This is an interesting time in the legacy of Bill Parcells. He may finally get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February.
Before then, he may also have to help his son-in-law and a couple of close friends find jobs.
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, who is married to Parcells' daughter, is the poster boy for what I like to call the Great Fraud of Parcells. This has nothing to do with football itself even though that would seem to be at the heart of Pioli's problems in Kansas City, where a banner calling for his firing and quarterback Matt Cassel's benching was flown before Sunday's game. The discontent was more apparent later that day as some fans cheered when Cassel got injured.
Fans have a legitimate reason to be bitter with the Chiefs' performance under the four-year leadership of Pioli. Aside from the Chiefs' AFC West title in 2010, Kansas City finished in last place in 2009 and 2011, and is currently in last at 1-4. Not helping matters is the incomprehensibly stupid approach that general managers shouldn't talk to the media – advice from former NFL coach and Miami Dolphins head of football operations Bill Parcells to Pioli and others, according to two sources familiar with the relationships. General managers should exist but not be heard, goes the theory. They should work in the shadows rather than the spotlight.
That advice was so good that people in Miami are still asking whether GM Jeff Ireland, a guy Parcells hired himself when he was running the Dolphins, will survive this season. I know this because I was asked that very question Tuesday morning during a radio interview.
Like Pioli's Chiefs, Ireland's Dolphins have been embroiled in misery. After winning the AFC East in 2008, Miami finished below .500 in each of the next three seasons. Making matters worse were Ireland's dreadful query to Dez Bryant prior to the 2010 NFL draft, the club's botched coaching pursuits in 2011 and earlier this year and subsequent fan protest.
Conversely, Ireland just drafted quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a guy who looks like he's going to be a franchise quarterback for the next 12 to 15 years, and played a part in the hiring of coach Joe Philbin, who is looking pretty solid right now. Still, this may not be enough to alter public perception that he's the wrong man for the job.
The same appears to be true in Kansas City, where there is unheard of vitriol in its fan base. This is, after all, the same fan base that showed so much patience with former GM/President Carl Peterson, a guy who guided the team to three playoff wins in 20 years. On top of that, Peterson never once drafted a quarterback in the first round.
Peterson survived two decades and it was even a mild shock when owner Clark Hunt forced him out after the 2008 season. Yet after only four years, Pioli is persona non grata.
When did Kansas City become Philadelphia?
The answer comes back to Parcells, who for all his greatness as a football man (Parcells deserves to be in the Hall, no question), doesn't really understand one thing: Football is an entertainment business.
This is not some tech company where secrets must be guarded for survival. Yeah, a certain amount of secrecy and subterfuge is necessary in this game, but that doesn't mean that the people in charge can hide. Not if they want to survive the rough times, that is.
In fairness to Pioli, he has tried to change this offseason. He was available more this offseason than at any time in the first three years. Some of that was in reaction to heavy criticism of his methods (the Kansas City Star reported at length about Pioli's tense relationship with former coach Todd Haley and the divisive atmosphere in the organization). But at least Pioli, who is traveling this week to scout college players, has actually made a change.
The problem is that it may be too late and that's where Parcells and his misbegotten logic are to blame. To a man, Parcells' apprentices-turned-GMs around the league are a standoffish, fearful lot. Pioli, Ireland and New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum have all apparently taken Parcells' advice about staying out of the limelight.
Even Parcells himself, during his days with the Dolphins, would barely come up for air. He spoke to a handful of reporters whom he felt he could trust and that was it.
The joke is that Parcells did exactly the opposite during the most successful days of his long and storied career. As New York Giants head coach, Parcells liked to portray himself as a tough guy, snarling when the cameras and TV reporters were around on Wednesday and Thursday.
By Friday, however, Parcells would sit in the media room for hours. The key was that Fridays, particularly back in the 1980s, were when the beat reporters were the only ones left. Parcells would sit and develop relationships with those guys, allowing him to survive the rough patches (and when you had to deal with Lawrence Taylor on a weekly basis, there were plenty of rough patches).
In fact, the GM who Parcells worked for, the late, great George Young, was a media-friendly man who understood the relationship between the team and the public. Young believed in answering questions. The fans might not like the answers, but they never could accuse him of ducking. In fact, it was Young who would point toward the media room and tell his coaches: "You see those reporters in there? They were here before you got here and they'll be here after you leave."
One of those coaches who Young lectured long ago was Parcells. Somehow the message got lost in translation.
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