Nasty day for NFL nice guys

Carroll, Rhodes lose jobs over discipline

Parcells quits `last' job

January 04, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Nice guys may not always finish last, but they don't last too long as NFL coaches.

That seemed to be the message yesterday when two nice guys with reputations of being players' coaches, Pete Carroll of New England and Ray Rhodes of Green Bay, were fired after missing the playoffs with 8-8 records.

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick, the ultimate disciplinarian who managed to alienate not only the players but the fans in his previous head coaching job in Cleveland, was elevated to New York Jets head coach when Bill Parcells resigned.

Despite his reputation in Cleveland, where his firing of Bernie Kosar and dour personality made him an unpopular coach, Belichick was the Patriots' first choice to replace Carroll. But the Jets denied the Patriots permission to talk to him because they said he was automatically elevated to the top job Sunday when Parcells informed team president Steve Gutman he was resigning.

Carroll's firing was no surprise because the team got worse in each of his three seasons as coach, but Rhodes' firing was a shock because he had been on the job only one year after replacing Mike Holmgren, who went to Seattle last year.

Carroll and Rhodes suffered from the perception that their teams were undisciplined, although Brett Favre's thumb injury hurt the Packers and a pair of missed field goals by Adam Vinatieri cost the Patriots two victories and a 10-6 record.

Packers general manager Ron Wolf said, "I expected our team to be well-disciplined, tough and hard-nosed. I don't think we were those things."

Wolf said the Packers had the talent, but said they underachieved under Rhodes. "If you don't think we do [have talent], you go in there and talk to Antonio Freeman and Brett Favre and Dorsey Levens and tell them you don't think they're any good," he said.

Rattling off several other names, he said, "I happen to think they're pretty good football people."

Wolf also took some of the blame for the team's demise.

"I certainly fault myself. I'm in charge here. ...I'm at fault. I'm not throwing everything on anybody else. It's my fault," he said.

Packers safety LeRoy Butler said: "I think Ron thought we were too friendly with Ray, and maybe some of us were."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was much more brief when he announced Carroll's firing, and he didn't take any questions.

"I think he came into a difficult situation [replacing Parcells after the team went to the Super Bowl following the 1996 season], but this is a business of accountability," Kraft said.

The only other coach whose status is up in the air is New Orleans' Mike Ditka, who canceled his Monday news conference until he has a meeting with owner Tom Benson on Thursday to learn his fate.

Two other coaches, Jimmy Johnson of Miami and Dan Reeves of Atlanta, could decide to walk away at the end of the season, but are in no danger of being fired.

It was noteworthy that the two fired coaches, Rhodes and Carroll, both spoke to members of the media, but Belichick didn't. He simply released a two-sentence statement saying he wanted this to be Parcells' day.

There was much speculation that Belichick, feeling he was caught in the middle of the latest power struggle between Parcells and Kraft, wanted to talk to the Patriots. But his contract seems to tie him to the Jets.

Parcells' departure was a mild surprise because he didn't make the playoffs, but he said the team's 7-2 finish after a 1-6 start left the franchise in good shape.

This is the third time Parcells has quit an NFL head coaching job (he previously quit the Giants and Patriots), but he insists he will no longer coach.

He said, "Bill's not coming back, you can write that on your chalkboard. There won't be any coaching rumors about Bill Parcells because I've coached my last game."

However, after a year passes, he's certainly going to get other offers and he'll have to stay out of the game for several years to make it obvious he's retired.

Parcells met with the players briefly and read them a poem entitled "The Man in the Glass" about a man looking in a mirror and being at peace with himself.

Two lines in the poem were:

"And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test

"If the man in the glass is your friend."

Parcells said he didn't know who the author was and didn't explain how he got the poem.

It was originally written in 1934 for the American Magazine by the late Dale Wimbrow, who was then 17, as "The Guy in the Glass." It was reprinted in 1988 in the Dear Abby column.

Parcells said he'll remain with the Jets but said, "I don't know what my title is, I guess the director of football operations."

But he was vague on his duties and said Belichick will make all the decisions.

It remains to be seen if Belichick will be more successful with the Jets than he was in Cleveland, where he produced only one winning season in five years.

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