Work in Sports
Groh officially tabbed to take over Jets
Posted: Monday January 24, 2000 06:25 PM
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- Al Groh, a Bill Parcells pal for more than 30 years, replaced his former boss Monday as coach of the New York Jets.
Three weeks after Parcells resigned and Bill Belichick stunned the club by quitting a day after he took over, the Jets finally sorted out their coaching puzzle.
Groh, who grew up a few miles from the Jets' training camp at Hofstra, was reportedly given a five-year contract worth $6 million by new owner Richard Johnson IV, who bought the Jets this month from the estate of Leon Hess for $635 million.
Parcells, who turned the Jets into winners in his three seasons as coach, will remain with the club as head of football operations.
The 55-year-old Groh first worked with Parcells when the two were assistants at Army in 1968, and Groh also was an assistant under Parcells at Air Force. In the NFL, Groh was a Parcells assistant with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Jets, where he coached linebackers last season.
Groh's last head coaching experience was at Wake Forest, where he was a respectable 26-40 from 1981-86 at a school not known as a football force.
Groh becomes the fifth Jets coach since 1990, following Bruce Coslet (1990-1993), Pete Carroll (1994), Rich Kotite (1995-96); and Parcells (1997-99).
"He's going to be a great head coach," Jets linebacker James Farrior said. "He really pays a lot of attention to details. I think he knows the game well and he's always, always prepared."
The ascension of Groh has been known for several days, and both he and others have been talking about the move.
"I feel very ready for this if it were to happen," he said recently. "I don't minimize the size of the job. I'm not trying to make it sound as if I would be taking over at some small high school, but I don't see this as that big a deal."
Asked if having Parcells watching over him might be a problem, Groh said, "Why wouldn't I want to have a legendary coach with his credentials around as a resource?"
It was not immediately clear how long Parcells planned to stay with the Jets, but he seems determined to stick around until the team has settled its coaching matters, addressed player contracts and put a draft plan together.
The Jets finished at .500 by winning seven of their final nine games under quarterback Ray Lucas, who took over when Vinny Testaverde had a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury in the first game and Rick Mirer was unable to generate much offense as his early replacement.
With Testaverde back, along with running back Curtis Martin and a solid defense, the Jets should enter the 2000 season among the top teams in the AFC.
Since Parcells' resignation, a whirlwind of activity has ensued, most of it off the field.
On Jan. 4, a day after the Jets closed the season with a flourish to finish 8-8, Parcells stepped down. He said he could still do the job, but was unable to make a total commitment.
A day later, Belichick -- Parcells' defensive coordinator and hand-picked successor, stunned the Jets by resigning. He said Parcells' status and the ownership picture was too confusing. Belichick filed a grievance with the NFL, claiming the team was not allowing him to seek employment elsewhere.
Then, the Hess estate chose Wood over Cablevision Systems Corp. head Charles Dolan to buy the team. Following NFL owners' approval of the sale last week, Wood tried unsuccessfully to talk Parcells into returning as coach.
Last Friday, the league ruled against Belichick. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Belichick is still bound by contract to the Jets for the coming season, and telling him, the Jets and any club seeking to hire Belichick to work out an agreement before Feb. 1.
Belichick filed an antitrust suit against the NFL today in federal court in Newark, N.J., asking for a temporary restraining order that would allow him negotiate with other teams.
U.S. District Judge John W. Bissell scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.
"The league's directive requiring all clubs to stop dealing with coach Belichick is a classic group boycott," said Belichick's lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler.
NFL spokesman Joe Browne declined comment.
The New England Patriots are interested in hiring Belichick as coach and general manager, but so far have been unable to work out an agreement with the Jets. Now, the Patriots are talking to Jacksonville assistant Dom Capers. When Parcells left the Patriots after the 1996 season, the Jets gave New England four draft picks, including a first-rounder, over three years.
Over the weekend, Groh was in Mobile, Ala., scouting pro prospects at the Senior Bowl. He said he wouldn't make many changes if he took over the Jets.
"The system of putting a team together, running a team, the whole thing as it's been spearheaded by Bill is one of the most successful operations in the history of the league," he said. "To be in three different Super Bowls, to resurrect two programs, with New England and the Jets, obviously it works. And all of us that have been in it feel very confident in implementing it if given our own opportunity."