Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
I asked him if this game vindicated his type of football.
"It's never needed it," he said without breaking stride. "It's that other stuff that needs vindication."
Giants' owner Wellington Mara, who'd overhead the exchange, later told me that it was his favorite quote from that Super Bowl.
With his players, though, Parcells was far from conventional. He preached togetherness, as all coaches, do, but certain players were special, and everybody knew it. When Lawrence Taylor was having his drug troubles toward the end of his career, a group of veterans approached Parcells and told him he had to do something.
"He nods off, he goes to sleep in meetings," they said. Parcells told them he'd take care of it. How could he tell them that of all the players he'd ever coached, no one had ever touched his heart to the extent that Taylor did, except for maybe Mark Bavaro? Or maybe he could have told them about the Sunday night in New Orleans in November 1988, when Taylor had separated his shoulder and was a doubtful starter, but he played anyway.
Between plays his arm was hanging at his side, practically useless. Sometimes he would be doubled over in pain. But he turned the game around with three sacks and two forced fumbles. The Giants won by a point.
After the game Parcells knelt down by Taylor's locker and they touched foreheads.
"I didn't think you'd make it," he said.
"I didn't think so, either," Taylor said.
Sometimes Parcells operated on pure instinct.
"We were playing in Cincinnati," Phil Simms said. "To be honest, I was getting tired of that buttoned up offense he ran, and I was going to say something, but on the morning of the game, he came over to me and said, 'You know, Simms, I think you can pass on this team. I think you can throw for a lot of yards on them.'
"I was shocked. It came out of nowhere. We just opened up the offense that day. I threw for 513 yards. It's still a Giant record."
I used to try to analyze Parcells' drafts. I remember asking him about Carl Banks, whom he had taken in the first round in 1984.
"Why a linebacker?" I asked him. "I mean you've got Byron Hunt and LT and Gary Reasons and Harry Carson. How many can you play at once?"
"You watch," he said. "This one's gonna be special."
Banks became a Pro Bowl linebacker, and one of the greatest in the modern era at playing over the tight end.
On a Giant team loaded with offensive linemen, especially, guards, Parcells brought in a guard from Iowa, Bob Kratch, in the third round in '89. Again, I was puzzled and I asked Parcells about it.
"What's the toughest team for us in the division?" he said.
"Eagles," I said.
"Who are their defensive tackles?" he said. I answered Jerome Brown and Mike Pitts. I was starting to get the picture.
"When you're playing guys like that twice a year," he said, "you can't have enough guards on your roster."
I had an interesting relationship with him through the years, never what you'd call friendly, but polite. All questions would be politely answered. Then in March 2003, a few months after he'd been hired to coach the Cowboys, I attended the NFL spring meetings in Phoenix. It was the last one Parcells went to.
One afternoon I was sitting in the lobby of the Arizona Biltmore, the site of the meetings, waiting to talk to someone, when Parcells came over. "Mind if I join you?" he asked. No, hell no, I didn't mind.
He just started talking, kind of a stream of consciousness thing. He talked about the kind of teams he tried to build with the Giants, how he always put more value on the tough positions, linebacker, tight end. It was an unusual and revealing part of himself.
"I'll bet you can remember every tight end and linebacker I ever had there," he said, "but you can't remember the DB's and wide receivers I had on my Super Bowl teams."
I tried. A few names drifted up ... Mark Collins, Mark Haynes, Bobby Johnson, Phil McConkey, but nothing I could really nail. He was right, as usual. So we talked for a while, the philosophy of building personnel, some of the game's trends, his particular likes and dislikes.
"I never was entranced by the big backs," he said. "I mean the really big ones, 250 and higher. They just don't seem to hold up for long. Aside from Christian Okoye, which of them ever had a really productive career?"
It was fascinating. A few days later I ran into his daughter, Dallas, who's married to Scott Pioli, the Patriots' personnel director. I told her how mystified I was that her dad had just come over and opened up like that.
"It's because you're an old-timer," she said, "because you remember his old Giant teams. He's lonely down there in Dallas. He likes to talk to the old-timers."
He has remained friendly ever since. Hell, he's an old-timer himself. A pair of old-timers, that's us. I don't question his decision to leave the Cowboys. I'm not going to knock myself out trying to solve the puzzle. I just hope he finds what he's looking for.