CANTON, Ohio — Bill Parcells wasn’t in the mood to talk about his 172 victories in 19 years as an NFL head coach, the two Super Bowl victories, or the honor as the only coach to take four different teams to the playoffs, including the Patriots, on Saturday night.
Instead, Parcells wanted to tell stories — the life lessons he learned that helped him reach football immortality at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One lesson from Dean Pryor, the man who hired Parcells to his first coaching job at Hastings (Neb.) College in 1964, stood out above the rest.
“He taught me one vital, vital piece of information that I took with me and preached to every organization, and I remind myself every day,” Parcells said. “Bill, the players deserve a chance to win, and you as an organization or university or a coaching staff or an individual coach and a head coach have an obligatory responsibility to give it to them.
“Carried it with me and preached it all my life.”
Joining Parcells in induction on Saturday night were six players — Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, and Curley Culp.
Sapp broke down emotionally at the end of his speech, and Allen wore sunglasses to hide his tears. But Parcells was forceful and confident in his speech, which lasted 20 minutes and 15 seconds. He got all of the tears out of his system on Friday night, when Carter presented him with a tie clip with “278” on it, Parcells’s number in the Hall of Fame.
Instead of reflecting on all his successes, Parcells thanked the myriad people who helped turn him from an unknown linebackers coach to a legendary head coach.
Parcells thanked former Giants linebacker George Martin, his defensive captain in his early days with the Giants and his presenter Saturday night.
He thanked NFL mentors like Al Davis, Ron Wolf, and Chuck Noll. He thanked his ex-wife, Judy, and his three daughters, who endured constant moves to places like Wichita State, Vanderbilt, and Texas Tech. He thanked Mickey Corcoran, his 92-year-old high school basketball coach, who was in attendance on Saturday.
Parcells even thanked his secretaries for understanding the concept of “Blue Monday” — that no matter whether his teams had won or lost on Sunday, “some group on your team didn’t play the way you wanted it to, someone’s hurt, someone can’t practice, someone’s out for the season,” he said.
“They learned when you hear all these short, one-word answers, a coach should not be talked to on Monday,” he said.
Interestingly, Parcells didn’t mention any of his protégés, even his most notable one — Bill Belichick, who flew to Canton after Saturday’s practice to be in attendance. Also there were coaches Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton, two of his quarterbacks, Phil Simms and Vinny Testaverde, former Patriots GM Scott Pioli, and Patriots assistant coach and former Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson. Parcells did not mention any of them, either, but did say, “I just want to say I take pride in their individual accomplishment, and I’m looking for a couple more championships out of some of them.”
He also only mentioned Patriots owner Robert Kraft briefly. Parcells ultimately left the Patriots because Kraft wouldn’t let him “shop for some of the groceries,” but the two have since buried any differences, and Parcells thanked his four owners — Wellington Mara, Kraft, Leon Hess, and Jerry Jones — for their support.
“I’ve seen coaches go to these franchises and get fired very quickly because the situation would not allow them to succeed,” he said. “Fortunately for Bill Parcells, I was never in one of those situations. Every organization I worked for supported me to the fullest, and I’m grateful to the ownership of those places.”
Parcells’s failure to mention Belichick likely wasn’t viewed as a snub — they posed for photos together before the event — but Parcells’s success is closely tied to Belichick. They coached together for 10 years in New York — Parcells as defensive coordinator and then head coach, Belichick as linebackers coach, special teams coach, and defensive coordinator — and they won two Super Bowls together while revolutionizing the game with a 3-4 defense and unleashing Lawrence Taylor on the NFL.
Parcells did thank former Patriots personnel director Bucko Kilroy, who played a prominent role in drafting some of the players that helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls a decade ago.
On Friday, Belichick gushed about Parcells and what he meant to the Patriots — the team had gone 9-39 in the three years before he arrived in 1993 and hadn’t made the playoffs since 1986. But Parcells was responsible for bringing Drew Bledsoe to the organization in 1993 with the No. 1 overall pick, and got them to the Super Bowl by Year 4.
“Definitely an example of a team that was pretty much rock bottom when he got here,” Belichick said. “He certainly deserves the lion’s share of putting that team together and the whole program together during that period of time. We can go on and on, but I think all the accolades for Bill are well deserved, and I personally value his friendship and have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a football coach-slash-football person. It’s not just coaching; it’s beyond that with him.”
Parcells joked that he wants his Hall of Fame bust to be placed next to Taylor’s.
“So I can keep an eye on that sucker,” Parcells said.
The most poignant story Parcells shared was about a plaque in the old Giants Stadium that he noticed 10 minutes after being introduced as the Giants head coach in 1983.
“Coincidentally, that inscription was attributed to the first black player inducted into this Hall of Fame, Emlen Tunnell,’’ said Parcells, who turns 72 in three weeks. “Losers assemble in little groups and complain about the coaches and the players in other little groups. But winners assemble as a team.
“Well tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I get to do just that. I’m honored, I’m grateful and I’m thankful to every single one of you out there that had something to do with this.”