INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the first year in which former New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and New York Jets coach Bill Parcells was eligible for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so the fact that he did not make it is not devastating. There's reason to believe he will get in eventually, but on Saturday night, he was not among the final candidates. Neither was former Cowboys great Charles Haley. My personal opinion is that they both should be in, but Parcells is the more surprising omission, so let's take a look at it.
The 44 voters are not allowed to talk about any part of the discussion they had during a 7-hour, 37-minute selection meeting here Saturday, so we are left to speculate. Here are three possible reasons you might hear for why Parcells didn't get in and my opinion on the validity of each:
1. He might come back. Parcells has retired four times and returned to football three times, most recently in 2007 as the Miami Dolphins' director of football operations. There's a sense the voters like to make sure a guy's career is really over before they elect him, which is the main reason for the five-year waiting period. While I don't have any insight into the discussion that went on Saturday, I do know many of the football writers in the room, and I don't think there's a sense among the current football media community that the 70-year-old Parcells, who now works as an ESPN studio analyst, might return to the sidelines or a front office. I do not believe this is one of the reasons he did not get elected.
2. Two Super Bowl wins isn't enough. It's impressive that Parcells won two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, but he's hardly the only coach to turn the trick. George Seifert, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores each won two Super Bowls, and none of them is in the Hall of Fame. Winning it twice doesn't make you automatic. Now, the primary argument for Parcells is that he built all four of the teams he coached into playoff teams, and took the Giants and the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Being able to go multiple places and build winners is impressive, and it's likely what will get him in eventually. But playoff and Super Bowl success are, I believe, major factors in this particular committee's decision-making, and two isn't three. My guess is that the names of Flores, Johnson and Seifert were brought up by people who voted against Parcells on Saturday.
3. Team-jumper? I have heard people point out that the way in which Parcells left the Patriots to jump to the Jets in 1997 remains a possible argument against him, since it could allow those who oppose his candidacy to paint him as a coach who was more interested in his own career, legacy and bank account than the success of the teams and players for which he was responsible. I think this is absurd and that Parcells' record of success should trump any such concerns, but opinions do differ, and the way Parcells went about his business did occasionally ruffle a feather or two.
Again, I think it seems clear that he eventually will get in. But he didn't make it on the first ballot, and those are my best guesses as to why not. Parcells will be in Canton this summer for the induction ceremony, however. Curtis Martin, the former Jets and Patriots running back who credits Parcells for much of his own success, was elected Saturday and said on a conference call Saturday night that Parcells will present him at the induction.