NEW YORK -- Now we know why so many conflicting reports surfaced in Florida and New Jersey last week. Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse thought he had wooed a marquee coach. But Bill Parcells, who never signed on the dotted line, decided Tampa Bay was not the place to resurrect his career.
Late Saturday night, Parcells, the 50-year-old former New York Giants coach, stunned Culverhouse, 72, by rejecting a five-year, $6.5-million, 38-point guaranteed offer to assume total control of the Bucs as coach and director of football operations.
"We now feel we've been jilted at the altar," said Culverhouse, who called an 11 a.m. press conference in Tampa yesterday to claim Parcells had reneged on an agreement. "I thought we had a deal on Thursday. I thought we only had the formality of reducing it to a written contract, which was done. His attorney agreed to everything. And we executed it."
"We had not agreed," Parcells insisted on "NFL Live," the NBC pregame show on which he serves as analyst. "What I had agreed to do is consider the job on the basis of a number of things that we enumerated in writing -- for me to take a look at them, and then make a decision. That's what I agreed to do. I considered it on that basis and in the end, I had to say no. I never said I would take the job at Tampa Bay."
Culverhouse, who failed to woo Bill Walsh from NBC last year, offered Parcells everything he said he would need. Why didn't Parcells accept?
"In the end, I thought it may be too big a job," Parcells said. "Too many hats to wear in this modern time in professional football. I just didn't feel right about the job. There was just something about it. . . In the end, I didn't feel right."
The Bucs have been a black hole for coaches since their inception in 1976. Parcells diligently researched this job and Culverhouse's reputation as an unsuccessful owner. Parcells had several conversations with Ray Perkins, the last Bucs coach to get a five-year deal promising total control. Perkins also is the former Giants coach who hired Parcells as defensive coordinator in 1981. Perkins and Parcells last spoke last week, after Parcells met with Culverhouse on Monday.
"I kind of felt like, from our conversations, that Bill would take a hard look at it," Perkins said from his Alabama home. "I didn't think he'd go into something he wasn't comfortable with."
When they met in New Jersey, Parcells outlined his needs. Culverhouse guaranteed every one, in writing, as part of the contract.
That 38-point document, which Culverhouse waved at his press conference but didn't distribute, began with Parcells' being named coach and director of football operations. According to a source, it also included:
* A budget of between $2 million and $2.5 million for Parcells' staff.
* Moving training camp to Wisconsin.
* The type of weights (free weights as opposed to Nautilus or Universal systems) the team would use in its weight room.
* Country club memberships and automobiles for Parcells and his assistants.
Culverhouse said he was disappointed but not angry. He said he thinks Parcells will end up coaching NFC Central rival Green Bay but said he didn't think Parcells was using him to get a better deal from the Packers.
(In fact, Packers general manager Ron Wolf said he had canceled an interview with former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox scheduled today in California.)
"In my conversations with him, this was brought up," Culverhouse said. "And I asked him, 'Are you sure Tampa Bay is where you want to go? Do I have to bid against someone else?'
"He said, 'Your contract, what we agree upon, will not be used to negotiate with anyone else. I'm coming to Tampa Bay.' He said he had one other team to talk to because of a commitment but that he was coming to Tampa Bay and we had an agreement."