The legal maneuvering over the future of Bill Parcells as a head coach has ended up on commissioner Paul Tagliabue's desk for the second time in a week.
Barred from hiring Parcells as a coach or a "comparable position" by Tagliabue last Wednesday, the New York Jets hired him as a "consultant" and future head coach yesterday, and Parcells' longtime aide, Bill Belichick, agreed to fill the head coaching position until Parcells is free to take over.
"This 'so-called' consulting agreement is a transparent farce and the latest in a series of actions by the New York Jets and Bill Parcells which further demonstrates it has been their intention all along to have Bill become head coach of the Jets for the 1997 season," the Patriots said in their release. "We will immediately ask Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue to review this agreement between the Jets and Bill Parcells to determine if there has been a violation of Parcells' agreement with the Patriots and the commissioner's ruling last week which prevents him from serving in this de facto coaching position for another NFL team in 1997."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded angrily, calling the Jets' move "a sham."
"People are sick of this," Kraft said. "The public wants people to live up to contracts. Players and teams think they can break them. I never had a negotiation with the Jets. They never put an offer on the table. I don't like the way the Jets do business."
Even before the Patriots went public with their protest, the league said it was not informed of the Jets' action in advance and said Tagliabue would review the matter if that was requested by the Patriots.
It said any ruling would depend "on the specifics of the arrangement" and said a hearing would be held if necessary. No date was set for it.
Jets president Steve Gutman acknowledged the club had not sought permission from the league in advance, but said the consultant's role for Parcells was not "comparable" to a coaching or general manager's job.
Parcells spoke to the news conference by speaker phone and said, "I'm not allowed to partake in anything on the field, and I'm not under any illusions on that and I will not have any final decisions on personnel."
But it's hard to imagine that Belichick would make any move Parcells opposed, and Parcells said he wouldn't want to trade the first pick in the draft and he agreed with owner Leon Hess' refusal to give it up.
The Patriots have demanded the first pick as part of any agreement to free Parcells to coach the Jets this year. The Patriots also suggested the Jets tampered with Parcells while he was still coaching the Patriots.
It called the consultant's job, "the latest in a series of acts by the Jets and Bill Parcells which further demonstrates it has been their intention all along to have Bill Parcells become head coach of the Jets for the '97 season."
The Jets didn't interview any other candidates after Rich Kotite was pushed out six weeks ago.
Gutman said Parcells would become coach no later than next Feb. 1, but could move into the position earlier if an agreement was reached with the Patriots.
He said Parcells was committed to coach only two years and could later relinquish the coaching duties to Belichick and serve as the chief football operating officer.
Although Belichick would be a lame-duck coach next season, he said, "I know it's going to work and I am in it for the long haul."
At the very least, though, it's going to be a confusing situation.
When Belichick was asked the first question at the news conference, his first reply was, "Which Bill are you talking about?"
Another former Parcells assistant, Ron Erhardt, who joined the Jets' staff last season, rejected the notion last week of becoming a lame-duck head coach.
"That would be a slap in the face, wouldn't it?" Erhardt said. "It would just make a mess out of the whole year."
Erhardt didn't comment yesterday.
Ravens owner Art Modell, who hired Belichick as his head coach in Cleveland in 1991 and fired him at the end of the 1995 season, called the Parcells-Belichick move a "strange, bizarre twist in the road."
Belichick was an assistant under Parcells on three Super Bowl teams with the New York Giants and Patriots, but had four losing seasons in five years as the Browns' head coach. Belichick also alienated Cleveland fans and media with his dour personality.
Modell, who said in an interview with an Akron, Ohio, columnist in November that he was "sold a bill of goods" on Belichick, declined to criticize him yesterday.
"He's a great defensive mind; I won't go beyond that," Modell said.
The Ravens are still paying the price for some of Belichick's personnel decisions. They're being charged more than $5 million against the 1997 salary cap for players Belichick brought in who have since been cut.
The most notable example is wide receiver Andre Rison, now with the Green Bay Packers, who will cost the team $3 million in 1997 against the cap.
NFL coaching changes during and after the 1996 season:
Team ............. Old coach .......... Replacement
Cincinnati ....... Dave Shula ......... Bruce Coslet
New Orleans ...... Jim Mora ........... Mike Ditka*
N.Y. Jets ........ Rich Kotite ........ Bill Belichick**
St. Louis ........ Rich Brooks ........ Dick Vermeil
N.Y. Giants ...... Dan Reeves ......... Jim Fassel
Atlanta .......... June Jones ......... Dan Reeves
Oakland .......... Mike White ......... Joe Bugel
Detroit .......... Wayne Fontes ....... Bobby Ross
San Diego ........ Bobby Ross ......... Kevin Gilbride
San Francisco .... George Seifert ..... Steve Mariucci
New England ...... Bill Parcells ...... Pete Carroll
* -- Rick Venturi finished season as interim coach
** -- Interim basis for 1997
Pub Date: 2/05/97