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Parcells has always known
what really mattered

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Wednesday December 30, 1998 05:46 PM


Click here to send an NFL question to Peter King.

I've known Bill Parcells since the summer of 1985, when, as a rookie Giants' beat guy for Newsday, I lived in Pleasantville, N.Y., the site of their training camp. I lived in the attic of a home occupied mostly by Pace University students, landlorded by a gigantic woman smoker and neighbored by a houseful of smokers. So it was easy to be dedicated to my job, out of the house at 7 each morning and not back till 9 or 10, when I could think of sleeping through the smoke.

Parcells didn't read Newsday. He didn't know me. And he had no idea if I was going to be any good at my job, or if I was just wasting his time. But he'd talk to me -- about the Red Sox, about New Jersey, about the competition for the dime-back job. About anything. Why? Because I was new. Because he wanted me, as a beat guy who might slightly influence public opinion and the opinions of his players, to understand why he did things. Because if I could see that he had the right ideas and was doing the right things to eventually get this team to a Super Bowl, then when he made a move that looked dumb, I'd try to give him the benefit of the doubt and write something about how he was doing this with the best interest of the team in mind.

Anyway, I started to see what made Bill Parcells tick. When he was hanging around shooting the breeze, as he did with his coaches and his players and the media from early in the morning to late at night, there was a purpose. Always a purpose. He dug. He tested. He scanned brains. He knew this was a people business, and he was determined to get to the bottom of every significant person who had anything to do with whether the Giants won or lost games. He knew he couldn't change Lawrence Taylor carousing at night and skipping curfew; rather, he knew he knew it wasn't worth it to try to change him. He knew he could make Phil Simms better by rattling his cage. He knew he could fix Carl Banks with a stare and make him play better. He knew he could get things out of the Phil McConkeys that no one else could. He knew that with some players (as he did at the 1987 Super Bowl with the Giants) he'd have to appoint full-time private detectives to trail the players he didn't trust. If it helped get the almighty W, nothing was too sinister.

He knew that information was power. That's what he knew then and that's what he knows now.

He knew that nothing mattered but the bottom line. He took a Giants' media guide out of my hands once and turned to the year-by-year won-loss records. "Look,'' he said, pointing to one season. "Loss. Win. Win. Loss. Loss. Does anybody wonder who was healthy for this game they lost? Does anybody ask if the wind blew down a quarterback's pass that day? No. No one cared. They only cared if you won or lost. When I'm gone, they'll only ask one question: Did he win the game? And if the answer was no, then you failed. End of story.''

Parcells has weaknesses. He can be a powerful bully. He's not keen on people in positions of authority who disagree with him. George Young . Bob Kraft . The team has to be his fiefdom, no one else's.

But he has figured out that to win you get smart, good people and smart, good players who all move in the same direction. That's what he's done with the Jets, who have a playoff bye for the first time in club history. People like defensive coordinator Bill Belichick , who I'm sure is the smartest coach east of Mike Shanahan . People like pro personnel man Scott Pioli , who is the most diligent pro scout I see in press boxes around the league. People like linebacker Bryan Cox. Cox knew he could give people the finger and play out of control in Miami and Chicago because he had no fear of Don Shula and Dave Wannstedt . He has some fear, deep down, of Bill Parcells. And more than that, he knows that everything Parcells is doing is pointed toward winning.

The Jets are 12-4. Raise your hand if you're shocked.

All three of you can put your hands down.

Now for your questions of the late season:

I consider you the best football columnist in the business and seek out your column every week. I was, therefore, surprised to see your reaction to the "discrepancy" in the Packers' fans treatment of Reggie White and Mike Holmgren. The reasons for the difference in public displays of thanks seem obvious to me:

1) Reggie has announced that he will retire after this season, whereas Holmgren has only intimated that he might be open to coach/GM offers.

2) Many of the activities at Lambeau Field on Sunday such as the display of video highlights were specifically designed to acknowledge Reggie's contributions to the team. As Holmgren is not officially leaving the team, no such displays would have been appropriate.

3) Reggie went out of his way to acknowledge the fans' cheers, waving to the crowd before the game and running a lap after the victory. If Holmgren were to have done any of these things, it would have confirmed speculation about his departure and increased distractions for the team.

So I think your comment was off the mark. I'd also add that I think Holmgren is mightily appreciated in Green Bay, as evidenced in the naming of a boulevard after him two years ago. Although fans will likely feel snubbed if he chooses to leave (just as they did when Lombardi left), his accomplishments will be appreciated both now and in the future.
-- Steve Stroessner, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Steve, thank you for your kind words. I wasn't asking for the team to put a video tribute up on the big screen. What I thought odd, simply, is that there were no signs (that I know of), no "Thanks for the Super Bowls,'' no acknowledgement that this was probably his last game in Lambeau Field. You don't find that odd, that no one thought to thank Holmgren as he walked off the field the last time? The guy will go down with Lambeau and Lombardi as the best coaches in Packers history. I just thought the fans were strange for not giving him some just due. I agree with you that fans will appreciate his accomplishments in the future. I think they ought to appreciate them now.

