Belichick era ends after just one day

Successor to Parcells quits as Jets head coach

January 05, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

In a bizarre turn of events virtually without precedent in the NFL, Bill Belichick resigned as head coach of the New York Jets one day after his mentor, Bill Parcells, resigned and turned the job over to him.

Belichick said he couldn't commit to the job because of the uncertainty surrounding the sale of the team by the estate of Leon Hess.

He compared the situation to the uncertainty he went through at the end of the 1995 season when he wasn't fired as the coach of the Cleveland Browns until after the team's move to Baltimore was approved in February 1996.

"I am who I am," he said. "My experiences are what they are. But what happened happened. How much that impacts me, I can't say. Just like all of us have life experiences, you learn certain things as you go through life."

He denied his resignation was an attempt to get the New England Patriots' job, saying, "This is not about trying to get out of a contract." The Patriots asked for permission to talk to him but the Jets denied the request.

Belichick added, "I've had a lawyer talk to the league about what my rights in the contract are. I think it's probably under review."

Jets president Steve Gutman quickly contradicted him, saying the contract is "precise and unambiguous."

He added, "There is no question he is under contract to work for the New York Jets as head coach or not anywhere else in the NFL."

Belichick, whose contract called for him to become head coach when Parcells resigned and got a $1 million bonus last year for not interviewing with other teams, seemed ready to sit out.

"I'm fortunate my wife has been pretty thrifty and she's clipped some coupons and we've been able to save some money and I think we'll be able to live comfortably for a while. Right now, my long-term future is for me to pick up my kids at school," he said.

He added, "I'll live. Hey, maybe I'll coach my 6-year-old. Will I survive? I have enough confidence in myself that somehow I'll make it. We'll see."

His announcement may be the league's most surprising coaching development since Buddy Parker quit as the Lions coach at a luncheon at the end of training camp in 1957. An assistant coach, George Wilson, took over and won the title that year.

Belichick's decision seemed to leave the Jets in limbo until the sale is completed and a new owner is in place. The new owner will have to decide whether to try to convince Belichick to return, convince Parcells to return to the sideline or find a new coach.

It's uncertain when the sale will be completed. Belichick noted that Parcells told him at one time the sale was supposed to be completed by Dec. 15. He stressed he wasn't complaining about that or anything else.

"I know we're not buying a candy bar here. This is a big transaction," Belichick said.

Even more surprising than what Belichick said is the way he said it.

Noted for his dour demeanor in Cleveland, he started out with a 20-minute soliloquy worthy of Hamlet as he explained all his reasons for quitting. He followed that with a question and answer session that he finally ended only because he said he had to pick up his kids at school.

Belichick, an assistant under Parcells for much of the last two decades, also indicated he didn't take Parcells' talk about quitting seriously because Parcells often talked about leaving and then would change his mind.

"We all know how Bill is. Sometimes, he reacts emotionally to a loss or a bad season or a series of bad performances. Every time Bill says that, I take it with a little bit of a grain of salt. It's been like that the past 12 or 13 years," he said.

He said as far back as the strike season of 1987 when they were both with the Giants, "I can remember Bill telling me, `I can't keep doing this. One more year and you can have it. I'm done.' "

Belichick quickly added, "I'm not being critical of Bill. I'm just explaining to you that's the way it is."

After listening to Belichick, even Gutman seemed to be sympathetic.

"I think it's very sad and disappointing because I think it's going to have an effect on our fans and our organization. I feel very badly for Bill and his family. I'm not a psychologist [but] I think I just listened for an hour to a person who's in some turmoil who deserves our understanding, who deserves our consideration," he said.

Belichick, though, seemed content with his decision.

"I'm comfortable doing what I feel is the right thing for Bill Belichick," he said.

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