By Jason Keidel
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He got his monicker from a fictional fish that got no respect, but Bill Parcells got the ultimate nod on Saturday. He will be recalled as a Giant, with a Giant introducing him and sliding on the trademark jacket of immortality, the only time a yellow sports coat looks proper on old man not playing shuffleboard.
Bill Parcells is now in the Hall of Fame, where he belongs. It is his final, irrevocable football home — the one gig he won’t want to leave.
Why did it take so long to be inducted? No doubt the irascible coach was often overly ornery with the very people who voted him in. His defects were amplified by his incurable wanderlust, always leaving teams right before they were ready to win titles. Except for the Giants, some unknown bogeyman sprung Bill Parcells from otherwise idyllic football marriages.
The ruptured Achilles tendon of one QB chased him from New York, and a botched field goal by another QB chased him from Dallas. Honestly, not one of us thought that the Wide Right Super Bowl would be his last in the winner’s circle. But as great as he was building teams, he’s almost equally known for vanishing before the ribbon-cutting on his newest football edifice.
But no coach in NFL history had Parcells’ midas touch with mediocrity, taking an amalgam of misfits and tuning them into symphonic, symbiotic harmony. Scanning his stats, it’s stunning to see he coached 22 years, since he never wore one team’s headset for more than four years after the Giants.
Dick Vermeil etched “burnout” into the coaching lexicon, and Parcells personified it. He was imbued with the coaching lifer’s paradox – driven to win at the expense of personal health and hearty, happy relationships, only to remain just slightly less dissatisfied when they finally win. And that’s part of what makes men like Parcells so sad. It’s that nose-down approach to all things, a miserably monolithic devotion to his craft, where only his employer and employee can see the light at the end of the tunnel he dug.
Despite the glory and the gory of success, Parcells, like Nick Saban and his former pro progeny, Bill Belichick, never seemed happy. One eye on today, the next on tomorrow. It’s as if he thought that stopping to smell the roses would give him hay fever. It was a spiritual itch that he never scratched satisfactorily.
I find it curious that he picked George Martin to introduce him to the Hall of Fame. Not Phil Simms or Lawrence Taylor – the dual faces of his dominance. But maybe Martin makes sense, as Parcells was always drawn to the blue-collar ethos of linemen, the spine of any football club. More than once, while a microphone was within an echo, Parcells marveled at Mark Bavaro, the behemoth of a tight end who once carried the entire 49ers roster on his back during a nationally televised game, grunting downfield with Ronnie Lott and crew stuck on his back like pilot fish, his obscenely large, sleeveless arms clamped on the pigskin.
We can parse the particulars.The 172 regular-season wins. A robust 42 games over .500. Eight division titles. Three Super Bowls (with two wins). Within 14 points of becoming the first man to lead two franchises to a Super Bowl title. He took a moribund Patriots team to the Big Dance. He had the Jets 30 minutes from another. And the Cowboys were 13-3 the year after he left Jerry Jones.
But as with all immortals, numbers don’t make the mosaic, even for a coach who believed in them. Parcells coined a rather famous phrase: you are what your record says you are. Now the record tells us what Bill Parcells is: a Hall of Fame football coach.
It’s about time! Give it up for Tuna in the comments…