Bill Parcells said he couldn’t have become the only coach to guide four different teams to the postseason without the backing of the owners of the New York Giants, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys.
Parcells, 71, was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame two days ago after being voted in by the 46-member selection committee in February on his third attempt.
“Every organization that I worked for supported me to the fullest,” Parcells said in his induction speech in Canton, Ohio. “I’m grateful to the ownership of those places because that’s what allows you, and the players, to succeed and go forward and become champions and, without that, you’ve got no shot.”
Parcells coached the Giants to Super Bowl titles after the 1986 and 1990 seasons; took the Patriots to the Super Bowl five years later, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers; guided the Jets to the American Football Conference title game in January 1999; and led the Cowboys to two playoff appearances.
Parcells, the 22nd coach to reach the Hall of Fame, is one of 13 National Football League head coaches with more than one Super Bowl victory and one of five who has led two franchises to the NFL title game.
Former wide receiver Cris Carter was also among the seven-member class inducted Aug. 3, along with offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, and defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Completing this year’s class were senior candidates Curley Culp and Dave Robinson, who played in the 1960s and 1970s.
Parcells had a 172-130-1 regular-season record with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys. He had an 11-8 playoff record, including 8-3 with the Giants.
“I found out over the years that commitment has varying degrees in the NFL,” said Parcells. “I’ve seen coaches go to these franchises and get fired very quickly because the situation would not allow them to succeed. Fortunately for Bill Parcells, I was never in one of those situations.”
In 19 years as a head coach, Parcells had five losing seasons and his teams finished first or second in their division 11 times. He turned around four teams, including the Giants, who had one winning season in the 10 years before he took over in 1983, a stretch in which co-owner John Mara called the team a “laughingstock.”
Parcells said Dean Pryor, who gave him his first coaching job at Hastings College, gave him an important lesson.
“He taught me one vital piece of information when he said, ‘Bill, the players deserve a chance to win and you as an organization, a university, coaching staff, individual coach, or head coach have an obligatory responsibility to give it to them,’” Parcells said. “I preached it all my life.”
After a 3-12-1 record in Parcells’s first year, the Giants made the postseason as a wild-card team the next two years. In 1986, the Giants went 14-2 and finished with a Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. Four years later, the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 for their second Super Bowl title under Parcells.
Parcells said those early years were pivotal for his career.
“It was touch and go, another loss or two and it could have gone either way,” he said. “I had the exact right kind of players.”
Parcells spent two years out of the NFL before returning to coach the Patriots. New England was 2-14 the year prior to his arrival and went 10-6 in his second season, with their first playoff appearance in eight years. The Patriots won the American Football Conference championship two years later.
Parcells performed a similar turnaround with the Jets, where he started in 1997. Two years after going 1-15 in 1996, the Jets went 12-4 and reached the AFC title game.
Parcells took the Cowboys to the playoffs after the 2003 and 2006 seasons before taking front-office roles with the Jets and Miami Dolphins. Among his former assistants who are now NFL head coaches are the Patriots’ Bill Belichick, the Giants’ Tom Coughlin and the New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton.
Parcells recalled Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young describing the locker room as “a great laboratory for human behavior.”
“Talent aside, the only prerequisite for getting acceptance is you have to be willing to contribute to the greater good,” Parcells said. “And if you are willing to do that, you are readily accepted; and if you’re not, you’re pretty much quickly rejected. If you’re willing to help, ‘Come on in;’ if you’re not, ‘Get out of here.’”
Carter, 47, had 1,101 receptions and 130 touchdown catches over his 16-year NFL career, ranking fourth in both categories. He led the Minnesota Vikings in receptions from 1991 to 2000, including an eight-year stretch in which he had 1,000 yards receiving each season.
Ogden, 39, was the fourth pick in the 1996 draft and voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times in a 12-year career with the Baltimore Ravens. He won a Super Bowl title after the 2000 season and in 2003 anchored an offensive line that helped Jamal Lewis become the fifth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards.
‘Striving for Perfection’
“Talent isn’t enough,” Ogden said. “A lot of people have talent, they don’t always live up to it. For me it is about maximizing, striving for perfection.”
Sapp, 40, had 96 1/2 quarterback sacks over 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Sapp won a Super Bowl title with the Buccaneers after the 2002 season.
Allen, 41, made the Pro Bowl 11 times over his 14-year NFL career and won a Super Bowl title with the Cowboys after the 1995 season.
“I just knew I had to win every play,” said Allen, wearing sunglasses as he sniffled through his speech. “That’s the reason I am here. I knew if I lost a play, I had 45 seconds to get even.”
Culp, 67, was a pro lineman for 14 seasons and played for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning team after the 1969 season. The six-time Pro Bowl selection also played in the AFC Championship Game after the 1978 and 1979 seasons with the Houston Oilers.
Robinson, 72, spent 10 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers and had 27 career interceptions from his linebacker position.
“The Hall of Fame is the closest thing a football player can get to immortality,” Robinson said. “Now I am immortalized.”
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