Bill Parcells and the Saints' challenge

First things first: If Bill Parcells turns down the Saints job because doing so would "stop the clock" on his Pro Football Hall of Fame eligibility countdown, it will mark the weakest act in the history of Parcells as an NFL coach/consultant/commentator/force of nature.

And second: I won't believe it for a minute.

There are scads of other legitimate reasons Parcells might run screaming from a meeting with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis with regard to the toxic situation in New Orleans, but I won't believe those, either. They are, ultimately, individually less significant than the football crisis of the moment itself. It is a moment that cries out for a white knight.

Parcells is that guy. He's the guy who rides toward the fray.

The fact it might be a seriously demented move has nothing to do with it.

Now, Parcells, at age 70, is not wholesale crazy. He is every bit as capable of cold calculation as the next guy, which is another way of saying he has been in sports for a while. Not only does he have the lay of the land in New Orleans, but I'd be stunned if Parcells doesn't also have a fair idea of how heavy-handed Roger Goodell & Associates will be when it comes to meting out individual player discipline for the bounty-fest that already has cost the Saints their coach, their GM and their focus. (I'm sure he also knows about how much he'd be paid to be the coach for a year. Business, baby.)

But as Tuesday passed and Wednesday dawned, the notion of a Parcells mini-era with the Saints, no matter how fraught with complication, has more and more appeal. Maybe it's the fact his protégé, Payton, needs him (and wouldn't feel job-threatened by a one-timer). Maybe it's the thought that Parcells is just about ripe for another run through the NFL. After all, this has been the pattern, hasn't it?

It has, indeed. In fact, going to the Saints after a retirement from coaching would signify nothing so much as a page torn from the Parcells playbook. He left the Giants in the '90s, did some TV, then popped up with the Patriots. After his time with the Jets ended in 1999, the Tuna vowed not to coach again; by 2003, he was signing with Jerry Jones in Dallas. Retirement from the Cowboys in 2007 begat a general managership in Miami. Now it's the TV thing again.

It is never over, and that's the key point. Parcells is a football guy, observant and trenchant. He remains vitally interested in Tha League. Football guys love nothing more than being involved in the game. If the best anyone can come up with on the other side of the argument is, "Well, he's 70," then this conversation is concluded. Sign the man to the one-year contract and let's get on with it.

About the Hall of Fame: Parcells already is a Hall of Famer in every sense but the formal, and he knows that better than anyone. If you've heard him introduced as "future Hall of Famer Bill Parcells" once, you've heard it a hundred times. He's already been a finalist, and made it to the last 10 in February before just missing out on induction this year. The idea that Parcells will turn down the Saints in order to rush the order on his Canton bust just doesn't resonate. Parcells is ego, but he is ego in motion, not ego at rest.

Is hiring Parcells a panacea for the Saints? Oh, not by a thousand miles. New Orleans is still going to get docked money and draft picks. Goodell has yet to announce what fates await Jonathan Vilma and other players directly implicated in the bounty scandal. If you want to get technical, Drew Brees' contract situation isn't yet settled.

Even beyond that, simply inserting Parcells into the CEO role of the locker room isn't necessarily an answer from above. It isn't as though his time with the Dolphins was an unbroken series of successful gestures; there are those in Miami who believe Parcells, down the stretch, began to lose touch with what it takes to win in today's NFL.

But consider what the Saints really need here. They've got an offense still plenty good enough to roll, with coordinator Pete Carmichael and Brees around to call plays and light up scoreboards. Parcells could work with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to shore up what's happening on the other side of the line of scrimmage, as the coach figures out how to handle the roster and communicate with players used to hearing from Payton.

He's pretty good in a locker room, Parcells. He knows his way around. This is not a radical organizational rebuild. It is not Miami circa 2008. This is a short-term job, the type Parcells most favors these days. The downside is minimal -- if the Saints struggle, blame it on Bountygate -- and the upside sublime. That is a recipe a man of ego could love.

If Parcells steps out of the Florida sun long enough to steady the ship in New Orleans, he will have done more than shower favor upon a protégé. He will have further burnished his own reputation. And if the most likely scenario holds and the Saints have a competitive, playoff-contending season, it will have been the Tuna to the rescue. Don't think he isn't aware of legacy, even as he already hears the call of the Hall.