- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Think back to when Bill Walsh left the 49ers in 1989, and Pat Riley left the L.A. Lakers in 1990. Remember the subtle digs from some of the players on those two teams: "The guy's outlived his usefulness here." That is what you hear from some of the Giants now. They acknowledge Parcells's immense contributions to their two Super Bowl victories; after all, he won 62% of his games (85-52-1) in his eight years as the Giants coach. A couple of players who were Parcells's favorites, Simms and linebacker Lawrence Taylor, have acknowledged how much they miss him, without slighting the new coach, bookish Ray Handley-But that sentiment is not unanimous.
"I think we're a mature enough team that we don't need a coach who plays mind games," says linebacker Gary Reasons. "Ray's just a straightforward, no-nonsense guy." And Marshall says, "Veteran players never knew where they stood with the other guy. Ray's honest. All he wants from you is an honest day's work."
So the players like Handley. But the question is whether he can motivate them and sustain their intensity the way that Parcells did? Example: Taylor was struggling to beat double-and triple-team blocking in October 1989. During the week leading to a game with the Minnesota Vikings, Parcells kept calling Taylor "What's the matter with," because the writers had all been asking, "What's the matter with Taylor?" He pounded the nickname into Taylor all week. Taylor is a competitor, and Parcells knew how to hit his button. Unleashed in the game, Taylor had 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles. "They're not going to be asking you what's the matter with Taylor anymore!" a defiant Taylor told Parcells after the game.
Handley hasn't had to get into the marrow of any player's bone yet, so who knows if he can? Parcells had a line that he used whenever speculation about a player's future swirled around the press room. "That's why they play the games," he would say. The same rule applies here, in the first year of the post-Parcells era.
6. Is this a make-or-break year for Vinny Testaverde?
Absolutely. After four years as a pro, the book on the Tampa Bay Buc quarterback is: great arm strength and football sense, throws well on the run, slower than average but not plodding, needs a trusting, back-patting coach to prosper. Testaverde was handled with kid gloves at the University of Miami and won the Heisman Trophy. Then, after Tampa Bay made him the first player chosen in the '86 draft, he was handled with boxing gloves by coach Ray Perkins and won nothing.
Headcase in point: Last year, Testaverde was leading the league in passing five weeks into the season, but he aggravated a turf-toe injury that caused him to miss a game in San Diego in Week 8. With the Chargers up 24-7 at halftime, Testaverde, in street clothes, suggested the Bucs try a play that would take advantage of a weakness in the San Diego defense. "That's not in our game plan," said Perkins, in a way that humiliated Testaverde. "It made me feel like I wasn't a part of the team," says Testaverde.
The next week, with Testaverde back in the lineup against the Chicago Bears, Perkins jumped on him for overthrowing wideout Mark Carrier early in the game. "He snapped at me the week before, and now this," says Testaverde. "I know it's not good for me to react like that, but it definitely got inside my head a little bit." Testaverde threw five interceptions that day, the Bucs lost and they went on to finish 6-10. With three games left, Perkins was fired and receivers coach Richard Williamson was promoted.
During an off-season golf outing, Testaverde let it slip that he thought the offense under Perkins was "the most conservative offense in the history of the league." The remark made the papers, and now, in the new wide-open offense and under the calming direction of Williamson, the pressure is on Testaverde to prove he is a top-flight NFL quarterback. "A person cannot be successful if he's uptight all the time," Williamson says. "I called Vinny in last spring and told him, 'Don't worry about being a leader or being responsible for the team. Worry about getting Vinny ready. Make Vinny work.' "
To that end, Williamson plans to give Testaverde leeway to run, with more bootlegs, rollouts and play action. "I like Coach Perkins," Testaverde says. "His system just didn't work. Now I have the whole offense at the line of scrimmage. I'm starting to feel free, the way I did in college."