Exploring the legacy of Bill Parcells (2024)

Bill Parcells thought he had reached the pinnacle of his profession on Dec. 15, 1982. Ray Perkins, the Giants' head coach, confirmed that he would leave the team after the season to replace Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. Almost immediately, the Giants announced that Parcells, the team's defensive coordinator, would replace Perkins. Parcells' coaching career had included stops at seven colleges and the New England Patriots and had suddenly landed him in charge of the team he had rooted for as a youngster growing up just a few miles from Giants Stadium.

Suitably proud and excited, Parcells mimicked what so many other people do when they land the gig of their dreams: he called his mother, Ida.

"My mother was raised in Wood-Ridge in a blue collar family and she didn't really have any kind of sports background," Parcells said. "I thought I better call her up and tell her because I didn't want her to read it in the paper without her knowing. I called her and said, 'Tomorrow, they're going to name me the head coach of the Giants.' She said, 'When are you going to get a real job like your brother the banker?' That's a true story."

Parcells never did get a job his mother might consider respectable. He spent 19 seasons as an NFL head coach for the Giants, New England Patriots, the Jets and Dallas Cowboys. Parcells was 172-139-1 (.569) in the regular season and 11-8 (.579) in the postseason. His overall record was 183-138-1 (.570). Parcells is ranked 10th in NFL history in both regular season and total victories.

In addition to winning Super Bowls XXI and XXV with the Giants, Parcells led the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to Green Bay. He is one of 13 head coaches with more than one Super Bowl victory, one of five coaches to lead two different franchises to the Super Bowl and the only head coach in NFL history to take four different franchises to the postseason.

Clearly, Parcells was nowhere close to his professional zenith the day the day he stepped into the Giants' head coach's office. That occurred this summer, when Parcells was selected as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

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Phil Simms: "I was shocked he didn't go in last year...But there was never a doubt that he would get in."
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Parcells is the 19th Hall of Famer who spent all or a significant portion of his career with the Giants.

"I'm honored. It's just unbelievable," Parcells said. "It's a tremendous feeling of exhilaration and gratitude and the people that helped you do it, you can't thank them. There's too many of them to thank. I was thinking about what I was going to say (at his induction ceremony). Well, I couldn't name any of my coaches. I had too many of them. I could't name any of the players because I had too many of them. You can't single out people like that.

"I think anybody in football who's been associated with me knows that I have respect for the game and respect for the people that did precede me. I tried to carry that forward with my teams and tried to express that to the players on my teams, that they should have that respect for those that paved the way for them. You have to win, too. I was fortunate to work for great organizations that gave me the opportunity and the resources to go forward. I'm grateful for that."

To the players, coaches and opponents who hold Parcells in such high regard, the only question regarding his enshrinement was the timing. They wonder what took so long. Parcells was a finalist in 2012, but came up short in the voting by the Hall's selection committee.

"I was shocked he didn't go in last year," said Phil Simms, the Super Bowl XXI Most Valuable Player who played eight of his 15 Giants seasons for Parcells. "I really was shocked. I know people in the league who I was with that night and they were like, 'Wow, Bill didn't get in.' They were shocked. But there was never a doubt that he would get in.

"We used to have these arguments all the time. He'd say, 'Alright Simms, name 10 great players in the NFL.' I'd start naming them and he'd say, 'Nope.' I'd go, 'What do you mean,' and he'd say, 'He hasn't done it long enough. He's a flash in a pan.' He couldn't be a two-year wonder. After he'd get done I'd go, 'That makes a lot of sense.' Well, if his name was brought up in one of those arguments right now, he couldn't shoot it down. I think that says it all. He deserves to be in there. I look at Buddy Ryan and his 46 defense and Bill Walsh and his offense and Bill Parcells had his own unique style. It probably will never be replicated."

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"This is long overdue," said John Mara, the Giants President and Chief Executive Officer. "He's one of the best coaches in NFL history. He turned our franchise around. We went through a long period in the 1960's and '70's when we were a laughing stock. When Bill took over in 1983 he survived a very difficult first year, but then turned us into a perennial playoff contender and won two Super Bowls for us. He coached three other teams, and everywhere he went, he had great success."

