Bill Parcells has been many things in his football career, including duplicitous, conniving and manipulative on occasion.
But one thing he has always been during his four stops in the NFL as a head coach is productive. From the New York Giants in the 1980s to the Dallas Cowboys of the new millennium, Parcells has helped guide four franchises from some of their darkest moments to glory, at best, or respectability, at the very least.
On Wednesday, the Miami Dolphins and owner Wayne Huizenga became the latest to employ Parcells in hopes of revitalizing the franchise, giving him a four-year deal to head the team's football operations, according to two sources. Parcells will not coach, but will be in charge of the general manager and coach.
The deal had not been finalized as of late Wednesday, leaving the door open for Parcells to spurn the Dolphins the way he has other teams. But a source close to the long-time coach said it was expected to be done Thursday. Parcells is then expected to be introduced in South Florida at some point next week after Christmas.
At 1-13, having finally put a positive number in the win column last Sunday, the Dolphins are having the worst season in the team's 42-year history.
Huizenga, 69, has watched the team go the past six years of his 15-year tenure as owner without making the playoffs. That's the longest stretch in team history, a once-proud tradition under Don Shula that has been eroded after years of mistake-ridden personnel decisions by the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban.
Huizenga is willing to take Parcells even after Parcells took yet another NFL team for a ride. As of Wednesday morning, Parcells himself was telling the New York Daily News and even ESPN, his current employer, he was headed for Atlanta to take an offer from Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
Blank was so convinced he had a deal he flew to Saratoga, N.Y., to finalize it with Parcells, who has had some say in personnel shaping in previous stints. Sometime in mid-flight – or probably well before Blank got on the plane – the Dolphins stepped up with a better offer. The Dolphins had been talking to Parcells for nearly two weeks, but progress on a deal was going slowly … until Wednesday.
So given Parcells' history for leaving owners "at the altar" – as then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse asked in 1992 – why do billionaire owners continue to deal with such clumsy dalliances? Point blank: Parcells knows how to build a winner. In 1983, Parcells took over a Giants team that had gone 23-34 the previous four seasons. New York struggled the first year and then had a winning record in six of the next seven seasons, made the playoffs five times and won two Super Bowls.
In 1993, Parcells went to New England. The Patriots were 14-50 over the previous four seasons. By 1994, they were in the playoffs. By 1996, they were on the way to Super Bowl XXXI.
In 1997, the Jets were coming off a combined record of 10-38 over the previous three seasons. By 1998, they were 12-4 and on the way to the AFC Championship game. In what is probably Parcells' last stint as a head coach, he took over Dallas in 2003 after it had been 15-33 over the previous three years. The Cowboys had a winning record in three of his four seasons, made the playoffs twice and 14 of the current 22 starters on a team currently holding the No. 1 seed in the NFC at 12-2 were picked by Parcells.
Short of good friend and former protégé Bill Belichick, there aren't any current NFL coaching résumés better than the one Parcells has put together.
Now, Parcells oversees a role Huizenga tried once with Dan Marino in 2004 before Marino realized it was a real job and backed out after two weeks. Marino had no experience in the day-to-day administration of a football team, making him ill-suited for the task.
But where Marino saw the drudgery of a job that involved more than talking and looking good for a living, Parcells sees joy. Parcells can't help but be involved in the game in some direct fashion. While he is a solid-to-excellent analyst on television, the laconic nature talking about other people's dreams has never appealed to him.
In recent weeks, Parcells stopped by the New York Jets offices at least twice for long meetings with coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. In two years, Mangini and Tannenbaum have followed the Parcells blueprint to the line. They used two first-round picks in 2006 to rebuild the offensive line (left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold) and a second-rounder to get a quarterback (Kellen Clemens).
This year, the Jets used a first-round pick on cornerback Darrelle Revis, filling what Parcells perceives as the Holy Trinity of building a team around the offensive line, the quarterback and a shutdown cornerback.
Of course, Parcells will have to overcome those he has taught well if the Dolphins are to return to respectability. There's Mangini in New York and the more foreboding Belichick in New England.
Parcells will also have to decide what and how much to dismantle the Dolphins. Parcells and coach Cam Cameron know each other from their connection to Bobby Knight, but it's doubtful that will save Cameron if Parcells doesn't like him. General manager Randy Mueller has no history with Parcells, so that seems even more tenuous.
The Dolphins run a 3-4 defense, which Parcells has run during his entire coaching career. That will help the transition, but the defense is old and the offense is in disarray.
Bottom line, Parcells has a lot of work to do. That's the bad news.
The good news?
He's plenty capable.