Belichick wants to get out from under Parcells' shadow

January 06, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

Art Modell can be blamed for many things. Bill Belichick's resignation as coach of the New York Jets is not one of them.

There is no "inner turmoil" raging inside Belichick, contrary to what Jets president Steve Gutman said Tuesday after losing his second coach in two days.

Belichick knows exactly what he is doing.

He wants to get out from under Bill Parcells. And he wants the world to believe he couldn't possibly take a job under the Jets' uncertain ownership after being so scarred by Modell's decision to move to Baltimore in 1995.

"I've been in situations, and more importantly my family has been in a situation, where I was the head coach of a team in transition," Belichick said Tuesday. "Frankly, it wasn't a really good experience for me or them."

Ah, the family.

It's always about the family in professional sports, whether you're hearing from an egomaniacal owner, a spoiled athlete or a deceitful coach.

Let the record show that Belichick's '95 Browns had dropped to 4-5 after a 3-1 start when the move was announced Nov. 6. Let it also show that they had lost at home to the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars after a bye week.

Move or no move, Belichick would have been fired -- the fans had turned on him, and the players had tuned him out. He was hardly a sympathetic figure then, and he is hardly a sympathetic figure now.

If Belichick wants to pull a Parcells, fine -- that's the way the game is played, particularly along the New York-New England axis. But the truth is, he's tired of Parcells' governing his career, and would rather reunite with Patriots owner Bob Kraft than work for either of the Jets' prospective buyers.

The pupil yearning to break free from the master, the employee choosing the known employer over the unknown -- those are reasonable enough sentiments.

The problem is, Belichick has a contract with the Jets.

A seemingly ironclad contract, not that such things matter anymore.

The contract elevated Belichick from defensive coordinator to head coach the moment Parcells resigned, gave him a three-year deal in his new position and raised his salary from $600,000 to a reported $1.4 million.

Lest we forget, Belichick also received a $1 million bonus from late Jets owner Leon Hess last year as an inducement not to speak with other teams about a head coaching position. Hess is gone, but Parcells remains, if Belichick is at all concerned about loyalty.

Just as it can be said that Parcells benefits from his association with Belichick -- he is 117-73 with Belichick running his defense, 21-27 without him -- it can be said that Belichick benefited from his association with Parcells.

Benefited mightily, truth be told.

Belichick landed in Cleveland after winning two Super Bowls with Parcells' New York Giants. He rejoined Parcells in New England after getting fired by the Browns. And he became a made man under Parcells with the Jets.

Alas, Belichick apparently was disturbed that Parcells used him as a pawn in his latest battle with Kraft. The timing of Parcells' resignation certainly was interesting, coinciding as it did with Pete Carroll's firing in New England. But Belichick had agreed to become the Jets' coach. End of story.

Then again, maybe Parcells and Kraft will get what they deserve. Parcells could be pressured back into coaching now that his star assistant has betrayed him. And Kraft might decide to give Belichick complete authority over football matters -- the same control he wouldn't give Parcells.

The NFL ordered the Jets to compensate the Patriots with four draft picks to free Parcells from his contract; the Patriots could agree to a similar deal to land Belichick.

The price made sense for Parcells, who has coached in three Super Bowls and led the Jets to the AFC championship game in his second season. But why pay it for Belichick, whose record with the Browns was 37-45?

Only Kraft can answer that question.

Perhaps the owner is obsessed with the idea of sticking it to Parcells and the Jets. Or perhaps he will pursue another direction entirely; one source said that that the Patriots were dismayed by Belichick's rambling soliloquy at his Tuesday news conference.

The appeal of New England for Belichick is obvious -- more money (the Patriots could pay him $2 million) and more control (Parcells will remain in an executive capacity with the Jets, and the new owner could alter his plan to shift decision-making authority to Belichick).

The juiciest solution is for Belichick to join the Patriots and Parcells to return as coach of the Jets, turning their two AFC East games next season into bigger crusades than Parcells vs. Carroll. But openings also exist in Green Bay and New Orleans. Kraft could make a pre-emptive strike with another candidate, and skirt the issue entirely.

That would leave Belichick scrambling. Maybe he could become the Ravens' defensive coordinator if the Patriots hired Marvin Lewis as head coach. It certainly would complete the circle of irony.

Unfortunately, the Ravens are again a "team in transition," with minority investor Steve Bisciotti planning to buy out Modell in four years. Belichick couldn't possibly work in such an unstable environment, not even with a three-year contract. If he could, he would be coach of the Jets.

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