Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Dec 2005

When Parcells Became Ordinary

David Leonhardt of the New York Times asks: What if it was Bill Belichick all along? In his six seasons without Belichick, in New England and Dallas, Bill Parcells is 44-47 with no playoff victories. (Free registration or bugmenot required.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 04 Dec 2005

27 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2005, 3:03pm by Another Craig B


by Sean (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:13am

This stands as about the stupidest continuing argument around right now. In the years that Parcells has been without Belicheck, he's taken three different teams that were in dreadful shape and begun the rebuilding process. In each case, the team was much better by the time that Belicheck showed up on the scene.

by Travis (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:13am

Bill Belicheck is 41-57 in games when Tom Brady is not his starting QB. Therefore, Belicheck is nothing without Brady.

Exaggerated? You bet. So too is the premise of this article.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:42am

What I don't get is why is Bill Bellichick widely considered a defensive genius? According to DVOA, he's never had a Crennel-less defense that ranked higher than 29th.

And if you take away John Elway, Terrell Davis, Ed McCaffrey, Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Gary Zimmerman, Tom Nalen, Neil Smith, Steve Atwater, Bill Romanowski, and John Mobley does anyone think the Denver Broncos would have won a superbowl?

For that matter, would Dallas have broken its string of 3 straight 5-win seasons in Parcells first year if he hadn't won more than 5 games? Food for thought.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:46am

Bill Parcells has one of the best eyes for talent of any coach in the NFL. He's rebuilt the Cowboys into a playoff caliber team and made Herm Edwards and the Jets look great for years as they were carried by his draft picks when he was there.

by NF (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 5:10am

Mike Shanahan rode an extremely good Denver team with a lot of veterans to the Super Bowl twice. I also think he benefits immensely from having Kubiak as his offensive coordinator. Kubiak started out coaching in Denver as a quarterback coach, so he probably has a lot to do with the rehabilitation of Plummer. I wonder how much of the Denver rushing offense's effectiveness is due to Kubiak's work.

Something interesting about Kubiak: he started out as a backup QB to Elway, then went into coaching and eventually ended up as a QB coach for Denver, coaching Elway. Imagine how ecstatic he must have been when Elway was named Super Bowl MVP of the Broncos second Super Bowl.

by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 5:17am

This is just a stupid article. As a Cowboys fan I have just been stunned by Parcells's ability to draft great players and get great production out of players other people had given up on. Who else could make stars out of Terry Glenn and Bledsoe at this point in their careers.

He has taken four losing teams to the playoffs. That says it all. There are few coaches I would rather have than Bill Parcells.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 11:20am

I agree with most of the commenters so far that this article is somewhat silly. It is a false premise, that it was either Parcells or Belichick who was responsible for their shared successes. It could very well have been both, and I think it was. For the Giants second Super Bowl win, they probably needed both. For the Giants first Super Bowl win, they probably needed only one of them (or neither)-- that was a dominating team (and it was not assembled by Parcells, but rather by George Young).

There is not a single coach I would rather have in the NFL if I were an owner.

by J Martin (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 11:52am

Curious: where was all of this "Belichick as Genius" talk during his tenure @ Cleveland? He was there for about 5 seasons and compiled a 36-44 regular season record.

Anecdotally, Belichick was miserable to deal with 24/7 (Parcells will slide occasionally in a phrase that could be construed as a compliment) and grated on his players to the point of near-mutiny.

This is not to bash Belichick, but simply to restore some order to the thought process of the NY Times writer--who may or may not be pandering to the "I hate Tuna" crowd in the NY Metro area. It exists, I understand--two Parcells coached Superbowl teams, notwithstanding.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:05pm

made Herm Edwards and the Jets look great for years as they were carried by his draft picks when he was there.


ummmm..you might want to check your math on that one

Parcells drafts with the Jets were decidedly mediocre--the only player who stuck with the team long enought to make an impact was/is Jason Fabini

and, no, contrary to what most people believe, Parcells did NOT draft Keyshawn

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:06pm

Curious: where was all of this “Belichick as Genius� talk during his tenure @ Cleveland?
The same place Albert Einstein's was, while he was a clerk in the patent office in Switzerland.

That's not to say that Belichick == Einstein, but lack of early success != proof that someone is not a genius.

For the record, I wouldn't call Belichick (or any football coach, really) a genius, but I wouldn't argue too hard with anyone who did. I've linked a fairly reasonable article from the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins, that examines the "Is Belichick a genius" question . Brief summary: maybe not, but he certainly exhibits some of the qualities ascribed to genius.

by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:08pm

Yeah, I agree that this article is generally old bunk. Funny that there’s no mention that the Patriots’ defense is 31st in the league. The injuries in the secondary are one thing, but Carolina’s Super Bowl team showed that a solid defensive line can make up for a weak secondary. Counting McGinest, New England has four first rounders on their D-Line, but this year, that hasn’t been good enough.

