Bill Parcells' record says Hall of Fame

Bill Parcells' record says Hall of Fame
February 3, 2013, 5:00 pm
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You hear the quote all the time, but Bill Parcells was the first to say it.

“You are what your record says you are.”

Parcells said it long ago when he was coaching the New York Giants and it made the point that pro football is a bottom-line business. You can make all the excuses you want – injuries, bad bounces, tough schedule – but, in the end, if the record says you are a loser, well …

It was classic Parcells – blunt and unsentimental, yet also very true.

And if you are what your record says you are then Parcells is certainly one of the best coaches in NFL history. On Saturday, he was formally recognized as such when he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Joining Parcells in the Class of 2013 are Larry Allen (offensive lineman, Dallas, San Francisco), Jonathan Ogden (tackle, Baltimore), Warren Sapp (defensive tackle, Tampa Bay, Oakland), Cris Carter (wide receiver, Eagles, Minnesota, Miami), Curley Culp (nose tackle Kansas City, Houston) and Dave Robinson (linebacker, Green Bay, Washington).

Parcells can be abrasive and hard to deal with and it could be some of the media toes he stepped on over the years may account for why he fell short in the Hall of Fame voting last year. If some voters held it against him – at one time or another, we all felt the sting of Parcells’ tongue – it is unfortunate because that isn’t the way this is supposed to work.

But on Saturday Parcells got the required 80 percent of the vote from the Board of Selectors, so this summer he will be fitted for his gold blazer when the Hall of Fame marks its 50th anniversary in Canton, Ohio.

The true measure of Parcells’ coaching skill was his proven ability to resurrect dead-in-the-water teams. He took over the Giants, the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys when they were down and out and he rebuilt them all into winners.

He won two Super Bowls with the Giants. He took over the Patriots when they were a hapless mess and he had them in the playoffs in his second year and in the Super Bowl two years after that. He took over the Jets when they were coming off a 1-15 season under Rich Kotite. He got them to 9-7 in his first year and he led them to the AFC title game the next year.

Parcells did the same thing in Dallas, taking over the Cowboys when the team was at a low ebb after five years of Chan Gailey and Dave Campo. He guided them to 10 wins and a playoff berth in his first season despite being saddled with a backfield of Quincy Carter and Troy Hambrick.

Parcells has the 10th-most wins among all-time NFL coaches. He had only five losing seasons in 19 years as a head coach. Three of his former assistants – Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton and Bill Belichick – went on to win Super Bowls as head coaches. Each one credits Parcells with showing them how it's done.

Every player who played under Parcells has a story about how he motivated them, often by needling and goading them with his Jersey sarcasim. Bryan Cox played for Parcells as a Jet and Cox recalled Parcells gruffly telling him that he was “running out of gas.” Later that week, Cox said, he found an empty gas can in front of his locker. Message delivered.

Ty Law was an outstanding cornerback for Parcells in New England. Parcells called Law “Willie Brown” because he wore the same No. 24 Brown wore in his Hall of Fame career in Oakland. One day at training camp, Law said Parcells called him over during practice.

As Law told the New York Post, Parcells said: “You know what, Willie? You’re going to be the first first-round pick in the history of the NFL to get cut in training camp.’ He just wanted to put that in my mind.”

Law, of course, went on to have a great career. Looking back on Parcells now, Law says: “He used to beat up on me, then love me up, beat up on me, then love me up.”

Parcells also had a way of keeping players on an even keel. When he was coaching the Patriots, Curtis Martin was his star running back. In his first NFL game, Martin scored the winning touchdown. Afterwards, the rookie was surrounded by reporters.

As Parcells walked by, he barked: “Get away from him, he’s a one-game wonder.” He was joking, sort of.

From that point on, Parcells affectionately called Martin “Boy Wonder.” The name stuck throughout his 11-year career. Martin retired as the NFL’s fourth leading all-time rusher. Asked about Martin’s Hall of Fame chances, Parcells said: “He’ll go in on roller skates.”

Easily, in other words.

When Martin was inducted into the Hall last summer, he asked Parcells to be his presenter. When Martin accepted the honor, he turned to Parcells and said: “Coach, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

This summer, Parcells will be back in Canton for his own induction. Maybe he will wear roller skates for the occasion.   

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