Parcells chooses Dolphins over Falcons

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

A hectic day of talks for longtime NFL coach Bill Parcells ended with him agreeing on Wednesday to a four-year contract to take over as head of football operations for the Miami Dolphins, according to two sources.

Parcells will not coach the team but will have power over all football decisions, and he is expected to be at the team's facility on a daily basis. Chief among those decisions is the future of Dolphins coach Cam Cameron, who has led the team to a 1-13 record in his first season, and general manager Randy Mueller.

Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga arrived at the team's facility in Davie, Fla., just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday and discussed the situation with several members of the organization.

The deal is expected to be finalized by Thursday, and Parcells is expected to be introduced in South Florida next week, after the Dolphins play at New England on Sunday and likely after Christmas, a source said.

Interest by Parcells in joining the Dolphins had been rumored since October. Parcells has a home in South Florida, where he often takes in spring training and enjoys horse racing.

Parcells also has known Huizenga for years and has played golf with the owner on Huizenga's private course, The Floridian, in Stuart, Fla. In October, Huizenga said he was unaware that Parcells would be interested in working for the Dolphins.

But the two have been in serious discussions for approximately two weeks. What stalled the talks were Huizenga's attempts to sell the team to two real estate developers for approximately $1.1 billion. Huizenga told Parcells that he won't sell controlling interest of the team.

But the talks progressed quickly Wednesday after news leaked that Atlanta had made Parcells an offer for a similar position. Parcells put more heat on the Dolphins to react when he was quoted Wednesday morning in the New York Daily News and by ESPN, his current employer, as saying he likely would take the Atlanta job.

By 3 p.m., the situation changed drastically. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, who had flown to Saratoga, N.Y., to finalize the deal with Parcells, issued a statement saying the talks had broken off. Blank, who last week lost coach Bobby Petrino after less than a full season to the University of Arkansas, was told by Parcells after he arrived in New York that the Dolphins had trumped the Falcons' offer.

"We met with him this morning to complete the contract. At that time, we were made aware by Parcells that he was considering a revised offer from the Miami Dolphins," Blank said. "He later informed us that he would not be signing a contract with us."

Blank then added that Parcells was in negotiations with the Dolphins.

Most important to Parcells is that Huizenga, whom Parcells long has admired for the owner's hands-off approach to running the Dolphins, gave Parcells his word that he would not sell the Dolphins. Huizenga told Parcells that, at most, he will sell only 49 percent of the team and maintain controlling interest.

"When Wayne changed his mind on selling the team, that was crucial," a source said.

That will give Parcells the freedom to remake the Dolphins as he likes. Huizenga is a fan of having a single person running the football operations, although that person usually has been a coach. From Don Shula to Jimmy Johnson to Dave Wannstedt to Nick Saban, Huizenga has wanted one person with clear control of the team.

Only twice has Huizenga had a situation where the general manager and the coach were on equal footing. The first time was in 2004, when the team opened the season 1-8 and Wannstedt was fired. The second is this season.

In 2004, Huizenga tried to hire former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino for a similar job. But Marino backed out of the job after two weeks because of the demands. Marino also had no training in running the day-to-day operations of a team.

The Dolphins have missed the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, and the team has been undermined by poor drafting and personnel decisions dating to Johnson's final season in 1999.

The news of Parcells joining the Dolphins drew immediate interest from players. The news broke as many players were in the locker room relaxing after practice.

"Really?" defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said when told by The Associated Press about Parcells' interest in the Dolphins. "You can't control it. But somebody like the Big Tuna, regardless of who's in the front office or who's not, brings a lot of respect and a lot of credibility with him. … If you're a free agent out there, that might draw you in."

The team had no official comment on the situation, saying only that no contract had been signed.

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