By Jason Keidel
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As the Giants prep for the Patriots this week, all eyes are on QB/HC tandems, and their places in the NFL pantheon.
And since the Giants have won 75 percent of the Super Bowls in which they’ve played, it’s time to acknowledge the man who hatched this festive habit: Bill Parcells, the progenitor of the G-Men.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee meets on Saturday, right before Parcells’ first team plays in another Super Bowl. And it would be wise for them to land the Tuna, who is now eligible after the required, five-year bottleneck between Parcells’ last coaching gig. And it’s (probably) finally safe to assert that he’s coached his last club, despite his legendary wanderlust for a final post on some frigid sideline.
Parcells developed a reputation as a handyman with holy tools, the NFL’s version of Lady Liberty. He took the weak and made them strong, remolding four moribund franchises into winners. Indeed, the Giants were 3-12-1 during his first season as head coach (1983), before winning two Super Bowls. The 1992 Patriots were 2-14; Parcells took them to the Super Bowl in 1995. The 1996 Jets were 1-15; Parcells took them to within 30 minutes of the Super Bowl in 1998. The 2002 Cowboys were 5-11; they were 10-6 when Parcells took over in 2003. As was his wont, Parcells left the Cowboys just in time for Wade Phillips to waste an All-Pro laden lineup.
Like so many tongue-tied immigrants who pushed through the portal of Ellis Island, the story didn’t always end well for Parcells, who vacated his vocation for reasons only he understood, whether from burnout or burned bridges. He swore each time that he’d surrendered his headset for the final time, only to return defiantly, saying, in Popeye’s parlance, I am what I am: a coach. That much was true.
As sublime as Parcells was, there was an incongruity to his game. He was way too good to become a coaching gypsy, hopping the NFL map like a lost kid, like Lou Piniella in baseball. Maybe that sense of unrest fed his coaching genius. Maybe he was just a man without a home after he left the Meadowlands.
I’m not a fan of any team Parcells coached, but I’m a fan of Bill Parcells, a throwback of the highest order, a kid who played with Vince Lombardi’s son in New Jersey and carried Vince’s irascible, booming cadence to every training camp he ruled. I, for one, will miss his gift for prodding, punishing, and coddling, depending on the team, the talent, and the person he coaches and coaxes to give a little more.
Coaches are an odd hybrid, often ornery yet loving and always uncannily devoted to their craft. Until they’re not. Then they become an amalgam of coaching and medical diagnoses, leaving us to wonder if their demonic dedication to winning is a result of their genes or if the job wrecks their DNA.
But with two Super Bowl titles and his skilled work in coaching witchcraft, and a .570 winning percentage (172-130), it’s easy to see Parcells wear one more uniform: the yellow jacket of the Hall of Fame.
With Parcells, there will always be an air of unfinished business. When we watch him stir restlessly in some leather chair, dissecting this defense or that offense, realizing his only office was that sideline, there’s a sense that Parcells should have won more.
He did more than enough, however, to enter Canton – perhaps the only place where Bill Parcells may rest in peace.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org
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