MANHATTAN, August 2, 2013 — As the 2013 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony enshrines seven more bronze busts, the star will be the man known as “The Tuna.”
Bill Parcells made it clear that he was not going to tolerate excuses. Injured players could not play. Players who were merely hurt were expected to play. A player coming out of the huddle always took the risk of being permanently retired by his replacement in the huddle.
“Don’t tell me about the pain, just deliver the damn baby.”
Bill Parcells coached the New York Giants to two Super Bowl wins, led the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance, got the long-suffering New York Jets to within one game of the Super Bowl, and brought the Cowboys back to the playoffs after some very lean years.
Yes, there will be other enshrinees. Jonathan Ogden was one of the greatest left tackles of all time, but the Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl because of their defense. Larry Allen was a phenomenal center, but the Dallas Cowboys teams he played on won two Super Bowls before he even arrived.
Cris Carter caught plenty of touchdown passes, but saw his Minnesota Vikings come up one game short twice. Warren Sapp helped turn the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from laughingstocks to champions, but he had considerable help on defense from Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber. Dave Robinson and Curley Culp were voted in by the Seniors Committee.
All of these men were vital cogs, but cogs nonetheless.
Parcells was different. He was the engine. Everywhere he went, he turned losers into winners.
The New York Giants had gone over a quarter of a century without winning a championship when Parcells took over in 1983. He went 3-12-1 in his first season, but by 1986, he had a 14-2 team. During halftime of the last 1986 regular season game, he kicked over a water cooler in the locker room and challenged the Giants to play better. They were winning 24-17 at halftime, and went on to blast their opponent 55-24.
He took a 2-14 Patriots team to an AFC Title Game victory in four years and led a 1-15 Jets team to a 12-4 record and AFC Title Game appearance in only two years. The Cowboys went 5-11 for three straight years before Parcells came onboard and got them to 10-6 in his first year.
Even his bad teams fought hard. His first Patriots team began 1-11 but won their last four games. His last Jets team, devastated by injuries, began 1-6 but fought back to end 8-8.
Parcells was more than one of the greatest coaches of all time. He may have been the greatest motivator in the NFL history.
He left a half-empty tank of oxygen in a player’s locker with a note questioning if they were out of gas. He offered one player a one-way ticket to another city with a return ticket for a better player on the other team.
Even more impressive is his coaching tree. Several Parcells assistants have gone on to win Super Bowls. His defensive coordinator Bill Bellichick won three Super Bowls and reached two more. Those two losses came to Tom Coughlin, another Parcells protege.
Another Parcells disciple is Sean Payton, who took over a 3-13 New Orleans Saints team displaced by Hurricane Katrina and got them to 10-6 and the NFC Title Game in his first season. Three years later the Saints won it all.
Parcells and his assistants have won eight Super Bowls over the last 26 years, which is one in every three Super Bowls played during that time. Parcells is all about defense, and Bellichick and Coughlin followed. Payton did it on the offensive side of the ball.
Parcells took big risks on the biggest stage. He called a fake punt in the 1990 NFC Title Game. Payton followed it up with a surprise onsides kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl.
Even mistakes were amusing. In press conferences, Parcells sparred with the media. “That’s why I call you guys Commies. You’re subversive from within.” He once questioned a reporter who called him “caustic,” only to find out after his response that the reporter questioned if he was “cautious.”
After a player tried to fool him, he replied, “What do you think I am, Charlie the Tuna?” The Starkist Tuna character then became his nickname, even though the reference makes little sense. His real name is Duane Charles, but somebody thought he looked like another guy named Bill. He preferred being called Bill, so that is who he became.
He drove his players crazy, and they had to get back at him. In 1986, Giants star defender and current Hall of Famer Harry Carson came up with the way to soak the Tuna. He and fellow defenders George Martin and Lawrence Taylor dumped the Gatorade bucket on his head after major victories. In the 1986 Super Bowl, Parcells was looking over his shoulder. He tried to escape, but they got him. The Gatorade dumping is now cliche, but Parcells was the reason it started.
Even when he retired from coaching, Parcells could not stay away from the NFL. He became the Miami Dolphins team President, taking over a 1-15 team and getting them to 11-5 in his first season. He won everywhere he went.
He built many of the rosters, saying, “If they expect you to cook the meal, they ought to let you buy the groceries.” He wanted “parking lot guys,” men who would show up at 6am Wednesday morning in a grocery parking lot if told a football game was being played.
To men like Lawrence Taylor and Curtis Martin, Parcells was beloved. He was a feared, respected and loved father-figure.
To the rest of the NFL, he was just a winner.
He is what the Hall of Fame is all about, and his long overdue induction is now finally upon us.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter
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