Just one example of Parcells’ coaching skills can be found in the Monday Night game in Philly. You can make a case that the outcome was a fluke, but I think Parcells simply outcoached Reid. Reid came into that game with a few surprises, catching Dallas off guard with an emphasis on the run. Bur Reid showed his hand too early. Eventually Dallas figured out Philly’s play calling and got the stops they needed to keep the game close. Meanwhile, Dallas struggled on offense most of the game, but that was in part because they were using plays early in the game to set up specific plays later on. On their TD drive, the out to Glenn and the draw to Barber were perfectly called plays. One play later, Dallas anticipated the blitz, defended it nicely, and there was no way that Sheppard (?) stood a chance one on one with Glenn.

The interception on Philly’s ensuing drive was a wild way to take the lead, but Dallas had Philly pinned at that point, forcing Reid to choose between a run for no gain or a risky pass. At the very least, I’m convinced Dallas would have gotten a stop and had a chance to win it on offense in the end. For a division road game, you can’t ask too much more, especially when you’ve been outplayed for the first three quarters of the game.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:11pm

Good to see that the readers on this site aren't taking this Parcells-bashing too seriously.

I will say though that I think Belichick gets a bad rap for his time in Cleveland. It took him a little time to really hit his stride, but his fourth season was an 11-5 season in which the Browns won a playoff game. This could have been the springboard for future success, but Belichick's fifth and final season was totally sabotaged by the public release of the info that the Browns were leaving Cleveland (the only game the Browns won after word of the impending leave came out was against a very poor Cincinnati team)

So, if not for the disruption of the Browns leaving Cleveland it's possible that Belichick may have been able to build off of the 11-5 season in 1994 and make the Browns regular contenders. We'll obviously never know.

by admin :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:11pm

Here is why I linked this article.

Bill Belichick has never had anything but the most complimentary things to say about Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. He has never suggested that they are not good enough to succeed on their own. He has never suggested that Tom Brady wouldn't be good enough to win if Belichick was not the coach.

Mike Shanahan has, as far as I know, never had anything but the most complimentary things to say about Gary Kubiak.

But Bill Parcells, when you ask him about Bill Belichick, is a total jerk. I think it is only fair to poke at him with articles like this until he learns to be a mensch and share the credit.

by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:16pm

You're wrong, princeton73. Parcells drafted John Abraham, Chad Pennington, and Laveranues Coles, three extremely important players to the Herm Edwards years.

by kamel (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 2:43pm

can any one tell me the significant contributors for bill parcells the year he took the jets to the afc championship game against the denver broncos. i'm not sure but i think he inherited some quality players from the poorly coached rich kotitte era.

by charles (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 3:02pm

parcells big boys belichick all the time. remember when he stood at midfield during the boys-pats game in 2003. it's strictly a size issue, because parcells is so much bigger than belichick he's not worried about punking him. You don't see parcells saying anything to romeo crennel do you?

by J Martin (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 3:53pm

#10 - this is a valid point.

Remember, I wasn't bashing Belichick!

Belichick has an economics degree, I believe? Personally, I believe that is quite an undertaking.
Potentially, he's more cerebral than most Coaches. Perhaps, the balance had to be achieved when he was in Cleveland.

Yes, the Browns 1994 11-5 season was interesting. They played great defense, but Vinny had more picks than TD's and no 1,000 yard rusher (Hoard had 893).

by Phil (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 4:49pm

Parcells is a complete Jacka**. And it's only a matter of time before Dallas fans realize what fans for the Jets, Pats and Giants already know. He abandonds teams, and leaves them in disarray. An argument could be made that BP sabotaged the Patriots SB season vs. the Packers (Patriots front office has phone bills from the New Orleans hotel room he was staying in the week before the big game, to the Jets front office). Why do you think Giant fans hate him so much, even though he won 2 super bowls while coaching there. Another question, what has pacells won since leaving NY the first time?

by Tim L (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 8:35pm

Aaron, it's pretty much tautology to point out Parcells is an abusive, militant bully--anyone who's seen him in a press conference for more than, oh, fifteen seconds can pick up on that.

If you wanted to gig him a little for being a jerk, that's fair game. But having to explain why you linked the article in post 13, when you already have a header to do that at the top, strikes me as pushing too much of a personal agenda.

by Sean (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 9:19pm

Re 9: While Parcells was with the Jets, he drafted Jason Ferguson, James Farrior, Jason Fabini, Randy Thomas, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Chad Pennington, Anthony Becht and Laverneus Coles.

