Bill Parcells is best known for his long NFL coaching career, with a keen ability to turn around losing teams.
Bill Parcells, born in New Jersey, became one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. Although he was drafted by the Detroit Lions as linebacker, Parcells realized he was suited for coaching and began the long journey to a NFL head coaching job. He is the only coach to lead four different teams to the playoffs.
Football coach. Born Duane Charles Parcells on August 22, 1941, in Englewood, New Jersey to Ida and Charles Parcells. Young Duane Parcells picked up the name he would use for the rest of his life after being frequently mistaken for another local boy named Bill and deciding it would be easier just to go by the new moniker. Parcells was a star prep athlete, excelling in football, baseball and basketball at River Dell Regional High School in Oradell, New Jersey.
After finishing high school, Parcells attended Colgate University and then Wichita State, where he was a linebacker on the football team. Upon graduation, Parcells was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions, but soon realized he was more cut out for coaching than playing professional football. He took his first assistant coaching job at Hastings College in Nebraska, where his initial duties included lining the field with chalk and washing uniforms.
Varied Coaching Jobs
Parcells bounced among assistant coaching jobs at Wichita State, Army, Florida State, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech before landing his first head coach gig in 1978 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. A year later, Parcells accepted an NFL assistant coaching job with the New York Giants but then abruptly withdrew from football, moving his family back to Colorado and accepting a desk job with a land development company. Life without football, however, proved intolerable. Sensing his unhappiness, Parcells' wife Judy insisted he coach again. ''She knew I could not live without football," he said. (The couple was married for 40 years before divorcing in 2002.)
Success in the NFL
After working several assistant jobs in the NFL, Parcells took over as head coach of the New York Giants in 1983. He soon managed to turn things around for the beleaguered team, which had enjoyed only one winning season in the previous decade. The Giants, led by Parcells, won both the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowls, establishing Parcells' reputation as one of the game's top coaches and a genius at turning bad teams around.
Parcells announced the first of his several retirements in 1991, citing heart problems. Two years later, though, he was back on the field as coach of the New England Patriots, another losing team he coached to a Super Bowl appearance within a few years. It was with the Pats that Parcells earned the nickname "Big Tuna." Said Parcells, "the players pulled a practical joke and I said, 'Do you think I'm Charlie the Tuna, like a sucker?' After that, they called me Tuna.''
Parcells left football again in 1996, following the Patriots' Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers. This time, Parcells' retirement lasted eight days before he agreed to coach the New York Jets. Despite the team's 1-15 record in the season before his arrival, Parcells managed to guide the Jets as far as the conference title game in 1998. After relinquishing his Jets coaching duties in 1999, Parcells vowed not to coach again. But he again failed at retirement, agreeing to take over the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. The coach still had his turn-around magic; after enduring three straight 5-11 seasons before Parcells' arrival, the Cowboys reached the playoffs with a 10-6 record in the coach's first year on the job.
In January 2007, Parcells announced his resignation from the Cowboys and (yet again) his retirement from coaching football. This time, he actually seemed to mean it. Parcells left the Cowboys with a 172-130-1 career record and the distinction of being the only coach in NFL history to lead four different teams to the playoffs. At the time, only eight other coaches had won more games from NFL sidelines.
Perhaps predictably, Parcells could not stay completely away from the gridiron. By late 2007, he had agreed to become Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins, a role that essentially made him manager of the team's coaches. The jobs fulfilled a promise to himself, Parcells said, that he would shape other coaches' football vision the way that mentors like Al Davis, Tom Landry and Chuck Knox shaped his own.
After leaving the Dolphins in 2010, Parcells became an analyst for ESPN. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, and the following year he published the memoir Parcells: A Football Life.
Football, more than anything else, has defined Bill Parcells as a person. "It's not just another job," he has said. "It's my life."