The New England Patriots have been the most successful team in any sport over the last 15 years. Six Super Bowl appearances, four titles, 13 division championships, the first 16-0 regular season in league history, need I go on?
The Patriots are a dynasty. No team has achieved as much as it has have over such a long period of time, so when it was announced last week that Kevin Faulk will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame this summer, I had to think back to the one guy who made this possible.
Without Parcells, this legacy, that has captured the hearts and minds of New England football fans everywhere, would never have begun and with all due respect to Kevin Faulk, the Tuna is a more worthy recipient of the honor.
This, from the Patriots website, on the process for induction:
Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new hall of fame tradition, inducting one player or head coach to The Hall each year. The process for induction involves a panel of media, alumni and staff who collectively nominate the players or head coaches most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year’s finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year’s winner. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL that allows the fans to make the final selection of each year’s nominees.
The media, alumni and staff who “collectively nominate” the potential inductees did include Parcells three times in 2011, 2012 and 2014, but he was not voted in. For those of you on the nominating committee and the fans that have participated in the voting, please send me some of what you’ve been smoking because there is no rationale that exists, that would preclude Bill Parcells from the honor of induction after his first visit to the inductee list, let alone after his third.
Parcells had been retired from coaching for two years prior to joining the Patriots. His success with the Giants was well documented. With a record of 77-49-1 and two Super Bowl titles under his belt, he came to New England with as much credibility as any coach could have, while walking into a situation that most coaches would dread. His job, to rebuild not just a team, but an entire organization, literally from scratch, as it was trying to recover from the worst three year stretch in its history. The Patriots averaged three wins per year from 1990-1992, including a 1-15 record in 90 and a 2-14 record in 92, the year before Parcells arrived. He took over a team that, frankly, was an embarrassment, the laughing stock of the league. His only solace was that he owned the No. 1 overall pick in his first draft as head coach. It still amazes me that there was even a debate about whether to select Drew Bledsoe or Rick Mirer that year, but the Pats wound up with Bledsoe and that little flicker of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that burrowed through Foxboro, got just a bit brighter.
Let’s fast forward shall we. The Pats finished 5-11 in Parcells first year, but the Bledsoe selection, along with his other core draft picks over the next few seasons, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Curtis Martin, Troy Brown, Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi, all who turned out to be key components in the team’s growth, clearly set the Patriots on the path to success. Since Bill Parcells came to New England, the Patriots have had exactly three losing seasons. That’s three, in the last 23 years.
After his Super Bowl year in ’96, a dispute between Parcells and owner Robert Kraft over who was going to have control of the football operations of the team created a divide that proved irreconcilable, and without full control, Parcells decided he had had enough. While his contract was clear that he couldn’t coach another team, then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in and brokered a deal between the Patriots and the Jets allowing Parcells to leave Foxboro for the muck and grime off of Exit 16W in Jersey. And he took Bill Belichick with him. For those that may have forgotten “little Bill” as he was called back then, was Parcells’ defensive coordinator with the Giants from 1985-90 and his assistant head coach/defensive backs coach during his final year in New England. They were two peas in a pod, and their history together is legendary.
Two years after leaving the Pats, Parcells had the Jets in the AFC championship game. His third and final year as Jets head coach was marred by a devastating injury to starting QB Vinnie Testaverde and after an 8-8 season, he chose to retire for a second time. At that point, he made, perhaps his finest contribution to Patriots lore. A deal that allowed Belichick, who was set to take over as HC of the NYJ, to leave the Jets and coach the Patriots.
Let’s not kid ourselves people. If that trade wasn’t made, there’s no way we’re talking about the unprecedented success that the Patriots have enjoyed since 2000.
Parcells was 32-32 in his four seasons as New England’s head coach, but he had the greatest effect on this franchise of any head coach in its history, including Belichick, who is set to go down as, perhaps, the greatest coach of all time. Parcells established an attitude within the organization that built confidence and strength. He was an intimidating force who knew exactly which buttons to push to get the best out of his players and his personality and bravado created great theatre with the media that put a spotlight on Patriots football, not just here in New England, but across the country. He put the Patriots back on the map and set them upon their path to their extraordinary success. In spite of all that, he is not a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, and I think that’s a travesty. Without his leadership, Patriots history would have taken an alternate route.
Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law and Willie McGinest, are the last five members of the Patriots to be enshrined down there at Pats Place. All were drafted and developed by Bill Parcells. The Tuna won two Super Bowls in NY, but he means more to the Patriots than the Giants. When he resigned after the 1990 season, the Giants went through a long period of inconsistency that saw four different head coaches and only three playoff wins over the next 14 years. When he left New England, he had put the building blocks in place that would allow the Patriots to become the model franchise of the NFL. Parcells was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on February 2, 2013. It goes without saying that there should be a plaque for him in Foxboro as well.