By Steve Silverman
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Bill Parcells and the NFL Hall of Fame.
It just sounds right.
Parcells was the larger than life coach who has been credited with turning the Giants franchise around during his head coaching tenure from 1983 through 1990. He would turn losing teams into winners in every spot that he coached, including New England, the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.
Parcells’ two Super Bowl victories came with the Giants. Both were classics, as a more powerful Giants team dominated John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, while the underdog Giants found a way to overcome Marv Levy’s best Buffalo Bills team in Super Bowl XXV.
Parcells, the head coach, was at his best with the Giants. He was sensational with the Pats and Jets and more than credible with the Cowboys, but he was at the top of his game with the Giants.
Prior to his run as head coach of the Giants, he was the team’s defensive coordinator and linebacker coach under Ray Perkins.
If you thought Parcells was an intimidating presence when he would stare at a reporter for three or four seconds before cutting his heart out with a sarcastic remark, you should have seen Perkins with his soulless blue-eyed stare.
Any reporter who ever confronted Perkins with a question felt like he was facing his judge, jury and executioner.
The Giants turned their fortunes around in the 1981 season when Parcells ran the defense, Perkins coached the team and the Giants added a pretty decent linebacker named Lawrence Taylor.
At the time, I was a young reporter working for a medium-sized daily in central New Jersey called The Home News.
In the sports department, our stock in trade was high school sports in Central Jersey with a heavy dose of Rutgers football and basketball. At the start of the ’81 school year, the sports editor held a department meeting about the goals and expectations of the sports department and he gave us his own version of Vince Lombardi’s leave it all on the field speech.
At the conclusion of the meeting he had one more bit of business. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I almost forgot. We have to cover the Giants. Does anybody want to cover the game this Sunday?”
I couldn’t believe the question or the way he put it. Covering the Giants as if it were a burden for a sports writer.
My hand shot up as fast as it could. Nobody else’s did. I was covering the Giants.
I went to home games and practices from time to time. That put me in contact with Parcells – before he became a national figure. This was the Parcells who knew the Giants were on the rise and the Parcells who knew that Taylor was going to be an all-time special player.
The Giants went from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 that season. They didn’t know it at the time, but it was to show off Taylor’s immense speed, strength and viciousness on the field.
On occasion, Parcells would explain what the 3-4 defense was supposed to do. If you caught him on the right day, Parcells would go into some detail about the 3-4 and why it was going to work for the Giants.
They had a slew of solid linebackers at the time – Brad Van Pelt, Harry Carson, Brian Kelley and rookie Byron Hunt – in addition to Taylor. That’s where the strength of the defense was and the more linebackers that the Giants could put on the field, the better it would be.
Parcells would explain the linebackers’ responsibilities and he would get this far-away look in his eye when talking about Taylor.
He didn’t gush about Taylor because he was a coach talking to reporters, but you could tell he knew that he had a player who would compare with the all-time defensive greats of the game. Names like Dick Butkus, Deacon Jones and Bob Lilly.
The nasty, demeaning Parcells? He would reveal flashes when somebody asked a question that he deemed as stupid, but when he was going on about his linebackers, it was a doctorate level education about football.
The 1981 season was magical for the Giants. They had been an awful team from 1964 through 1980, but ’81 was their renaissance. They beat the Cowboys in overtime on the last day of the season and made the playoffs.
They upset the defending NFC champion Eagles in the wild-card playoff game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers in the divisional playoffs.
The ’81 season was the turnaround for the Giants. Parcells and Taylor turned that team around and the team still has his stamp on it. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was the team’s wide receivers coach under Parcells from 1988 through 1990.
Parcells earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. When it comes to coaching, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Don Shula and Bill Walsh.
How crucial was Parcells’ vision toward laying down the foundation for what the Giants are today? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…
Super Bowl XLVII will be broadcast on CBS, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.