Parcells was the NFL Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1994. But all of his honors, victories and championships tell only a small part of his story. Parcells was a larger than life figure. He was an unwavering disciplinarian who demanded his players and assistant coaches follow his path.

"Bill knew exactly what he wanted," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, a member of Parcells' staff from 1988-90. "It was not going to be done any other way. There wasn't a lot of discussion. He was a dictator, which was fine."

But Parcells also has a tremendous sense of humor. His news conferences were better theater than any Broadway show, his repartee with reporters more entertaining than Chris Rock doing standup. In 1997, he took over a Jets team that was 1-15 the previous season, prompting an intrepid reporter to ask, "If you were to bring this team to the Super Bowl, do you think they should change the name of the Meadowlands to Parcells-land?" Parcells' response? "Is LSD back?"

Parcells was a master motivator who wielded the NFL's sharpest needle. He put pressure on his players in practice so they wouldn't crack in the fourth quarter of a tight game. Parcells knew exactly which buttons to push to inspire players, especially the great ones. Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor was always in Parcells' scope. Before a 1989 postseason game against the Los Angeles Rams, Parcells placed an airline ticket on Taylor's locker stool. When Taylor asked why, Parcells said he should go to New Orleans and send back Saints linebacker Pat Swilling, who had dominated Rams tackle Irv Pankey – a blocker who had controlled Taylor like few others. Suitably enraged, Taylor beat Pankey for two sacks in that week's game. If Taylor went a couple of games without a sack, Parcells said the media would ask him, "What's the matter with Taylor?" So Parcells would goad his star all week in practice by calling him, "What's-the-matter-with?"

Parcells said this year the one player in NFL history he would choose to start a team with is Taylor. But he also insists, "the ability to motivate someone is really a very, very much overrated thing," Taylor, however, often had his best games after absorbing Parcells' barbs, but he didn't like receiving them.

"It (ticked) Lawrence off," said Harry Carson, another Hall of Fame linebacker and Parcells favorite. "He would laugh at it, but I think that got under his skin to be challenged and to be compared with another player."

Joe Morris was the Giants' second-round draft choice in 1982, the year they selected another running back, Butch Woolfolk, on the first round. But it was Parcells who made Morris a starter. Morris led the Giants in rushing every season from 1985-88 and he ran for a then-team record 1,516 yards in the 1986 championship season.

"I look at my career and I know under him I had my most productive years because of him pushing and prodding," Morris said. "He just irritated the hell out of me. I'm playing as hard as I can for this man and at the top of my ability. I was training like a fiend. Here's the funny thing: He knew how I trained. He knew what I was doing. He told me, 'You have to pick your game up, son. If you don't pick your game up, we can't win without you.'"

The Giants won plenty in Parcells' eight-year tenure as their head coach, which included five postseason berths. Parcells' 77 regular-season victories with the Giants place him third among head coaches in the 88-year history of the franchise. The leader is Hall of Famer Steve Owen with 151, followed by Coughlin, who has 83 and counting.

Parcells reversed the fortunes of all four franchises he coached. The Giants had one winning season in the 10 years before his promotion. In 1993, he joined a New England team that finished 2-14 the previous year. Parcells led the Patriots to the playoffs in his second season and to the Super Bowl in his fourth. He joined the Jets after they were a combined 4-28 the previous two years. Parcells led them to a 9-7 record in his first season and the AFC Championship Game in his second year with the team. After sitting out for three years, he joined a Cowboys team that had finished 5-11 for three consecutive seasons. Dallas made the playoffs in Parcells' first year on the sideline.

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Coach Tom Coughlin: "Bill knew exactly what he wanted. It was not going to be done any other way."
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"Bill Parcells is a great football coach," Coughlin said. "He has tremendous instincts. He has the ability to say the right thing at the right time, always did. He was a guy who set a very, very high standard and then held players to it. His expectations were very high. He did not mince words. He knew how to depend on outstanding leadership, but he also knew how to go to an individual who was not performing or perhaps had an issue with something outside of football and he would be very direct in terms of how he tried to straighten it out. I think what he has accomplished as a football coach in this league, winning two world championships with the New York Giants, taking the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl, taking four franchises to the playoffs, which is the most in history, those kinds of accomplishments speak highly of his ability to take on great challenges, go into a situation which was not productive and turn it around and do so in a very quick and early fashion.