That looks like the nucleus of a pretty good team to me.

by Sean (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 9:23pm

Re 15: Actually, Parcells had turned over at least half the roster by 1998. He inherited Wayne Chrebet, Keyshawn Johnson and Jumbo Elliot, as well as Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones and Aaron Glenn, but he went out and brought in a ton of new players, most notably Kevin Mawae, Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde and Bryan Cox.

by Dan (not verified) :: Sun, 12/04/2005 - 10:38pm

During his Jets' tenure, Parcells was responsible for arguably the greatest free agent class in NFL history (1998 - Mawae, Martin, Testaverde, Cox; interestingly, each came via a different FA "avenue" (unrestricted, restricted, post-June 1, training camp)) as well as one of the best drafts of recent years (2000 - Ellis, Abraham, Pennington, Coles). "The Tuna" clearly laid the foundation for their recent successes. As a season ticket holder, I look at it this way; since Parcells came aboard in 1997, the Jets have always either made the playoffs or been in contention on the last day - unless there's been a serious QB injury (which, alas, has happened three times in the last seven years - 1999, 2003, and 2005)... this after years of losing seasons and meaningless Decembers. I'll always be grateful for Parcells' (and Belichick's) efforts in ending the Jets culture of losing and creating a quality NFL organization.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/05/2005 - 3:44am

When Parcells' Cowboys went 10-6 with Quincy Carter at QB, a Jerry Jones draft pick, it was obvious to anyone who refrained from adult beverages before 10 A.M. that the Tuna could coach just a wee bit. I didn't know that Maureen Dowd was now writing for the NYT sports page.

by st pete, FL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/05/2005 - 9:56am

It was also a Parcells' great coached team that had the defensive backs stand there while Santana Moss ran by not once, - but twice.

He actually helped hand out big, undeserving contracts to an aged Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones, saddling Herm Edwards with old, slow players, and a salary cap issue.

But to me the clincher is the teams he "resurrects". Why didn't he go to Arizona if he can work such miracles? Now that would have been a resurrection! Heck, even what Marvin has done with the bengals is more impressive than what Parcells did in Dallas. Dallas had a competitive defense when Parcells got there.

I know I'm in the minority, I just think he's over rated.

Meanwhile Tony Dungy just keeps on winning, and he's never mentioned. I think Herm Edwards is the only coach in Jets history to go to the playoffs 3 out of 4 years, he has a better record in the 4th quarter than Parcells does .. but nobody mentions Herm either. In fact, Herm's teams have been penalized less than Parcells' teams on a consistent basis.. isn't that the mark of a well coached team? The Jets usually are one of the very least penalized teams.

Vermeil, Gibbs and Parcells..bla bla bla... and randy moss is way better than steve smith... whatever.

by Liam (not verified) :: Mon, 12/05/2005 - 12:08pm

Re # 24

"even what Marvin has done with the bengals is more impressive than what Parcells did in Dallas"

What do you mean "even"?

Marvin Lewis has turned the Bengals from being consistently terrible year after year into one of the best teams in the league.

Not only that, he will be able to keep the Bengals in contention for a few years due to the young squad he has assembled.

Has any other coach done a better job of turning a franchise around (in the salary cap era)?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/05/2005 - 1:49pm

Several haphazard things I think I think about Parcells:

1. He seems to be a top-flight a@@hole.

2. As a Patriots fan, I will be grateful for his coming to New England. He and his prize pick Bledsoe (you know, back when he was good), gave New England a credibility they hadn't enjoyed since the late 70s. Not necessarily on-field success all the time, but the shedding of the "joke" label that usually rested on the head of the franchise.

3. As much as Parcells won Super Bowls, I blame him for the loss to Green Bay (admittedly a better team) in '96.

4. He might be the best game-day coach ever.

5. He's made a career of taking over teams that were at rock bottom and positioned for a uptick, and went along for the ride. I think his role as "rebuilder" is a bit overblown.

6. It bothers me when people use Belichick's first few years in Cleveland as "proof" against him. Isn't that like using Brett Favre's Atlanta career as proof he isn't a great quarterback. I mean, come on, he wasn't even good enough to start. Coaches get better with experience, just like players.

7. That doesn't mean Belichick is a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.

8. If you, Staubach12, consider Terry Glenn and Drew Bledsoe "stars", you have a serious man-crush on Parcells that can't rationally be explained.

9. The Cowboys going 10-6 with Quincy Carter is no more impressive than the Orton-led Bears, the Jim Miller-led Bears, or even the 2001 Brady-led Patriots.

by Another Craig B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/05/2005 - 3:03pm

LOL dryheat for the hidden Joe Theismann quote. Thanks for the chuckle, I needed one today.