On Parcells, new Fins owner shouldn't assume

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Although we haven't heard officially from Bill Parcells yet, the Miami Dolphins' new owner on Tuesday declared Parcells will remain with the team after helping them pull off one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NFL history.

Billionaire real-estate developer Stephen Ross declared Parcells will remain with the club despite a walk-out clause that would allow the football operations boss to leave with full pay in the event Wayne Huizenga no longer ran the team.

Ross on Tuesday finalized his purchase of an additional 45 percent of the team and Dolphin Stadium, leaving Huizenga only 5 percent.

Parcells, who has three years left on a contract worth reportedly $12 million, has 30 days to take the money and run. The clause also allows him to work for another NFL team without compensation to the Dolphins.

"Parcells is in charge, and he is staying," Ross said on a conference call with local media. "We're very fortunate to have someone like Bill Parcells, who I think people have to recognize as probably the best football mind in America.

"I'm very, very happy to have him, needless to say. As everyone has expressed with all the concerns, 'Is he leaving, or is he not leaving?' He's staying, and I'm fortunate to have him."

But Parcells wasn't nearly as definitive Tuesday when speaking casually with three Dolphins reporters in Mobile, Ala., where he is attending the Senior Bowl with general manager Jeff Ireland, head coach Tony Sparano and other Miami scouts.

Parcells refused to state unequivocally he would be back, striking a "You never know" posture.

Ross indicated at several points during the conference call he and Parcells still are getting to know each other, and sounded as though he was operating on assumptions, which can be dangerous when dealing with Parcells.

Ross was asked when Parcells expressly told him he will be back, and Ross' response indicated that conversation hasn't taken place.

"I've been talking to him for some time," Ross said. "I didn't say 'Give me a commitment.' In the conversations it just came out that we were building a relationship.

"I didn't have to say 'Are you staying?' I just wanted to make sure he was happy and [show him] what kind of person I was, and I got to get a better feel for him as a person. I think we are comfortable with that."

Ross "thinks" they're comfortable.

On a follow-up question, a reporter pointedly asked Ross "do you feel it's 100 percent [Parcells] will be back?"

"Yes," Ross replied.

But Parcells has a history of leading teams to believe he's in place only to pull an about face and join another team.

Atlanta Flacons owner Arthur Blank would have said he was 100 percent sure Parcells was joining their front office in December 2007.

Parcells led Blank and the public to believe he would be the Falcons' vice president of football operations. Blank thought both sides had agreed to terms. Parcells signed with the Dolphins two days later.

Or maybe Ross should ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners Hugh Culverhouse and the Glazer family how safe it is to operate on assumptions with Parcells.

He toyed with the Buccaneers in 1991 and 2002, enticing them to believe he would be their head coach. The latter instance reportedly led the Buccaneers to fire head coach Tony Dungy to make way. Parcells went to the Dallas Cowboys instead.

Parcells has been declining all on-the-record interview requests, even though he spent a little courtesy time with reporters in Mobile.

The fact Parcells is in Mobile has led to speculation he's there to be seen by the other 31 NFL clubs. He has a known dislike for attending events like the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, and didn't go last year even though the Dolphins held the No. 1 overall pick.

Maybe as important as scouting draft prospects, the days leading up to the Senior Bowl are like a job fair for coaches, scouts and other football operations people.

"I think deep down in his heart, he still wants to coach," Miami linebacker Akin Ayodele, who also played for Parcells in Dallas, told the Palm Beach Post a few days before this year's playoffs began.

"He can still coach. He goes around, especially the last few weeks, and talks to guys, tells them what they're doing wrong and what they need to do. You come in Wednesday, and he's already watched film and telling you what to expect."

The Dolphins went from 1-15 to AFC East champions in a magical 2008 campaign.

Why would Parcells want to leave?

A significant reason he joined the Dolphins was because of his long friendship with Huizenga. Parcells was comfortable with the business arrangement and new he had full control of football decisions. Huizenga rarely let money affect decisions when there was an opportunity to improve the team.

Parcells' contract specified he would answer only to Huizenga and included a clause that would give Parcells a 30-day window to walk away with his contract paid in full.

Ross, when asked early in the conference call whether Parcells and the club were renegotiating his contract, said, "There is nothing to renegotiate." When asked again at the end of the conference call, Ross said, "Not at this point."

There were reports in early January that longtime Ross associate and former Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson would be joining the Dolphins in some capacity. Peterson was Ross' guest and wore a Dolphins lapel pin at their first-round payoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Peterson eventually denied the rumors, and Ross dismissed them Tuesday.

"Carl happened to be there that weekend vacationing, and I invited him to the game," Ross said. "I think everyone knew at that point that I wasn't going to hire Carl Peterson and [he] wasn't going to be part of the Miami Dolphins. I know what I was thinking, and it was never a consideration."

But here's a piece of advice for Mr. Ross: Keep Peterson's number handy, at least for the next 29 days.