"I don't think there's any question that Bill Parcells is a Hall of Fame coach. He had Hall of Fame accomplishments throughout his career."

Bill Parcells didn't begin his NFL head coaching career like a Hall of Famer. But he didn't begin his life as Bill Parcells, either.

He was born Duane Charles Parcells on Aug. 22, 1941. Parcells was raised in Hasbrouck Heights before his family moved to nearby Oradell, where he attended River Dell High School. It was there that Parcells was often mistaken for another boy named Bill. Since he didn't particularly like the name Duane, he adopted Bill for himself.

Parcells played football, basketball and baseball at River Dell. His basketball coach, Mickey Corcoran, became a lifelong mentor and confidant. Parcells played linebacker and earned a physical education degree at the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University). He was a seventh-round draft choice by the Detroit Lions in 1964, but never played an NFL game.

Instead, Parcells embarked on a career in coaching that began at Hastings College in Nebraska and took the quintessential Jersey boy on an odyssey that included stops at Wichita State (1965), Army (1966–69), Florida State (1970–72), Vanderbilt (1973–74), and Texas Tech (1975–77). He spent the 1978 season as the head coach at the Air Force Academy. After spending the 1979 season out of football, he joined the Patriots in 1980 as their linebackers coach. That year, he earned another permanent nickname, "Tuna," for his unique body shape. Parcells was hired by Perkins in 1981 as the Giants' defensive coordinator. Two years later, he was in charge of the entire team.

"I wanted to be a head coach and it just made it better being my hometown team," Parcells said. "I grew up in Hasbrouck Heights, not very far from the stadium. So that was really quite an exhilarating moment for me."

The dream soon became a nightmare. During his debut season, Parcells' parents, Charles and Ida, and his running backs coach, Bob Ledbetter, all passed away. On the field, Parcells selected Scott Brunner as his starting quarterback over Simms, a precursor to what became a disastrous 3-12-1 season.

"There were instances I went home and said, 'This is so biased it's beyond belief.'" Simms said. "But I knew that and I've said many times it really was almost a good thing that it was, because it played itself out and probably ended up helping me. It was established pretty early on that season was going to be rough (for the team). If something could go wrong, the team would help it along and make it go wrong. It was something. There's no question it was a great learning experience for Bill."

"Very difficult," is how Parcells describes the season. "It didn't go well and I was lucky I survived it." Asked if he was worried about getting fired, Parcells said, "Oh yeah. I was getting fired."

General manager George Young did talk to Howard Schnellenberger, the University of Miami coach with whom Young had worked in Baltimore. But Parcells had a plan if he could just keep his job.

"I was in the weight room one day and he came in and he started talking to me," Simms said. "He said, 'Simms, if I survive this, if I'm the Giants coach next year, I promise you we're going to do it my way now.'"

Parcells restructured the roster, got tougher and, most importantly, became the Bill Parcells that the NFL and the football public grew so accustomed to seeing over the next quarter century.

"I would say I changed appreciably," Parcells said. "I think I got back to being really the way I am. I think in '83 I was trying to be a head coach a little bit. It wasn't going too well and the team had some problems. I recognized what they were and took some action. We changed a lot of players and some very, very key players. Some very key veterans that had been around and we made some moves and we got a lot younger."

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Parcells needed to change the attitude of the team.

"And I needed to change mine," he said. "So that's basically what we did. We got our offseason program going. We went a little bit more business-like."

"I think what happened is Bill tried to treat the players he inherited as a head coach like men and it didn't necessarily go over very well," Carson said. "And then he had to basically usher out some people and he brought new people in to replace those people who didn't necessarily have the best work ethic or took shortcuts. I understood the pressure that he was under when we went 3-12-1 and George Young was looking at Howard Schnellenberger and whoever else as a possible successor. People were speculating Bill was going to be one and done. I remember him saying something to the effect of, 'I've tried to do it your way and from now on I'm going to do this thing my way.' He was much different in 1984 than he was in '83."

