A constant of the human condition is that everybody, wants to be wanted, including Bill Parcells.
And make no mistake about it, Parcells was wanted by the New Orleans Saints, or at least by the top two football operation decision makers, both of whom are about to enter into Roger Goodell’s purgatory.
But what Parcells apparently wants even more than the opportunity to jump out of retirement again, and to the aid of ol’ friend Sean Payton, is a gold blazer from the Hall of Fame. And it is principally because of that near-obsession with Canton immortality that Parcells passed on the opportunity to grab the reins, even on an interim basis, of a team that could become the NFL’s first franchise to play in a Super Bowl game in its home stadium.
Sure, owner Tom Benson may not have signed off yet on the Parcells flirtation, but there is a pretty good chance the New Orleans steward would have been hypnotized once again by the silver-tongued entreaties of Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis. And, no, we’re not buying into the very popular notion that the peripatetic Parcells might yet reverse his decision and return to the sideline.
For now at least, we’re doing something that historically has proven both frivolous and frustrating, and taking Parcells at his word.
Yet this query: Might Parcells’ candidacy for Canton be better served by staying out of the New Orleans mess or by having waded into it?
Good question, one with which Parcells, who embraces drama even more than, say, Meryl Streep, likely struggled the past couple weeks. And with good reason.
Parcells was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in February, making the list of the final 15 modern-day candidates, and even advancing into the last 10 in the reduction voting by the 44 selectors. But the legendary coach was eliminated in the cutdown to five, all of whom were elected. He will doubtless garner serious consideration for the Class of 2013 as well, but Parcells is no slam-dunk to survive the preliminary paring to 25 semifinalists and then 15 finalists.
The nine other finalists from the 2012 class who did not get the nod this year will present an august group, for sure. And they will be augmented by players in their first year of Hall eligibility, such as Larry Allen, Morten Andersen, Priest Holmes, John Lynch, Jonathan Ogden, Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp and a few others.
Parcells’ record of 183-138-1 holds up well, and his victories (counting playoffs) are the 10th most in league history, but there are three coaches with more wins (Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves and Chuck Knox) who are not in the Hall of Fame. And of the men who have at least 100 wins and have coached 250 games or more, four have better winning percentages than Parcells’ .570 mark, yet aren’t in Canton.
If netting two Super Bowl wins, as Parcells has done, simply qualified for an automatic pass, then Tom Flores, Jimmy Johnson and George Seifert would be in the Hall of Fame.
And they aren’t.
Three Super Bowl wins, though, opens the doors wide, as history has demonstrated. All three of the coaches with three Super Bowl victories who are eligible for Hall of Fame inclusion — Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh — have busts in the shrine. Bill Belichick, who is still active, is a mortal lock, to the degree that one exists in this election procedure.
The Sinners, or Saints, who despite the bounty scandal remain fraught with talent, might have provided Parcells the hat-trick necessary to secure a Hall of Fame niche. And so the itch to fill in for the banished Payton for a year, and to pocket another $5 million or so to wager on the thoroughbreds at Saratoga, might have been tempting to scratch.
Yet part of Parcells’ legacy, indeed an essential element of the Hall presentation made on his behalf two months ago, was his ability to perform reclamation projects with the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets, and the Dallas Cowboys. He was the consummate fix-it man, the MacGyver of head coaches, a guy who could take the football equivalent of a paper clip, a hair pin, and a ballpoint pen, and turn those unlikely ingredients into something workable.
In New Orleans, Parcells wouldn’t have been so much the returning prodigal as he would have been a substitute teacher. Minus maybe the spitballs. At soon to be 71 — he would have been 76 the next time he would have been eligible for the Hall of Fame, since the five-year clock would have been reset, were Parcells opted to have emerged from retirement again — a temp job isn’t quite as alluring.
Hall of Fame induction is permanent. And while it might be naive to consider that "never" is really "never" with Parcells, permanent apparently trumps part-time.