One of a Kind
Bill Parcells was a master at getting the most out of his talent
Bill Parcells, who Stepped aside as coach of the Jets on Monday after 15 years at the top of his game, always said the same thing when writers or fans talked about how close one of his teams was to getting over the top, or how the team was better man its record. "You are what you are," Parcells would growl. "You get exactly what you deserve in this game."
Parcells always seemed to get more out of his players than most coaches. When he took over the Giants in 1983, the franchise had won one playoff game in 25 years; Parcells led New York to two Super Bowl wins in the next eight seasons. In '93 Parcells became coach of a 2-14 Patriots team, and four years later New England won the AFC championship. After they went 1-15 in '96, the Jets hired Parcells, who took them to the AFC tide game two years later.
"The guy's really made a believer out of me," says Joe Horrigan, a Pro Football Hall of Fame vice president and resident historian. "History may view him as a Lombardi-like coach, one who went into organizations that had been down and totally refocused them into winners."
The public tended to view Par-cells as a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust coach who turned to the pass only as a last resort. But the Giants' Phil Simms had a 4,000-yard passing season under Parcells, and the Patriots' Drew Bledsoe threw an NFL-record 70 passes in a 1994 overtime win over the Vikings. Vinny Testaverde had his finest pro season playing for Parcells last year, throwing 29 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.
A master of manipulation, Par-cells could be a maddening puppeteer, and he was hated by more than a few players. But he was a genius at motivating his team and tweaking the various personalities on a roster. He tried to talk to at least 30 players each day.
What Parcells did to get the best out of Lawrence Taylor—whose career could have otherwise been ruined by drug and alcohol abuse—is a book in itself. One example of Parcells's control over LT came during the 1989 playoffs. The Giants were preparing to play the Rams, and the 30-year-old Taylor was starting to feel his age. He had been shut down by run-of-the-mill Rams tackle Irv Pankey when the two teams met in November. When Taylor wandered into the locker room eight days before the playoff game, Parcells told him, "I've got a plane ticket for you. I want you to go to New Orleans, and I want you to take your helmet with you."
"Huh?" Taylor said.
"Go find Pat Swilling," Parcells said, referring to the Saints linebacker. "Give him your ticket and your helmet, and let him fly back here. He's the only guy who can handle Pankey."
Infuriated, Taylor worked out twice on the Tuesday before the game—for the first time ever, friends said—and played superbly. He had two jarring third-down sacks. " Lawrence was a good kid," Parcells said on Monday. "You just had to know how to get to him."