Parcells among greatest of NFL greats

NEW ORLEANS -- A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, period. They don't rank the busts in Canton in any particular order, don't stack certain ones above others.

Yet to those of us who perceive these things from the outside, it sometimes seems as though our Halls of Fame contain an extra, higher rung somewhere for the greatest of the all-time greats -- people who, even among fellow Hall of Famers, seem to exist on a higher plane of excellence.

Bill Parcells, the former New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys coach who was elected to the Hall of Fame on Saturday, is one of those people. That he was not elected last year in the first year of his second time being eligible was a greater surprise than his election this time around.

Parcells was a giant with a lowercase "g" as well as an uppercase one. He was a changer of the game, a program-builder, the only coach in league history to lead four teams (Jets and Patriots) to the playoffs. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants and won an AFC Championship with the Patriots. He coached eight division champions and won 57 percent of his games as a head coach. The roster of coaches he helped develop as assistants includes Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton.

Criteria for election to Halls of Fame can hard to define, but one question you often hear as a tool for evaluation is, "Could you tell the history of the game without him?" Parcells' impact is such that you could not tell the story of the past three decades in the NFL without spending a good portion of it on him.

He's elite even as a Hall of Famer, one of the busts people will make the trip to see, and he clearly deserved his election.