Parcells loses Teflon touch with Belichick

On The NFL

January 09, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Bill Parcells appears to be more than a football coach in New York. He's treated more like a cult leader.

There was a full-page ad in the New York papers Thursday reading: "Dear Bill, You owe it to the memory of Leon Hess and the New York Jets players. Please Come Back."

It was signed, "From your friends at Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator."

Parcells has a lot of friends in New York. It's easy to forget he won only two Super Bowls. So did Tom Flores and George Seifert.

In New York, they don't even blush when they write things like, "He's the kind of star Vince Lombardi was with the Green Packers." Lombardi did win five titles, but, hey, who's counting?

Even going 8-8 this season didn't tarnish the Parcells legend. He got credit for a 7-2 finish. He didn't get much blame for starting 1-6 when he played Rick Mirer over Ray Lucas.

It was shocking when Bill Belichick, who played Tonto to Parcells' Lone Ranger for years, took shots at Parcells when he resigned the Jets job. He made that telling remark that he took Parcells' comments over the years about turning things over to him "with a grain of salt."

That means Belichick has been banished from Parcells' world. It took Parcells two days to respond by conferece call. Parcells apparently didn't want to appear on camera.

Asked if he'd talk to Belichick, he said, "I haven't had a chance to talk to him, and I don't anticipate that I will."

Asked if he'd like to talk to him on a personal level, he said, "If he wants to talk, I'm here to talk to him." Parcells won't be calling Belichick anytime soon.

Belichick learned from the master about quitting. Parcells was the head coach at Air Force for one year in 1978 and quit. He was a Giants assistant coach for a few weeks in 1979 and quit before training camp, staying out of football for a year.

He tried to quit the Giants in January 1987 for the Atlanta Falcons job the day after winning his first Super Bowl, but the Giants wouldn't let him out of his contract. He did quit the Giants on May 15, 1991, 3 1/2 months after winning his second Super Bowl, and stayed out of football for a year.

He accepted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job in 1992, but changed his mind even though the news conference had been called and the owner, the late Hugh Culverhouse, said he felt like a jilted bride. He then tried to change his mind again, and Culverhouse said no thanks.

When he signed a five-year deal to coach the New England Patriots in 1993, the owner, Jim Orthwein, inserted a penalty clause if he quit. Three years into the deal, Parcells asked the new owner, Bob Kraft, to delete the penalty clause. Kraft did, but inserted a clause that he couldn't coach any other team if he quit with a year left in 1997. That led to the Patriots getting four draft picks for him.

Parcells made all these moves on his own terms. But Belichick has put him in a box. The fans and the media are clamoring for him to return, and the new owner is likely to try to persuade him to return.

Parcells said on Thursday that he'll talk to the new owner, "but my intention is to stay retired as a coach."

Can he resist the pressure on him to return?

Triple double

The Parcells-Belichick fiasco scored a rare triple double in one of the New York tabloids last week -- the front and back pages for three days in a row.

What's so puzzling, though, is why Parcells thought it was a coup for him to keep Belichick from going to New England. To say nothing of why Kraft is so eager to get Belichick.

Belichick's five-year tenure in Cleveland certainly gave no indication that he has the makings of a good head coach. His draft choices were shaky and his people skills were worse.

Belichick finally became his own man when he stood up to Parcells last week, but that doesn't mean he can be a good head coach.

The Belichick supporters say he learned from his mistakes and that news of the team's intention to move to Baltimore ruined his last year in Cleveland, ignoring that the Browns were 4-4 when the move was announced.

In any case, Belichick may have to sit out a season this year or go to the college ranks. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will likely take several days to make a ruling, but he figures to uphold the Belichick contract with the Jets. And the Patriots don't seem likely to give up a bunch of draft picks for him.

Belichick, though, will at least have the satisfaction of knowing he didn't let Parcells use him as a pawn in his fight with Kraft.

Coaching derby

There are four coaching jobs open, and the list could grow this week.

If Miami loses in Seattle today, unpredictable Jimmy Johnson could decide to walk. He almost did it last year until owner Wayne Huizenga talked him out of it.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh situation is another one to watch. Steelers coach Bill Cowher is going to have a meeting with owner Dan Rooney this week, and they should put it on pay-per-view. Cowher was viewed as drawing a line in the sand when he said last week that he wasn't going to make any changes in his staff.

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