by Aaron Schatz
(Bill Parcells is entering the Hall of Fame this weekend, so we thought we would re-run this look at the best players he has ever had. It originally ran on July 15, 2010.)
I was reading Baseball Prospectus this morning and noticed a post by Steven Goldman about the career of Braves manager Bobby Cox. Using a gimmick from the Bill James Book of Baseball Managers as a jumping-off point, Goldman put together a list of "The Bobby Cox All-Stars," the best seasons by players at each position on the teams Cox has managed. It's a fun little argument-starter, but also gives an interesting look at which positions certain guys might favor over others. (Cox, for example, has never had a truly great first baseman.)
I thought to myself: Hey, what a neat idea. I wonder what similar all-star teams would look like for some of the top head coaches in NFL history? If Steve can borrow the idea from Bill James, I can just borrow it from him, right? Sure. Thus, today we bring you the first in what I plan to make a weekly series until we finally get some real football around here: Great Head Coach All-Star Teams.
Now you don't get a lot of great NFL head coaches who bounce around from one team to the next, but there certainly are a couple, and their ranks start with the Tuna. So I went through the rosters of all four teams where Bill Parcells served as head coach, looking for the best players. I used FO stats where I could, although they don't exist for his Giants teams or for most of the defensive players he's had. With that in mind, here is my subjective list of the Bill Parcells All-Stars.
As good as Phil Simms was, Testaverde was off his gourd in 1998, second in the league in both DYAR and DVOA behind Randall Cunningham and just ahead of Steve Young and John Elway. I'll take Morris in the year he had 21 touchdowns over any Curtis Martin season. Marion Barber (2006) would be our third-down back. It would be crazy to have a Parcells team without Richie Anderson; his best year was probably 2000, but that was the year after Parcells stepped down as head coach. At tight end, Ben Coates may have had 1,174 yards in 1994, but Witten is a better blocker than Coates and a better receiver than Mark Bavaro.
Wide receiver may be the toughest choice. Terry Glenn had more DYAR and a higher DVOA than his teammate Terrell Owens in 2006. However, I think it is fair to say that much of Glenn's success came because Owens was attracting coverage, especially given that Owens has been the far more consistent player over his career. Then the choice comes down to Glenn vs. Keyshawn, but I doubt any opponents would tell you they were ever more scared of Terry Glenn than they were of Keyshawn Johnson at any point in their careers, except maybe that one year of 2006. The 2006 Glenn can be our slot receiver when we go three-wide.
I will admit to not being very familiar with the offensive line of the Parcells-era Giants teams, and I'm happy to hear arguments about alternatives here. I don't think any of those teams had a Pro Bowl lineman, except Bart Oates in Parcells' last year. It looks like Parcells never had a highly-regarded right tackle.
DE: Hugh Douglas, 1997 Jets
DT: Jim Burt, 1984 Giants
DE: Leonard Marshall, 1985 Giants
OLB: Lawrence Taylor, 1986 Giants
ILB: Harry Carson, 1986 Giants
ILB: Ted Johnson, 1996 Patriots
OLB: DeMarcus Ware, 2006 Cowboys
Hardest choices here were DeMarcus Ware over Carl Banks and Hugh Douglas over Mike Jones (1994 Patriots). Since we're going with a 3-4 scheme, we can't use Willie McGinest at defensive end, and he's not good enough to make the team at outside linebacker. Defensive ends were also hard to choose since, of course, 3-4 ends hardly get any stats.
Parcells only had Ty Law and Terence Newman in their first couple seasons, not really good enough to make the team over Glenn and Haynes. Newman would probably play nickel, although it is hard to have a Parcells team without Otis "My Man" Smith.
Parcells has never really had any good kickers. Jose Cortez? Ali Haji-Sheikh? Imploding Mike Vanderjagt? Late-career Matt Bahr? Bleh.
Overall, it looks like the two positions where Parcells has never really had great players are right tackle and kicker, although he gets credit for discovering Vinatieri as an undrafted free agent. Parcells teams generally had very strong tight ends but were not quite as strong at wide receiver. The front seven is clearly more important to him than the secondary, although the current Dolphins are actually built a bit the other way, with their two most promising young defenders at cornerback and their most trustworthy veteran at strong safety. By the way, if we were to consider the current Dolphins as the fifth Parcells franchise, I don't think a single player would make this team except maybe Vernon Carey (2008) over Marc Colombo at right tackle. Maybe you would have to think about Long last season at left tackle over Armstrong. Maybe.