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A Hard Man for a Hard Job
December 14, 1998
The New York Jets' Bill Parcells, resurrector of three NFL teams, is nasty, stubborn and domineering. Those are only some of the reasons he may be the best coach in the league
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December 14, 1998

A Hard Man For A Hard Job

The New York Jets' Bill Parcells, resurrector of three NFL teams, is nasty, stubborn and domineering. Those are only some of the reasons he may be the best coach in the league

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•Parcells makes sure that he has enough of "his guys" to control the locker room. If he has those players in place, he doesn't have to be paranoid (or appear so), as many other coaches are. "Bill knows it's impossible to control every element of the locker room," says the aforementioned observer, "so he gets five or six players who speak the message for him and who are his eyes and ears and completely devoted to him."

Indeed, Parcells has a reputation for being a Svengali in sweats. Seahawks quarterback Warren Moon, who has never played for Parcells, says he hears some former Giants and former Patriots "speak of him in almost reverential fashion." You can see that in Byars, who says of Parcells, "If the man tells you there's cheese on the mountain, you better bring crackers."

Former Giants nosetackle Jim Burt says Parcells calls his devotees "circle-the-wagon guys." If things are going badly, then Parcells goes out and gets a circle-the-wagon guy. A classic example on the Giants was Joe Fields, a backup center. Byars, Cox, Pepper Johnson and tackle Jumbo Elliott are all circle-the-wagon guys on the Jets, and Keyshawn Johnson is one in waiting. Look at the sideline during a game, and you'll see Johnson next to Parcells, lobbying not only to get his number called but also for the enduring affection of his coach.

•Parcells is a genius at motivating on an individual level. Speaking independently, Morris and Burt say almost the same thing in describing Parcells's locker room talks. Morris: "When Bill would say something in general terms, I would literally think he was talking only to me." Burt: "Bill made me feel personally responsible for every win and loss."

Parcells has always worked his mind-melding magic in many ways. He would challenge Morris directly: "If you don't get a hundred yards tomorrow, we lose." He would ask Burt for help: "I know you're ready, but you've got to get so-and-so ready, too." He would hold up Simms as an example that no one was safe from his wrath: "Phil, you're playing great, and I couldn't ask more out of you," he told Simms during one preseason, "but on that field in about 15 minutes I'm going to give you holy hell."

Parcells has never fallen into the deadly coaching trap known as democracy. He doesn't treat every player the same. He plays some of his most creative mind games in the off-season when he drops by the weight room to talk to players individually. "That's when he finds out what buttons to push during the season," says Carthon. Buttons to push and mind games are the two phrases most commonly uttered about Parcells.

The player who best illustrates the Parcells philosophy is linebacker Lawrence Taylor, his Giant for the ages. Parcells, who began his college coaching career as a defensive specialist, put Taylor into situations where he could succeed, turning him into a fierce quarterback-hunting machine whose unpredictability—blockers not only had to worry about whether he was rushing but also about from where—was the key to New York's defense under Parcells. "Bill found a way to put my talents to use," Taylor said two weeks ago from a New Jersey drug rehabilitation center. (In October he was arrested on charges of purchasing crack cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He pleaded not guilty.) "If I'd do something that wasn't in the playbook and it worked, Bill would say, 'Well, let's put it in then.' "

Parcells had his way of motivating Taylor—for example, he would constantly praise Hugh Green, a fast and mobile Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker in the mold of LT—but for the most part he stayed off his back. In fact, some Giants chafed about the special treatment given to Taylor. That's Parcells: special players, special treatment. Dealing with Taylor's off-the-field transgressions tested Parcells, but he says Taylor was easy to coach. "All you had to do was show him where the competition was," says Parcells. "I saw the man play when he was bleeding, when he was in severe pain with a shoulder injury, when he was dehydrated. When it came to laying it on the line, there was nobody better than Lawrence Taylor."

Taylor says Parcells has written him twice in rehab, and though neither man is warm and fuzzy, they remain close in their own way. "Bill Parcells will always be my coach," says Taylor. "Whenever I'm inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bill will stand right there with me."

•Parcells gets—and keeps—the kind of assistants he wants, men like Carthon, who as a player circled the wagons for Parcells. Tellingly, the bios for the assistant coaches in the Jets' media guide list not only their responsibilities and years of NFL experience but also "seasons with Bill Parcells."

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