Saving Parcells from himself might be Patriots' biggest challenge


There's an old saying that you should watch what you wish for because you might get it.

Bill Parcells got what he wished for when he quit as the New York Giants coach on May 15, 1991: total control of running a franchise.

When Parcells was named the head coach of the Patriots last week, he ducked the questions about the authority he will have in running the team.

"We're a team here," he said.

But then he added, "I think when it comes to evaluating football talent, I know more than anybody else in this room."

Since the room was filled with reporters, not football scouts, that was a safe statement to make.

This was the same coach who once benched Phil Simms for Scott Brunner, thought David Meggett was too small and wanted to draft a linebacker named Darion Conner over running back Rodney Hampton.

Even though Parcells' strength was motivating the players in the locker room, not picking them in the first place, he didn't like working for general manager George Young. He wanted to be his own boss.

Now he is. Patrick Forte, a former agent, is the top executive in the new operation, but owner James Busch Orthwein made it obvious who's in charge.

"Bill is going to tell us what he wants," Orthwein said. "Patrick is going to work hard at finding what he wants and Jim is going to find out how to afford it and get it done."

But look at what Parcells is in charge of: a team owned by a man who wants to get an expansion team in St. Louis and playing in an inadequate stadium.

Is he better off in New England than he was working for one of themost stable franchises in the league?

The Giants are the league's flagship franchise.

The Patriots are blowing in the wind like a flag.

Now that Parcells is in charge, he has nobody to save him from himself. For example, it'll be interesting to see what Parcells does with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The obvious pick is Washington State's Drew Bledsoe, this year's franchise quarterback. But Parcells likes defensive players and there's speculation he'll trade to the No. 2 spot with the Seattle Seahawks and take linebacker Marvin Jones.

If Bill Parcells, the coach, wants to do that, Bill Parcells, the boss, is going to agree. Even if it isn't the best move.

The coaching derby

There are still two coaching jobs officially open, but both are expected to be filled this week. It's taken for granted that Dan Reeves, the former Denver Broncos coach, will get the Giants job, and Mike Shanahan, the former Broncos assistant who was fired by Reeves a year ago, will replace Reeves in Denver.

Reeves became the front-runner in New York after Dave Wannstedt, the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, decided to take the Chicago Bears job.

Most football people think the Giants job is a better job than the Bears job. The Giants have a more stable franchise, and replacing Ray Handley will be easier than replacing a legend like Mike Ditka.

But Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson convinced Wannstedt to stay out of the NFC East so they won't have to coach against each other twice a year. He also encouraged Wannstedt to take the job before the Super Bowl, leaving him in the awkward position of holding two jobs at the same time. The NFL has no rule against that, although it probably should.

Meanwhile, Young is taking a beating in the New York media for not pursuing Parcells and for being jilted by Tom Coughlin of Boston College and Wannstedt.

"I haven't been too successful with my local publicity," Young said. "They've got my IQ down to 75

The Young-Reeves relationship could be interesting, too. Reeves contacted Young two weeks ago saying that he wanted a job and didn't need the total control that he had in Denver. Once he gets the job, though, he might have problems adjusting to the fact he isn't running the whole show.

Reeves also has the same agent (Robert Fraley) that Parcells had, and Fraley helped convince Parcells to leave the Giants. It's a safe bet that Young isn't dealing with Fraley in his talks with Reeves.


The off-season is off to a good start for the Washington Redskins. Their coaching staff will apparently remain intact now that Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs their defense, was bypassed in the head coaching derby. The Redskins can't figure out why Petitbon never gets any offers. One problem might be that he lets his record speak for itself and doesn't promote himself.

Whatever the problem is, it's good news for the Redskins that he'll be back.

It's also good news for the Redskins that the Dallas Cowboys are in the Super Bowl, especially if they win it. That would mean the Cowboys would then have to cope with all the post-Super Bowl JTC problems the Redskins had last year.

It's hard to be a defending champion in the NFC East. The Giants went 6-9 in 1987 and 8-8 in 1991 in that role and the Redskins went 7-9 in 1988 and 9-7 this past season.


There was a report in Florida last week that Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula has told his staff that he plans to retire when his current contract expires after the 1994 season.

Shula will turn 65 on Jan. 5, 1995, so he could be thinking that it's an appropriate time to retire.

But it's easy for Shula, who wouldn't confirm or deny the report, to think about retiring in two years. He may well have second thoughts two years from now. He's still in good health, doesn't look his age and may be too much of a competitor to walk away from it.

Shula's only saying, "It's something I have to consider and will think about for some time."

Going in the Hall

Now that Al Davis and John Mackey have been inducted, there's not much controversy about the Hall of Fame voting, which will be conducted Saturday.

The two shoo-ins this year are running back Walter Payton, the leading rusher in league history, and Chuck Noll, the only coach to win four Super Bowls.

The only certain thing is that four men will be inducted. Unlike baseball, the football Hall of Fame inducts the four highest vote getters if four men don't have the required number of votes -- over 80 percent.


The NFL always has tight security at the practice sessions for the Super Bowl. No media members are allowed except for a pool reporter.

But the Buffalo Bills might be more security conscious than usual this year. They're practicing at the University of Southern California practice field, where one of the Trojans was hit by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting last year.

Mike in the booth

Mike Ditka will be part of the NBC crew at the Super Bowl and will probably join the network next season.

But look for him to be back on the sidelines in 1994 -- probably in Phoenix.

Owner Bill Bidwill has extended the contract of Cardinals coach Joe Bugel, but said Bugel needs a winning season next year to keep his job.

Since the Cardinals are a long shot to have a winning season next year, Ditka would be a logical choice in Phoenix in 1994 because the Bears are so popular there with the former Chicagoans living in the city.

It's likely to add up to a long, tough season for Bugel because the pressure will increase with each loss and he's already unhappy about the speculation he'll lose his job.

When he was retained, he called the speculation "embarrassing, hideous and bad journalism that came from people who didn't know if a football was stuffed or inflated."

General manager Larry Wilson was more relieved to keep his job. "I feel like Jay Leno," he said.

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