster and has the tools to do so with two first-round picks and roughly $20 million under the salary cap. He told players that cap room means he can also cut anyone whose salary outweighs their performance.

Parcells also is considering changing the defense from the 4-3 alignment favored by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to the 3-4 system he prefers. The makeup of his coaching staff could change, too.

Parcells likely already has a list of candidates to replace Lacewell, who was so sure he was leaving that he sold his house months ago and bought another in Hot Springs, Ark. He said he's in good health and looking forward to spending time with his family.

Lacewell joined the Cowboys as director of college scouting and two years later was put in charge of pro scouting, too. His voice carried much weight on draft day, especially when Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo were head coach.

Before coming to Dallas, Lacewell coached at many colleges, starting with Alabama in 1959. He was defensive coordinator on two Oklahoma teams that won national titles and was athletic director and head coach at Arkansas State from 1978-89.

The rumored replacement for Lacewell is either Scott Pioli with the New England Patriots and Bill Parcells son in law, Mike Tennebaum, the Jets assitant GM, or Ron Wolf.