When Bill Parcells took over the Jets in 1997, the franchise was a laughingstock in the NFL. It was coming off two years of Rich Kotite, a 1-15 season, and it had gone nearly a decade without a winning season. The young Jets fans of today can't even imagine the level of dysfunction that enveloped the franchise.
And yet it didn't compare to what Parcells faced in 1993, when he went to the Patriots.
"New England was a bigger (challenge), because there was a lot more stability at the Jets," Parcells said Monday on a conference call with reporters. (The occasion was his nomination for the Patriots' Hall of Fame.) "The talent level, initially when I went to the Jets, was better. I would say New England was a bigger undertaking because the franchise was in ... there were a lot more areas that lacked structure and stability."
Parcells is right. Even though both franchises seemed like lost causes, the Patriots were in worse shape across the board. The Jets actually had some decent players; they just lacked direction. Parcells became the dominant figure that vanquished the losing culture that permeated every crevice of the organization. But he fell short of his goal, the Super Bowl, losing the 1998 AFC title to the Broncos -- the toughest defeat of his career, he later called it.
The Tuna touched on other New York-related topics on the conference call. Interestingly, he said New England -- not the Giants -- is where he learned his most valuable football lessons. Parcells made his name with the Giants (1981-1990), but he credited his two stints with the Patriots (1980, 1993-96) as his foundation.
"My background in pro football came from the New England Patriots," he said, crediting New England scouting gurus Bucko Kilroy and Mike Holovak as two of the four men that shaped his philosophy on personnel. (He also mentioned Ron Wolf and Al Davis.)
Parcells spoke highly of former assistant Bill Belichick. Their relationship experienced a rough patch when Belichick, refusing to honor his contract as Parcells' successor, bolted the Jets in 2000. Now they have condos in the same building in Jupiter, Fla., Belichick two floors above Parcells.
"We see each other from time to time," Parcells said. "We've had many conversations. We worked together a very, very long time. We were in the same office together for 10 years. You just can't dismiss things like that. He was a big help to me when we were both assistant coaches together, and when I was the head coach, he was a vital part of our organization. Hopefully, I've been a help to him at some point ... He's a great coach. We get along just fine."
Parcells has his own ESPN draft show (April 26), and he said he's in discussion with the network about the possibility of a future gig. What about a return to the NFL?
"No, I'm done," he said. "I know I've said that before, so you better put it down in pencil. I'll be 70 years old in August. I'm enjoying my time now. I left Miami Oct. 1 last year, and this is the first time I've had any extended time to myself. This is a good time for me. Fortunately, I'm in good health. I still have a lot of things I’d like to do in my life, but I'm going to leave the NFL to someone else now."
The feeling here is that Parcells deserves a place in the Jets' Ring of Honor. What do you think?