So was the starting quarterback. After another training camp competition, Simms, the Giants' first round draft choice in 1979, won the job over Jeff Rutledge. "As much as I thought '83 was rigged, '84 was rigged, too," Simms said. "Nobody said anything to me, but you just know. They wanted me to be the guy and things worked out quickly in practice and in the preseason."

Simms threw for more than 4,000 yards and led the 1984 Giants to a 9-7 record and an NFC Wild Card berth. The Giants upset the Rams in Los Angeles, 16-13, before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in a divisional playoff game.

"They're the ones that got me over the hump," Parcells said of the '84 team. "Those guys right there, the '84 group, are very special to me because they're the ones that really made it possible for me to keep going. It was 50/50 in the middle of that year; if I had lost another game or two somewhere in the wrong place, it would have been all over.

"We started to improve as a team very quickly during that season. We had a little slump in there, too, but we kind of recovered from that (winning five of six games) and played a little bit better. Beating the Rams was a big confidence builder for us in Anaheim. They had beaten us very badly (33-12) during the season in the same stadium. But we had every psychological thing going for us there. That was a big game, because it helped my confidence. After the game I'm saying, 'Parcells, you can do this.' That was probably the game that was the most important in my tenure at the Giants in terms of my confidence escalating. We played well that day, really well. We played really well on defense and we scored enough to win. And then we played pretty well the next week. That '84 49ers team, that's the best team they ever had in San Francisco. If we had a few breaks here and there, that game could have gone the other way. It didn't, but it could have. Maybe we weren't ready for it to yet. But we eliminated them from the playoffs the next two years. So things were getting better for us."

The 1984 season not only saved Parcells' career, it ignited an era of Giants' success. The next year, the Giants earned another wild card berth with a 10-6 record and routed the 49ers in an NFC Wild Card Game in Giants Stadium before again losing to the team that would soon capture the Lombardi Trophy. This time it was the Bears by a 21-0 score in frigid Chicago.

Though the Bears were heavily favored, it was a crushing loss for Parcells. On the flight home he sat next to Corcoran in silence.

"It's a long road back to a game like that," Parcells said. "A lot has to happen. You have to play well, the draft, the offseason, the regular season. It bothered me. Now they were a very good opponent and they certainly were deserving of what they wound up with that year, but it was really a tough, tough loss. We were on the plane and I didn't say anything to anybody. Mickey kind of snapped me back to by saying, 'Parcells, you have to figure out a way to beat these guys.' That was 2½ hours after the game."

That moment helped launch one of the most memorable and successful seasons in Giants history. After two years of knocking on the door, the Giants were ready to break it down and seriously challenge for their first championship in 30 years. The Giants had a core of excellent veteran players like Taylor, Carson, Simms, Morris, George Martin and Mark Bavaro, an outstanding offensive line collectively known as the Suburbanites, and each of their first six draft choices were defensive players, including Eric Dorsey, Erik Howard, Pepper Johnson and Mark Collins.

"I thought we would definitely be in contention," Parcells said. "Our team was determined. They learned a lot from that Bears experience. We were getting better players. In those days, it was hard to get five or six rookies onto your team. It's not like these days where it's almost automatic. If you had 45 guys at that time and four or five rookies made your team, you were ecstatic. The best thing about that crew of kids was there were jobs for all of them. They came in and they started playing."

The 1986 Giants lost their opening game in Dallas before winning five in a row. On Oct. 19, they fell in Seattle, 17-12. It was their last defeat of the year. Morris rushed for 181 yards in each of the next two games, season-turning home victories over NFC East rivals Washington and Dallas. Two weeks later, Simms connected with wide receiver Bobby Johnson for a 22-yard gain on fourth-and-17, a miracle play that enabled the Giants to win in Minnesota and prompted everyone to begin thinking the Giants were a team of destiny.

