Few if any relationships between elite coaches have ever been stranger than the one between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. The two formed an iconic mentor-protege duo with both the Giants and Patriots, only to see their relationship sour over a bizarre and unprecedented situation involving the Jets.
The relationship is back in the headlines after Sports Illustrated published an excerpt of Parcells’ new book that details the fallout between the two men.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Belichick Was an Assistant Under Parcells With the Giants & Patriots
Parcells and Belichick had one of the most successful mentor-protege relationships in NFL history, winning two Super Bowls with the Giants when Parcells was the head coach and Belichick was his defensive coordinator, then taking the then-lowly New England Patriots to their second Super Bowl after the 1996 season when Parcells was New England’s head coach and Belichick was his assistant head coach and defensive backs coach.
2. Parcells Left the Patriots for the Jets After Taking the Pats to the Super Bowl
Parcells, who had taken the New England job prior to the 1993 season when the Pats were coming off a dismal 2-14 year, left the Patriots abruptly after their Super Bowl loss to Green Bay, declining to even fly back with the team from New Orleans.
It was later reported that Parcells had been in contact with the Jets about their coaching vacancy while New England was preparing for the Super Bowl.
Parcells was only the second coach in team history to take the Pats to the Super Bowl. Belichick, though, would go on to surpass Parcells and then some as the best coach in franchise history.
Belichick has taken the Pats to five Super Bowls and won three of them, cementing his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. Belichick Was Twice Named Head Coach of the Jets, but Never Coached a Game
Belichick holds a bizarre distinction in NFL history when it comes to his tenures with the Jets: He was twice named the team’s head coach but never coached a game.
Belichick initially took the head job in 1997, when Parcells had been hired as a consultant after leaving New England. But Belichick stepped aside when Parcells took the head coaching job himself a month later.
When Parcells left the Jets after the 1999 season, he lobbied for Belichick to succeed him as head coach. But the day after he was hired, Belichick abruptly quit, scratching out a hand-written resignation letter on a piece of scrap paper that read “I resign as HC of the NYJ,” then announcing his resignation at what was supposed to be his introductory news conference.
4. The Relationship Between Belichick & Parcells Soured During Their Time With the Jets
Parcells details the falling out in his book, Parcells, in which he repeatedly refers to himself as “Big Bill” and Belichick as “Little Bill.”
Though Belichick’s departure from New York is often cited as the event that triggered a falling-out between the two, Parcells writes in his book that the relationship between the two soured during their time with the Jets.
From SI’s excerpt:
The partnership between Belichick and Parcells had held together well during their sole season under Kraft, with the Patriots in 1996, but the relationship had regressed during three seasons with the Jets. Despite Belichick’s substantial growth in the NFL under Parcells and a guaranteed position as head coach, he ached to prove himself without his primary mentor and occasional tormentor. As Gang Green overcame a disastrous start in ’99 — they lost six of their first seven games and finished 21st in yards allowed — Parcells’ words had been as harsh as ever.
Furthermore, Parcells said a group of coaches who had worked under Belichick in Cleveland — including Parcells’ son-in-law, Scott Pioli — were more loyal to Belichick than to Parcels when the two stopped being on the same page.
Further complicating their partnership, the Jets’ organization contained a so-called Cleveland mafia: employees who had worked under Belichick when he coached the Browns from 1991 through ’95. The group, which included Parcells’ son-in-law, Scott Pioli, seemed more loyal to the heir apparent than to the incumbent chief. After Hess’ death, members of the coterie quietly realigned themselves with Belichick. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who was not part of the Cleveland crowd, also started getting closer to his future boss. The dynamic created tension between the ex-Browns contingent and coaches who had deep ties to Parcells, like quarterbacks coach Dan Henning. So Belichick’s resignation upended the organization well beyond the head coaching position.
5. The Patriots Gave the Jets a Draft Pick for Belichick
After Belichick’s abrupt departure, the Jets argued that Belichick was contractually bound to New York and demanded compensation for his departure.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue agreed with the Jets and ordered the Patriots to give up their first-round draft pick in 2000 as compensation for Belichick.