Parcells, Bill

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Bill Parcells


American football coach

Not everyone liked Bill Parcells, but he won. Parcells, a football turnaround specialist, took two struggling football franchises and coached them to Super Bowls, and nearly did so with a third.

Parcells' New York Giants won the Super Bowl, the National Football League's (NFL) championship game, in 1987 and 1991. He brought the New England Patriots to the title game in 1997. And the New York Jets, under his tenure, fell one victory short of reaching the Super Bowl in 1998.

Parcells, who espoused old-school football, motivated by fear. "Parcells could be difficult, but those players who responded to his barbs earned his loyalty for a lifetime," Mike Puma wrote in "Numerous players followed him to different coaching stops." "When we were playing real well as a team, [Parcells] was miserable because he needs friction," said Phil Simms, the quarterback most of Parcells' years with the Giants, during an interview on ESPN 's Sports Century

series. "He lives on that friction. He needs adversity, and he's got to have a spat going with a player. If there's no adversity, he'll create it."

Raised in New Jersey

Born as Duane Charles Parcells, he began calling himself Bill, after a lookalike, as an early teen in Oradell, New Jersey. At River Dell High School, Parcells excelled in football, basketball and baseball. "His temper was sometimes a problem, but never his work ethic," Puma wrote.

Parcells spent a year at Colgate, but transferred after one year to Wichita State. There, he was an All-Missouri Valley Conference as a linebacker. The NFL's Detroit Lions drafted him in the seventh round in 1964 but cut him shortly after training camp began. Parcells then coached as an assistant at several colleges including Army, where he befriended men's basketball coach Bobby Knight, whose own career would be highly successful, though stormy. In Parcells' first head coaching job, in 1978, Air Force lost eight of eleven games.

He agreed to become the Giants' linebacker coach in 1979, but he and his family didn't want to move again; then, after a year of selling real estate in Colorado, Parcells became a New England Patriots' assistant under Chuck Fairbanks. In 1981, he joined Ray Perkins' New York Giants staff.

Parcells, Nicknamed

In 1986, "Parcells changed little about the team from the previous year, relying on a fearsome defense and ball-control attack on offense," Puma wrote. The Giants sported a league-best 14-2 record during the regular season, then dominated San Francisco and Washington in the playoffs for the franchise's first National Football Conference (NFC) championship since 1956, when it was the premerger NFL. In the NFC title game against the Redskins, Parcells opted for New York to kick off to start the game rather than receive, but with a 30 miles-per-hour wind at its back in the first quarter. New York dominated early and won 17-0. In Super Bowl XX at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the Giants scored 30 second-half points to defeat the AFC champion Denver Broncos 39-20.

Parcells, whom the Giants denied permission to speak to Atlanta about a coaching vacancy shortly after wining the title, returned the team to the Super Bowl in January, 1991. At Tampa Stadium, the Giants knocked off the Buffalo Bills, 20-19. Though most remember Super Bowl XXV ending on Scott Norwood's missed 47-yard field goal attempt for the Bills, Parcells and his staff, especially defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, got credit for limiting Buffalo's high-powered offense. New York held the ball for two-thirds of the game.

Bill Belichick, as New York Giants defensive coordinator, helped Bill Parcells win two Super Bowls. Fired as head coach by the Cleveland Browns in 1995, Belichick rejoined Parcells in New England, where the two, in the same roles, went to another Super Bowl; then, they nearly went back with a third team, the New York Jets.

Patriots Beckon

Parcells quit the Giants after that Super Bowl, worked the broadcast booth for two years and had heart surgery. Then, New England owner James Orthwein beckoned Parcells. Taking over in 1993 a team in disarray and rumored to be moving out of town, Parcells rebuilt it around quarterback Drew Bledsoe, whom he drafted out of Washington State. The Patriots made the playoffs in 1994, Parcells' second year; two years later they played in Super Bowl XXXI, losing 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

But Parcells' tenure there was stormy. Bob Kraft purchased the team from Orthwein, kept it in New England, and feuded with Parcells over personnel decisions. "If they want you to cook the dinner," Parcells said, "at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."

