Parcells, Duane Charles ("Bill")
PARCELLS, Duane Charles ("Bill")
Son of labor negotiator and former FBI agent Charles Parcells and homemaker Ida Naclerio Parcells, Parcells was born in Englewood but grew up in nearby Hasbrouck Heights and Oradell. He came by the nickname "Bill" quite by accident. Repeatedly mistaken for a look-alike named Bill, he came to prefer to prefer that moniker to Duane and soon asked that all his friends call him Bill. A star in baseball, basketball, and football, he was a member of the first graduating class at Oradell's River Dell High School in 1959. Attending college, Parcells played football first at Colgate University and later at Wichita State University, from which he graduated in 1963. Although he played quarterback during his high school football career, he switched to linebacker while in college.
Parcells kicked off his coaching career in 1964 when he took a job as assistant defensive coach at Hastings College, but a year later he returned to his alma mater—Wichita State—as a defensive line coach. In 1966 he headed back to the East Coast for a coaching job at West Point. Before landing his first head coach job at the Air Force Academy in 1978, Parcells had also put in time on the coaching staffs at Florida State University, Vanderbilt, and Texas Tech.
Only a year after winning the head coach job at the Air Force Academy, Parcells made it to the big time when he joined the New York Giants organization as an assistant to head coach Ray Perkins. A year later he left the Giants for a season as linebacker coach for the New England Patriots, but soon was back with the Giants as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. In 1983 he took over as head coach of the Giants. In his first year as coach, Parcells concentrated on reorganizing the team and building a powerful defensive force centered on linebacker Lawrence Taylor. His preoccupation with building for the future was reflected in the team's miserable record for the year—three wins, twelve losses, and one draw.
The following season the Giants won nine games, and it got better from there. Over the next six years Parcells coached the Giants to three division titles and two Super Bowl victories. Shortly after the Giants 20–19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV in 1991, Parcells began seriously considering job offers from other teams. In the end, however, concerns about his health took him away from football for a couple of years. After undergoing cardiac bypass surgery, he worked for two years as a sports analyst for the National Broadcasting System (NBC).
Once he got the green light from his doctors, Parcells headed back to coaching, hiring on in 1993 as head coach of the New England Patriots, who in the previous season had turned in a disastrous record of 2–14. In no time at all Parcells had turned things around, coaching the team into the playoffs two years after taking over. In his fourth season as coach the Patriots played in Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers 35–21. Only Don Shula before him had managed to lead two separate National Football League (NFL) teams to the Super Bowl. Parcells was clearly at the top of his game but unhappy with his boss, Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots. By the summer of 1997 Parcells had been offered the position of head coach and general manager with the New York Jets, but Kraft and the Patriots were not prepared to let him go without a fight. Claiming breach of contract, they fought to block Parcells from joining the Jets, but eventually a compromise agreement was hammered out, allowing Parcells to take the job and giving the Patriots several draft picks.
For Parcells the job with the Jets represented a home-coming. Home field for the Jets was the Meadowlands in New Jersey, only a stone's throw from where Parcells had grown up. In taking the job, Parcells told the press, "There is something special about doing your job where you grew up, where you're comfortable, and where you have great support." He quickly transformed the Jets—who had records of 3–13 and 1–15 in their two previous seasons—into winners again. In 1997, his first year as coach, he turned in a record of 9–7. In 1998 the Jets advanced to the American Football Conference (AFC) championship game on a record of 12–4, adding further luster to Parcells's reputation as a first-rate coach.
In January 2000 Parcells decided to bow out of coaching while still at the top of his game. He agreed, however, to stay on as the Jets director of football operations. Some observers expressed doubt that Parcells would be able to remain away from football. Of the game's powerful hold on him, Parcells surely explained it best when he told Sporting News: "It's like a narcotic. It's hard to get it out of your system sometimes. But I've been at it a long time, and I feel there's a chance I'll get it out of my system."
Parcells and his wife, Judith, live in New Jersey with their three daughters. In addition to his duties with the Jets, Parcells has signed on with Joe Montana, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, to coach a heart health campaign developed jointly by the NFL and Merck and Company. The NFL Cholesterol Screen Team will educate fans about the dangers of high cholesterol and encourage them to get tested regularly.
Parcells was one of the most influential forces in professional football during the final decades of the twentieth century. The philosophy by which he lived—and instilled in the players he coached—is simple, as he told Sports Illustrated: "You are what you are. You get exactly what you deserve in this game."
Noted for an uncanny ability to coax the very best from the players he coached, Parcells proved his effectiveness by taking two of the three NFL teams he coached to the Super Bowl. And he came breathtakingly close to making it three when he led the New York Jets to the AFC title game in 1998.
In Parcells: Autobiography of the Biggest Giant of Them All (1987), written with sportswriter Mike Lupica, the coach recounts his life in football from his school days through the New York Giants triumph in Super Bowl XXI. Parcells updates his life story, taking readers through his years as coach of the New York Jets, in The Final Season: My Last Year as Head Coach in the NFL (2000), written with Will McDonough. Another view of Parcells's contribution to professional football can be found in Parcells: A Biography (2000), written by Bill Gutman and Bill Pronzini. See also Bob Glauber, "Draft Gaffes Put Strain on Parcells-Grier Alliance," Sporting News (26 Aug. 1996); Bill Plashke, "Getting It Done—His Way," Sporting News (27 Oct. 1997); and Jack MacCallum, "A Hard Man for a Hard Job," Sporting News (14 Dec. 1998).