"When we came back to beat Minnesota up there, that was big," Parcells said. "After that we beat Denver. We were down and George Martin made that great play (a one-handed interception of a John Elway pass that he returned 78 yards for a touchdown). It's one of the greatest plays I ever saw in football."

And that team was perhaps the greatest he ever coached. The defense finished first in the NFL against the run, allowing only 80.3 yards per game on the ground. Taylor led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and was the only defensive player ever to be a unanimous selection for NFL Most Valuable Player. Morris rushed for a then-franchise record 1,516 yards. Here's a little-remembered statistical nugget from that season: Simms, constantly prodded by Parcells to play aggressively, threw more interceptions (22) than touchdown passes (21). Eight Giants played in the Pro Bowl.

At the end of the season, the Giants were steamrolling overmatched opponents – 55-24 over Green Bay in the regular-season finale, 49-3 against San Francisco in a divisional playoff game and a 17-0 shutout of Washington in the NFC Championship Game. That advanced the Giants to their first Super Bowl, against a Broncos team they had defeated eight weeks earlier. After two years of running into teams that were 16-1 when they met in the playoffs, the Giants were the favorites to win their first NFL title in 30 years.

Parcells said that did not require a radical alteration of his coaching style.

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Bill Parcells: "We lost Phil and everybody gave up on us, but we had a good team."
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"I just had to kind of keep them paying attention," he said. "I don't mean they were complacent at all. I just had to kind of tell them you put a lot into it and you have a long way to go. I wasn't talking to them always in the nicest terms. I was talking to them in terms they vividly could understand and we're not blowing this chance. 'I'm telling you guys, we are not screwing it up. We're not screwing it up in practice. We're not screwing it up in preparation. We're not screwing it up on the trip. We're not screwing anything up. Denver is going to have to beat us to win.' I said, 'If we play our best, they're not beating us.' Now they had the wild card with Elway, because he could do some spectacular things. I was confident. I would have been entirely disappointed had we not won that game."

Despite their momentum and conviction, the Giants trailed at halftime, 10-9. And they were that close only because Denver kicker Rich Karlis missed field goal attempts of 23 and 34 yards. Elway had already thrown for 187 yards.

"I was concerned," Parcells said. "I told the team exactly this. I said, 'Fellas, the way we're playing, we're lucky it's this close.' We had to make a goal line stand. We had to get a safety. They missed the field goals. I said, 'For it to be this close as bad as we're playing, if we just get to our business, we're going to beat these guys.'"

That's exactly what happened. The starting point was Rutledge, the backup quarterback, surprising the Broncos with a two-yard run on fourth-and-one. That set up Simms' 13-yard touchdown pass to Bavaro. Before the third quarter ended, Raul Allegre kicked a 21-yard field goal and Morris scored on a one-yard run to give the Giants a 26-10 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Simms threw a pass that deflected off Bavaro right to Phil McConkey for a six-yard score and Ottis Anderson ran two yards up the middle for a final touchdown. The Giants' lead grew to 26 points on the way to a 39-20 final. Simms completed 22 of 25 passes, including all 10 of his throws in the second half, for 268 yards and three touchdowns.

"That was a mercy kill in that second half," Parcells said. "I mean it. It was 10-9 and then it was…we had them 39-13 at one point, didn't we?"

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With all of the key players returning in 1987, the Giants expected to contend for another title. But their season never took flight. They lost the first two games before a players strike shut down the NFL for a week. When action resumed it was with replacement players and the Giants lost all three of their games with the substitute players. Despite winning their last two games, they finished 6-9.

In 1988, a last-minute loss to the Jets in the season finale left them out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

"It was tough," Parcells said. "We weren't prepared for (the strike) and it didn't go well. We still had a good team at the end of the year. We lost our first couple of games, which was awful. We missed a field goal to lose to Dallas at home and we were 0-2 and then we lost three replacement games. Had we just been able to win one of those first two and one of those next three we would have been in contention. But we didn't, and then the team was starting to change a little bit after that season and then the next year we were better, but the team was going downhill in some positions. I said if this was '86, these guys (the Jets) wouldn't have a chance against us. The last drive I said this would have never happened to us two years ago. That's when I realized that we had to make some changes, and thank goodness the administration and George did. We started getting some guys that helped us. I knew then that after '88 that it was going to be worse in '89 if I didn't make some more changes. So we did and then we kind of got back to being a good team again."