Kraft overruled Parcells in the 1996 draft, siding with personnel director Bobby Grier's preference for Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn. In training camp that year, Parcells referred to Glenn as "she" at a press conference, incurring the wrath of women's groups. That Kraft's wife, Myra, entered the fray, calling Parcells' comment "disgraceful," reflected the rift between Parcells and the owner. After the Super Bowl, Parcells did not fly back to New England with the team. A week later, Parcells accepted an offer from the New York Jets, who had to surrender four draft choices to the Patriots.

Returns to New York

Parcells took over a Jets team coming off a 1-15 season and produced a 9-7 record in 1997, the team just missing the playoffs. One year later, Parcells, armed with some of his former New England and New York Giant players and assistants, went 12-4 in the regular season. In the AFC Championship game, the Jets led 10-0 at half-time but the Broncos rallied to win 23-10 in Denver. In 1999, his final coaching season, the Jets missed the playoffs but managed a 9-7 record despite having lost starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde for the season to injury on opening day. Parcells stayed in the Jets' front office for a while before returning to broadcasting. He spent the 2002 season as a studio commentator on ESPN.


1941Born August 22 in Englewood, New Jersey, as Duane Parcells
1964Graduates from Wichita State University; cut by NFL's Detroit Lions during training camp.
1983Named New York Giants head coach.
1991Quits as Giants head coach after winning Super Bowl XXV, 20-19 over Buffalo Bills. It was Parcells' second Super Bowl championship.
1993Named New England Patriots head coach
1997Quits as Patriots head coach shortly after New England's 35-21 loss to Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. Signs as head coach of the New York Jets, who surrender draft choices to New England as compensation.
1998Jets fall one victory short of Super Bowl, losing 23-10 to Denver Broncos in AFC Championship game.
1999Quits as Jets coach.
2003Named Dallas Cowboys head coach

Awards and Accomplishments

1963Named All-Missouri Valley Conference as a Wichita State University linebacker.
1986NFL Coach of the Year, leading New York Giants to 14-2 season.
1987Giants win Super Bowl XX, defeating Denver Broncos 39-20.
1991Giants win Super Bowl XXV, defeating Buffalo Bills 20-19.
1994NFL Coach of the Year, leading New England Patriots to playoff berth.
1997Patriots win AFC championship, but lose Super Bowl XXI to Green Bay Packers, 35-21.

Parcells Legacy: Hovering Presence

Parcells' services are constantly in demand. He rejected a three-year, $18 million offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season and in December, 2002, was linked to the University of Alabama opening. In January of 2003, Parcells signed on as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Like him or not, Parcells knew how to win. Howard Troxler wrote in the St. Petersberg Times: "His method was to ride players hard, with the de facto motto: 'You stink. Now prove to me that you don't.' Sometimes his former players bad-mouthed him, but that didn't change the fact a team's record usually was worse the year before he took over and worse the year after he left."


(With Mike Lupica) Parcells: Autobiography of the Biggest Giant of Them All, Bonus Books, 1987.

(With Jeff Coplon) Finding a Way to Win: The Principles of Leadership, Teamwork, and Motivation, Doubleday, 1995.

Talkin'Tuna: The Wit and Wisdom of coach Bill Parcells, compiled by Jefferson Davis, ECW Press, 1999.

(With Will McDonough) Final season: My Last Year as a Head Coach in the NFL, Morrow, 2000.



"2002 Finalist-Bill Parcells." Pro Football Hall of Fame. (December 11, 2002).

"Baying the Bill." South Coast Today. (January 28, 2000).

"Bill Parcells, Psychologist." Psychology of Sports. (August 19, 1997).

"Brady-Bledsoe Foremost among QB Controversies." (November 23, 2001).

"First a Scare, Then Parcells' Bombshell." South Coast Today. (January 30, 1997).

"Kraft Blisters Parcells." South Coast Today. (August 28, 1996).

"New York, You Got Off Easy." South Coast Today. (January 7, 2000).

"Parcells Made Struggling Franchises into Winners." ESPN Classic. (January 7, 2000).

Sketch by Paul Burton