Kraft: No. 1 or no deal Parcells resigns

Pats owner demands top pick from Jets

February 01, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The high-stakes poker game being played by Bill Parcells, Bob Kraft and the New York Jets took a new twist yesterday.

Parcells delivered a letter to Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, resigning as coach of the team, and Kraft immediately announced that he won't let Parcells go to the Jets unless they give up the first pick in the April draft.

Unless one of the sides is bluffing, that means Parcells will have ++ to sit out the season and the Jets will have to find another coach to replace Rich Kotite.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled Wednesday that Parcells is still tied to the Patriots for one more year unless Kraft allows him to leave. The Jets already have opened talks with Kraft, but have balked at giving up the No. 1 pick.

There has been speculation that the Jets might trade down and offer Kraft a lower pick in the first round, but he warned them that such a maneuver would cost them Parcells for 1997.

"Please don't trade your No. 1 draft choice because that must be part of the solution," Kraft said at a news conference that followed the one in which Parcells resigned after four seasons that included a 34-34 overall record, two playoff berths and one Super Bowl appearance, last Sunday's 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Kraft made it obvious that he believes the Jets tampered with Parcells, and that's the reason he's so adamant about getting the first-round pick.

He noted that the Jets haven't interviewed any other candidates, a sign that Parcells or his agent, Robert Fraley, had sent a message the coach is willing to take the job. Parcells denied he has talked to the Jets.

There has been speculation that the Jets might consider giving up a second-round pick this year (31st overall) and a first-round pick next year. Kraft is holding firm in his demand for this year's top pick, but he risks getting nothing if the Jets pass on Parcells.

Officials of the Jets, who earned the first pick by having the NFL's worst record last season at 1-15, said little yesterday.

"Nothing has changed," Jets president Steve Gutman said. "We'll have no further comment until the process has been concluded."

This is the second time Parcells has resigned after taking a team to the Super Bowl. He quit the New York Giants on May 15, 1991, after winning the NFL title four months earlier.

He also tried to go to the Atlanta Falcons two days after winning his first Super Bowl, after the 1986 season, but former commissioner Pete Rozelle ruled he was still under contract to the Giants.

Parcells said his departure wasn't the result of a power struggle, though it sounded as if it were.

"This isn't about power and who picks who and who does that. It's not about that. We just have a little philosophical difference," he said. "Bob owns the team and he has every right to run the team exactly the way he wants to run it. I personally have no problem with that."

Asked to explain the difference, Parcells said, "It's not about power. It's just, it's just "

He paused, then added, "A friend of mind told me something. I'm not trying to be cute. I'm just going to say if they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."

Parcells has often used the dinner-groceries line to describe his unhappiness with the fact that Kraft stripped him of the power to have final say in the draft.

That resulted in a controversy last April when Parcells didn't want to take wide receiver Terry Glenn with the seventh overall pick even though personnel director Bobby Grier had him as the highest-rated player left on his board.

Kraft backed Grier, the Patriots took Glenn and he caught 90 passes, the highest ever for a rookie receiver.

But that move caused a rift with Kraft that widened during the week leading to the Super Bowl when Kraft said the speculation about Parcells' future took the spotlight away from the team's first Super Bowl appearance in 11 years.

Parcells, however, made it a point to praise Grier at the news conference. "Other than my immediate coaching staff, he was probably the most supportive guy over the period of five years [actually four] for Bill Parcells. I'll be eternally grateful to him," he said.

Parcells didn't mention that two years ago he persuaded Kraft to fire Patrick Forte, a former front-office executive who had been in charge of the organization.

But when Kraft was unhappy with some of Parcells' free-agent signings and draft picks, he put Grier in charge.

Parcells was asked several times what he would do if the Jets made a deal with the Patriots to allow him to take the New York job. He ducked, bobbed, weaved and never answered the question.

"I'm prohibited by the commissioner's ruling from coaching in the NFL. I don't know what's going to happen," he said.

"I know nothing. Sgt. Schultz," a reference to the often-repeated phrase by the prisoner-of-war camp guard in "Hogan's Heroes," a 1960s and '70s television series.

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