The Giants won the NFC East with a 12-4 mark in 1989 but lost their first postseason game when the Rams' Flipper Anderson caught an overtime touchdown pass and didn't stop running until he reached the Giants Stadium locker room.

"We were a good team in '89," Parcells said. "Of all the playoff games that I was a part of losing, I think that is the one I remember the most. Not just because of Flipper Anderson, but because we did a couple of things in that game that hurt us and I think it was a little bit coaching, too. Because we were better than the Rams and we didn't win. I was disappointed that game."

In 1990, the Giants returned to the NFL mountaintop, but it was a challenging climb to the summit. They won their first 10 games before suffering a 31-13 loss in Philadelphia. The following week, the Giants lost a Monday night game in San Francisco in a matchup of 10-1 teams. After defeating Minnesota, they suffered their third loss in four games, 17-13 at home to Buffalo.

But the biggest story that day was Simms' season-ending foot injury. The Giants were suddenly without their quarterback, their leader, their Super Bowl MVP. Simms was replaced by Jeff Hostetler, who had started only two regular-season games.

"We lost Phil and everybody gave up on us," Parcells said. "But we had a good team. We had a good defense. We could rely on it and that just made it better, because we had something to kind of make everybody pay attention.

"When (Hostetler took over) I was just thinking we're going to have to sit down and we're going to have to alter some of the things that we do to accommodate this guy, because he had some
unique abilities. Let's not just try to run the same old (stuff). Let's try to integrate his playing ability into the system, which we did. We ran more bootlegs. We ran rollouts. We moved the quarterback pocket a little bit. It went well. Jeff did a good job coming in, did what he could do and he made some clutch plays in a couple of those games."

Hostetler led the Giants to victories in their final two regular-season games, playoff contests vs. Chicago and San Francisco and a 20-19 triumph in Super Bowl XXV against the Bills. He did not throw an interception in five games.

Although he won two Super Bowls, Parcells says today "if you pin me down" the 1990 NFC Championship Game victory over the 49er was the most memorable moment of his coaching career. San Francisco had won the previous two Super Bowls and was trying for an unprecedented three-peat. The Giants and 49ers had what was then the NFL's best inter-division rivalry. The title game was their fifth postseason meeting and 12th overall in 10 seasons.

A brutal hit by defensive end Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana out of the game. Taylor recovered a Roger Craig fumble with 2:36 remaining. Hostetler completed passes of 19 yards to Bavaro and 13 yards to Stephen Baker to set up Matt Bahr's fifth field goal, a 42-yarder as time expired that gave the Giants a dramatic 15-13 victory.

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"It was a great game," Parcells said. "There were a lot of great players playing in that game. Look at their roster, with the Montanas and (Steve) Youngs and Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott and those guys. We had our share, too, and that's quite an array. (Referee Jerry Markbreit) told us it was the greatest game he ever officiated in pro football and he did 460-something games. He said that was the greatest one. It was nip and tuck right to the last minute and we made a few plays to win it.

"My players were wild. They were happy. That plane trip to Tampa (site of the Super Bowl), I wish everybody could have been on it. It was something, it really was. They were having the best time and they were happy."

But the Giants had to win one more game, against a Buffalo team that a) had already beaten them, b) ran a high-speed, no-huddle offense led by quarterback Jim Kelly that scored a league-high 428 points that season, and c) had just demolished Oakland in the AFC Championship Game, 51-3.

"We got to Tampa and went right down to business," Parcells said. "We were practicing hard. We were practicing in pads. They were (mad) at me, but that's it.

"They (reporters, etc.) told me we had no chance. That was a good kind of team, the Giants were. They responded favorably to those kinds of things. That's the one thing I really take the most pride in, when you think that you haven't got a chance, those guys would beat you. Going to San Francisco and winning that game, nobody thought we were doing that. Nobody on Earth. That was great. We got them."