What is your analysis of the Pro Bowl selections?
-- Jon Dalton, Fairfax, Va.

Miami should have placed two more defensive players on the team, probably Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, or maybe Sam Madison. Brett Favre should have gone over Chris Chandler, but that's no big deal. You could have argued with overlooking O.J. McDuffie, who led the NFL in receptions, at wideout for the AFC. But overall, I thought this ballot was filled with the fewest injustices in my memory.

Why is Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer worth so much money?
-- Lawrence Haley, Minneapolis

Here's the way to look at the Plummer contract. For his first six years in the NFL, assuming his contract isn't redone again before 2002, he'll make about the same amount Ryan Leaf is schedule to earn, about $31 million. That's his first two years under a second-round contract and the next four under a good contract of a rising-star starting quarterback. So it's neither wonderful nor out of whack. I think it's just right.

What, exactly, will the decibal limit be in "your stadium?" 120? 125? Or a more pedestrian 100? Let's say it's 100, and the crowd roars to something criminal like 102. I take it you'd have the ref warn them, and then penalize them if they kept it up? What if they heed the warning and shush to a well-behaved 95? Will the ref stop the game then and inform the crowd that they could be just a little louder if they were up to it? Let 'em yell. Besides turf or grass, the crowd is the only other factor in home-field advantage. As a Cowboys fan, I'd trade a first-round pick for crowd noise like that.
-- Andrew Zibuck, Rochester, N.Y.

Andrew, I realize this is a difficult issue. One of the things I hate about sports is when league offices interfere where they shouldn't. However, in this case, I don't think you can understand the problem until you've stood on the floor of the Metrodome with a decibel count around 100. During the Green Bay game at Minnesota this year, Brett Favre could not hear about half the plays radioed to him in the speaker in his helmet; the Vikings quarterback could hear every one. For more than half the plays in the game, the center couldn't hear Favre barking the signals, which led to a spate of fumbles and false-start penalties; the Vikings had no problems with the snap or snap count. For almost every play, the Packers' left tackle, Ross Verba, had to keep his eye on the football, to see when it was snapped, and not on the quickest defensive lineman in the game, John Randle; Vikings left tackle Todd Steussie had no such hardship.

All I'm saying, Andrew, is that those things, added together, start to give one team an unfair advantage over the other team, and the league should simply enforce the rules currently on the books: when a referee feels a team cannot hear its quarterback's signals, it should take steps to quiet the crowd. The rule is there. Why isn't it being enforced?

Who will have the greater legacy: Marino, with the stats, or Elway, with the comebacks and the ring.
-- Christopher Carabell, Miami, Fla.

A question for the ages. I think you have to almost put them 1 and 1A. I'd probably put Elway a hair ahead of Marino, because of his scrambling and improvisational and comeback abilities, and because he leads in rings 1-0. But Marino is probably the classic dropback quarterback of all time, tough and smart, too. His release is the quickest we've ever seen. Appreciate both of these guys, however much longer they have.

How long will it take for the Cleveland 49ers, er Browns, to become a playoff contender? Who should their top draft pick and free-agent hires be?
-- Chris Celek, Dayton, Ohio

The Browns will go 6-10 the first year after picking Tim Couch first overall and trying to surround him with an NFL-quality offensive line picked up via free agency. If they make the right decisions, there's no reason why they can't be a wild card team in Year Two. The biggest thing they've got to get right is franchise architecture, and Carmen Policy is the right man to get that going. I hope, however, Dwight Clark doesn't have the only say in personnel. He's made some big mistakes in San Francisco.

Do you really think it's going to come to a Jets-Broncos AFC Championship Game??? Both top-rated teams rarely make it to the conference final. The AFC isn't that much different than in past years. It's still wide open.
-- Ray Ferngren, Atlanta, Ga.

That's how Jan. 17 looks to me. The interesting thing will be to see if the Jets' assortment of castoffs and defensive overachievers -- Ernie Logan, Anthony Pleasant, Jason Ferguson -- can get some edge pass rush on Elway and disrupt the rhythm of the Broncos' passing game. Look at what the Giants (with Michael Strahan) and Dolphins (with Jason Taylor) did to Elway in Denver's two losses. I love this game. I just wonder how the Jets will react when the ground starts shaking at Mile High. I'm serious. When the fans go nuts there, the ground shakes.

Click here to send an NFL question to Peter King.

Related information
Dr. Z's Final 1998 Power Ratings
Dr. Z On Football: Wild Card Weekend picks
Peter King's Monday Morning QB: Browns coaching
CNN/SI's NFL Playoffs coverage
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