Early in his first training camp with the New York Jets, in 1997, Bill Parcells was asked why he'd want to take over one of the sorriest franchises in professional sports. He responded with a sneer and a story.
"Two guys are sent to Australia to sell shoes to the Aborigines," he said. "One calls his boss and says, 'There's no opportunity here; the natives don't wear shoes.' The other guy calls and says, 'Boss, great news: These people don't have any shoes.'"
Parcells made a career of being the "other guy," providing sturdy soles to tortured souls.
He could've told that story in 1983 with the New York Giants, and again in 1993 with the New England Patriots. Maybe he did. The point is, Parcells turned despair into hope, rebuilding three franchises -- and that's why he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The retired coach is a finalist for the second straight year, one of 15 modern-era candidates for the Class of 2013. The selection committee will meet all day Saturday, and the results will be announced at 5:30 p.m.
Parcells' résumé is Hall-worthy, but only a few get to Canton on roller skates (one of Parcells' most famous expressions) because of a flawed and political process. In other words, there are very few locks.
The maximum number of modern-era inductees is five, and the ballot is flooded with an impressive group of finalists in their first year of eligibility: offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden and defensive linemen Michael Strahan and Warren Sapp.
Still, it would be a shame if Parcells got burned for a second straight year.
If somebody created a Mount Rushmore of coaches for the 1980s and 1990s, he'd be up there with Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and take your pick for the last spot. Walsh and Gibbs are in Canton. Heck, Marv Levy is a Hall of Famer, and he lost four Super Bowls -- including one to Parcells.
Parcells, a Jersey guy, will best be remembered for winning two Super Bowls with the Giants, doing it with different quarterbacks.
You think Colin Kaepernick's meteoric rise is a great Super Bowl story? In 1991, Parcells won a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler, who had only six career starts to that point. No quarterback in history has won a Super Bowl with fewer starts than Hostetler, a credit to Parcells' ability to adjust when Phil Simms was injured.
"Based simply on his record with the Giants where he revived one of the NFL's storied franchises from an extended drought among the league's worst, he is an all-time great," Bill Belichick told the New York Daily News. "He was the driving force behind two very different Giants Super Bowl champions, molding and motivating everyone from Hall of Fame stars to key reserve players to the support staff."
Parcells rescued the Jets from oblivion, changing everything from the roster to the culture. He inherited a 1-15 team and, two years later, the Jets were 12-4, the best two-year turnaround of any 1-15 team in history.
In the 13 years since his departure, the Jets have suffered only four losing seasons. In the 13 years before his arrival, there were eight losing seasons.
"I'm biased, but there are only a few coaches that stand out in the history of the game," Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin said last February. "You think of the Lombardis and coaches like that. Bill should be mentioned in the same breath."
Parcells is the first coach in history to take four different teams to the playoffs. He won an AFC championship with the Patriots, and came within 20 minutes of doing the same with the Jets. He's a two-time NFL Coach of the Year. He has 183 wins, including the postseason.
His abrasive style wasn't for everybody, but he had an uncanny knack for getting more out of players than they thought they had to give. One former Jets player once said he hated playing for Parcells, but loved having played for him. Parcells made it hard, but he made them better.
The history of pro football can't be told without mentioning Parcells. He belongs in the Hall of Fame.