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Bill Parcells: "In my heart, I've always been a Giant. I think everybody pretty much knows that. It's the way it is."
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In the Super Bowl, the Giants owned the ball for 40:33 and outgained the Bills, 386-371. Whenever a Buffalo receiver caught the ball he was punished by a group of Giants defenders. The Giants ran the ball 39 times and MVP Ottis Anderson rushed for 102 yards. Hostetler completed 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown to Baker just prior to halftime. Bahr scored the game-winning points on a 21-yard field goal with 7:40 remaining. When Buffalo's Scott Norwood pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right with four seconds left the Giants had shocked the world and won another title.

"We had a good plan," Parcells said. "We played them three times that season (just as the Giants faced the Patriots three times in their Super Bowl victories under Coughlin). We played them in the preseason, we played them in the regular season and if you look at those games, their offense didn't do that much against us in any of those games. Their offense was okay, but it wasn't what it had been throughout the course of the year in any of those games. We were a little bit more of a problem for them, and obviously they were a problem for us, too, because they had beaten us in the regular season. But we explained to the players exactly what we had to do. They knew what we had to do. If we do it this way, we're going to beat them. If we don't, we're going to lose."

Parcells was on top of the NFL world. He had succeeded wildly in his dream job, leading his hometown Giants to two championships in five seasons. Parcells was universally recognized as one of the NFL's very best and most influential coaches. He was one of the most popular and recognizable figures in the metropolitan area and the night the Giants won Super Bowl XXV he was just 49 years old. It seems the good times would continue forever.

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Then he delivered the real shock. On May 15, 1991, less than four months after the victory over Buffalo, Parcells abruptly resigned from the Giants. At the news conference to announce his departure, he was vague about his reasoning. Today, he acknowledges he had a health concern, but offers few details.

"It took me a year to find it and we finally did," Parcells said. "It was a pretty critical thing. Once that was fixed, I was back ready to go."

Parcells stayed off the sideline for two years before returning in 1993 to coach the Patriots. In four years in New England he was 34-34, including postseason games, one of which was the loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI.

He left the Patriots to coach the Jets and was 30-20 in three seasons, including a defeat in the 1998 AFC Championship Game. After three years as a television analyst, Parcells joined the Cowboys. He was 34-32 before retiring from coaching following the 2006 season. He served as the Miami Dolphins' Vice President of Football Operations from 2007-2010.

Had he stayed with the Giants, he could have built an empire. Does he ever regret his decision to leave?

"You always have some second thoughts about things," Parcells said. "I probably have more second thoughts about leaving New England, because I had a really good young team there. We had just been to the Super Bowl. I had a lot invested. But the Giants…I didn't so much want to leave. Something was just wrong with me. People don't believe that, but I knew something was wrong."

Parcells is the second Giants head coach to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The other was Owen, who coached the team from 1930-53.

"My experience there with the Giants was wonderful," Parcells said. "Retrospectively, it was even better than I remembered it. That's my team. In my heart, I've always been a Giant. I think everybody pretty much knows that. It's the way it is."

When Parcells' election to the Hall was announced on Feb. 2, the first phone call he received was from John Madden, also a Hall of Fame coach and America's favorite football ambassador. When Madden was elected in 2006, the first person to call him was Parcells.

That year, Madden made one of the most famous induction speeches in Hall of Fame history. He said he imagined that at night, when the Hall's lights are turned off, the doors are locked and no one is in the building, all the Hall of Fame busts talk to each other, so that Wellington Mara can chat with George Halas and Lawrence Taylor can debate Dick Butkus. Madden said he couldn't wait to join the discussions.

Now and forever, Bill Parcells will be part of those exchanges, offering his opinion, advice and counsel and jabbing that famous needle into the most revered figures in pro football history.

"I'm telling you, Parcells will hold his own in every one of those conversations," Coughlin said. "I guarantee that."

Exploring the legacy of Bill Parcells (14)
Exploring the legacy of Bill Parcells (2024)


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