ESPN celebrates the 100th anniversary of Vince Lombardi's birth with the "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" series, saluting the finest innovators, motivators, tacticians, teachers and champions ever to stalk the sidelines. Follow along as we reveal our list of the top 20 coaches of all time and document the lineage of the league's most influential coaching trees.
Bill Parcells is one of the most influential and successful coaches in NFL history and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2013 class. He gained a reputation for turning struggling franchises into winners and was the first coach to take four franchises to the postseason.
In 19 seasons as a head coach, he won two Super Bowls (1986, '90) with the New York Giants and led the New England Patriots to a third (1996). He took the New York Jets within one game of his fourth Super Bowl in the 1998 season.
His teams finished .500 or better 14 times, made 10 trips to the playoffs and won five division titles. With an overall regular-season record of 172-130-1, he ranked 10th in career wins when he retired for good from the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. (He also had "retired" after leaving the Giants in 1990 and the Jets in 1999.) After he left Dallas, he helped build a playoff team as an executive with the Miami Dolphins.
Each team he took over had won five or fewer games the previous season. And all four times, Parcells had the team in the playoffs by his second season. His most extreme turnaround was with the Jets, who were 1-15 in 1996 before hiring Parcells. They went 9-7 in his first season and 12-4 in his second, when they won the division title and reached the AFC Championship Game. It was the best two-year turnaround for a 1-15 team in NFL history.
Before reaching the NFL in 1979 as the Giants' defensive coordinator (under Ray Perkins on a staff that included Bill Belichick as special-teams coordinator), Parcells spent 15 seasons in multiple college coaching positions. His only season as a college head coach was 1978 with Air Force.
Super Bowl champions Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton are among the numerous NFL head coaches who worked under Parcells.
-- Kevin Stone
PARCELLS THROUGH THE EYES OF A PLAYER: LAWRENCE TAYLOR
The key to Bill, I think, was his philosophy of football: what you have to do in order to win. That was second to none. Everybody has 53 players, and he had 53 different ways to motivate guys. The things he would use on Phil Simms to get his ass in gear, well, he's not going to try that with me because I won't stand for it.
The one thing I loved about him was he treated you like a man. There was no talking behind your back. If he had something to say to you, he's going to say it to your face, man to man.
You talk about motivation. Sixteen games is a long season, a lot of football. Throw in the preseason and playoffs and there always comes a time when you get tired or run down or mentally not into the game. Bill always found a way to keep you motivated.
As good a player as I was, there were times when I wasn't into it. The way he got you hyped up was amazing. When he said something, I believed what he said. I would have a bad game the week before and people were asking, "What's the matter with Taylor?" Reporters were asking, "What's the matter with Taylor?" So all week long he'd call me "What's-the-matter-with?" He had them put that on the back of my practice jersey.
He's was such a master of B.S. You'd get so fired up, you'd go out and destroy people. I was All-Pro for 10 years, but when Bill left, I mentally left. I was retired three years before I actually retired. I only came outside once a week to practice. It was like losing a mentor, a friend.
One time, before we played the Redskins, he put plane tickets in my locker. [New Orleans Saints linebacker] Pat Swilling had a great game against Washington the week before, and he said, "Go down to New Orleans and trade helmets with Pat Swilling." That just got me riled up and made me want to kick the s--- out of them. After the game, he came up to me and said, "You know, you played well." There was nothing better than when he'd put his arm around you and say you played a hell of a game.
-- Former Giants linebacker and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, as told to Greg Garber
ESPN "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" voting panel: Chris Berman, Jeffri Chadiha, John Clayton, Colin Cowherd, Mike Ditka, Gregg Easterbrook, Herm Edwards, David Fleming, Ashley Fox, Greg Garber, Mike Golic, Suzy Kolber, Eric Mangini, Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio, Bill Polian, Rick Reilly, Mike Sando, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, Seth Wickersham, Trey Wingo.