Is Parcells Really Done?

Bill Parcells said Monday that he’s unlikely to return to the NFL. The former head coach of the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys and overseer of Dolphins’ football operations, has said that he’s never coming back before, and then did. He admitted as much in a conference call with reporters covering his nomination to the Patriots Hall of Fame.

“No, I’m done,” he said. “I know I’ve said that before, so you better put it down in pencil. My full intention is, I’m going to be 70 years old in August, and I’m enjoying my time now. This is the first … you know I really left Miami about Oct. 1 last year, and it is really the first time I’ve had any extended period of time to myself, and you get to do some things that I enjoy doing. I have a place in Saratoga, N.Y. that I like very much. And I’m currently speaking to you from Jupiter, Fla., which I’ve been since the mid-80s, and I love it here. So, it’s a good time for me. And fortunately, I’m in good health and feel good. I still have a lot of things that I’d like to try to do, but I think I’m going to leave the NFL somewhere else now.”

Parcells’ impact on the NFL has been profound.

He took over a Giants’ team that went 4-5 in the strike-shortened season before he arrived, went 9-7 and to the playoffs in his second year, and won the Super Bowl in his fourth year. He took over a 2-14 Patriots squad and took them to 10-6 and the playoffs in his second year, the Super Bowl in his fourth. He took over a 1-15 Jets squad, and in his first year went 9-7, and to the AFC Championship Game his second. In Dallas, he took over a franchise that had back-to-back-to-back 5-11 seasons, and went 10-6 and to the playoffs in his first year. In his first year at the helm of the Dolphins, who had gone 1-15 the year before, Miami went 11-5 and won the division. He was the best turnaround artist in NFL history.

As the Giants’ defensive coordinator, he was instrumental in taking Lawrence Taylor with the second overall draft pick in 1981. And the arrival of Taylor changed the game. He became the prototypical pass-rushing outside linebacker, and changed the way football was played.

Parcells lined up Taylor in a spot to best get to the quarterback. And that was wherever Taylor lined up, mostly on the right side; the quarterback’s blind side. In the book “The Blind Side,” Michael Lewis describes how Taylor manhandled the 49ers in a playoff game, and that one game changed the way Bill Walsh looked at the left tackle position. Because of Taylor and Parcells’ use of him, the left tackle became a key position on the field.

Parcells’ best attribute was his ability to recognize talent. He preferred big players, and tough players. There was a group that he would sign at every stop. Guys like fullback Richie Anderson, quarterback Vinny Testaverde, wide receivers Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson, and running backs Dave Meggett and Curtis Martin. Anderson talked several years ago to Cowboys Weekly about what made a Parcells guy: “A Parcells guy comes to work every day. He’s committed, personally and professionally. A player he can count on, a player he doesn’t have to worry about getting into any trouble, who he knows is going to be here at this time, on this day. Those are the guys he takes a liking to.” Parcells has an amazing eye for his type of players. They might not be the most talented, but they won’t be outworked.

When you look at his history, Parcells’ best gets were 3-4 linebackers. Gary Reasons, Andy Headen, Carl Banks and Taylor with the Giants; Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi with New England; James Farrior and Mo Lewis with the Jets; and DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James and Kevin Burnett with Dallas.

There were some Parcells innovations that carry on to this day. He stuck with the 3-4 defense because he thought it was the best way to get to a quarterback. He adapted from a coach that wanted to run the ball 500 times a season into a guy that loved to throw it 40 times a game, and many coaches followed his lead. He didn’t allow his assistant coaches to talk to the media, striving for one voice from the organization. Now, most NFL teams operate that way; worried about what someone might say that isn’t in line with what the team’s official spin is.

When you talk about Parcells’ legacy, it has to be the coaches he provided the rest of the sport. His coaching tree has produced Bill Belichick (three Super Bowl wins), Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton (one championship each), Todd Haley, Tony Sparano, Romeo Crennel and former college coaches Al Groh and Charlie Weis.

When Parcells was asked to discuss his place in NFL history, he said “I feel like if someone would say something positive about Bill Parcells, I would hope it would be that, ‘He had a lot of respect for the game and his predecessors. If he did leave any mark on the NFL, it would certainly be those to follow.’ That’s what I would hope. I’ve said many times, we’re all riding a train. And it’s a great ride when you’re on it, but they ask you get off, everybody has to get off the train, and when that time comes, you’re just hopeful that there is no heartbreak with it because there can be. But in my case, there never was, so I was very fortunate in that regard.”

If he is done, and remember, his comments are to be written in pencil, the NFL is watching one of its most influential people ever walk out the door. It’s hard to imagine a more knowledgeable, charismatic and dynamic coach and evaluator. He’s been on the edge of being a Hall of Famer during previous retirements. Next time the Hall of Fame voters get together, he should be high on their list. This one sounds official.