I once heard the Pro Football Hall of Fame described as an assemblage of the people you could not write the history of the NFL without. So, I am at somewhat of a loss on how to proceed with my gawking disbelief regarding legendary coach Bill Parcells’ exclusion.
How do you argue with somebody who thinks you can write the history of the league without one of the greatest motivators the game has ever seen?
How do you rebut the faulty logic of a two-time Super Bowl winner and three-time participant, with two direct descendants from his coaching tree in this Super Bowl, being left out of the 2012 Class, announced Saturday, in favor of Cortez Kennedy?
How do you argue with voters who refuse to reveal how they voted, much less their thinking?
It probably is better not to bother arguing, because there is no legitimate explanation for Parcells not being in.
I’d write the media members voting for this honor embarrassed themselves, but they do not do well with criticism. If they make this personal about the criticizer, as they have been known to do, I’ll have to fly somewhere and get into my first fight since fifth grade when Jacqui Collier beat me up on the school bus.
So, I will stick to the snubbing of Parcells rather than those who did it.
Parcells is a genius, a genius because of his ability to make players and teams believe they are capable of championships.
"Listen to me, Xs and Os don’t fool anybody. The No. 1 key to great coaching is player-coach relationship. There is nothing bigger." Parcells loved to quote his high school basketball coach, Mickey Corcoran.
Parcells lived by this and turned around four organizations with this as his guiding philosophy. We forget that the two organizations playing in the Super Bowl were in various states of shambles when Parcells arrived.
He turned one into a two-time Super Bowl winner and had the other in the Super Bowl. His time with the New York Jets was largely successful, and he does not get enough credit for what he did in Dallas. He took over a team coming off back-to-back-to-back 5-11 seasons, with Quincy Carter as a quarterback, and that had managed to draft absolutely no young talent, and got them to the playoffs.
Both Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Giants coach Tom Coughlin coached under and learned from Parcells. His fingerprints are on the bones that make them two of the best in the NFL. They are tough. They are smart. They get this DNA from their coaches.
This idea that Parcells was diminished because he won two Super Bowls with Belichick, but none without him, is absurd. This is like saying Belichick does not deserve as much credit because he has not won without quarterback Tom Brady. Since when is surrounding yourself with talent a bad thing?
And Parcells was smart enough to go get Belichick after his debacle in Cleveland because he recognized the talent.
If there is a real knock against Parcells, it was his inability to walk away, which is how he ended up in Miami and why his fingerprints are all over that debacle. This does not diminish his greatness, it just cements that his genius was always in the cooking of the meal and not the grocery shopping.
When Parcells came to Dallas, I had a basic understanding of what a good coach he was. And then I covered him and learned firsthand why he is a Hall of Famer.
One of my first assignments was one of those big profiles where you travel his coaching journey backward and talk with his players and coworkers. I talked to people from his days at West Point and Vanderbilt, Texas Tech and Wichita State, as well as the Giants, Pats and Jets.
And what they all said — even those who used to hate him with the burning passion of a thousand suns — was that nobody ever got more out of them than him. He convinced them the impossible was not only possible but worth fighting for.
"I can remember playing Alabama one year and guys were discouraged," former Vanderbilt defensive end Tate Rich told me back then.
"Somebody nudged me to look at Parcells, and, wouldn’t you know it, he is yelling across at Bear Bryant to shut up. You should have seen our sideline, guys were going nuts, absolutely nuts."
This was one of his greatest strengths in the NFL, the feeling from his players that he was right down there in the mud with them. In fact, his greatest moments had to be in the 1990 season, the Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game in particular.
All week long, he talked to his players to "burn the boats." They were going to an island and burning the boats once they reached shore. The only escape was to fight, leaving them no outs, no excuses.
They did, thanks in part to a fake-punt call by Parcells in the fourth quarter. The images are grainy now, and maybe we have forgotten what exactly it was Parcells was able to do. He pulled the trigger on one of the guttiest calls, leading to one of the biggest upsets in the Super Bowl, and did so with his backup quarterback.
And you can say "burn the boats" to those guys, and they know.
Parcells was always telling stories like that, which were instructive for football and life. I learned things from him I still apply in my own life. I liked him.
Of course, I was in the minority. The media mostly hated him. Hell, I liked him and wanted to tell him off some days. He was a pain in the butt. He was combative for no reason. He was always spoiling for a fight.
"Santa Claus he is not. And he sure as hell is not the Easter Bunny," legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight once said about him. "But he’s tough, he’s smart and who he is is why he wins."
I can only imagine what Knight was thinking as he heard the news of Parcells being excluded from the 2012 Hall of Fame class.
Or Harry Carson, or the Vandy alums, or Bear Bryant, or anybody else who understood what it is Parcells accomplished and the human legacy of players who were, and still are, inspired by him.
If there is somebody who thinks you can tell the story of the NFL without that, well, how do you argue with that kind of obstinacy?