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March to the Sea: Parcells Made Belichick Into a Coach

By Alex M. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

This week, the surprising 7-2 Patriots square off against the absolutely shocking 7-2 Dallas Cowboys. Brenda Lee wants to argue that current Patriots coach Bill Belichick made Cowboys’ coach Bill Parcells into the winner he is today. She actually thinks that Belichick is the cause for Parcells’ years and years of continued success.

Well, you know what, Brenda? That’s Bill-sh*t.

Parcells is the best coach in the NFL right now, bar none. Belichick is probably second. But have you looked at the Cowboys’ roster? Are you kidding me? This team is 7-2? Quincy Carter, Terry Glenn, Troy Hambrick—these guys wouldn’t even make the rosters of most NFL teams.

On Dallas, they’re starters, and they’re succeeding. Why? Bill Parcells.

He is a compulsive winner. He won with the Giants. He won with the Pats. He won with the Jets. And in one year, he’s winning with a terrible Cowboys team. He’s a magician—or maybe just the best coach going.

Belichick began his working relationship with Parcells with the Giants way back in 1979. Both were defensive coaches for the G-Men. When Parcells took the Giants’ head coaching job, Belichick soon rose through the ranks to become Parcells’ defensive coordinator and right-hand man.

Parcells won two Super Bowls with the Giants and then moved to New England in 1993. Belichick took a head coaching job with Browns in 1991. How did Belichick fare? Pretty well. First year, 6-10. Then two years of 7-9 before breaking through at 11-5 in 1994, losing in the second round of the AFC Playoffs. He was fired the next season.

That’s good—but he’s no Parcells.

A year before Parcells arrived in New England, the Patsies went 2-14. By ’96, the Pats were in the Super Bowl.

After rebuilding a second franchise, Parcells moved to his third project: the miserable New York Jets. Fired from Cleveland, Belichick came along. In two years, the Jets went from 1-15 to 12-4.

“He taught [Belichick] everything,” a friend of Parcells said to The Boston Herald in a recent interview. “He had been with him for 21 years. He trusted him with everything.”

There hasn’t been a clearer example of the “mentor-protégé” relationship since Vito and Michael Corleone. Belichick had to learn from Parcells before he could succeed. You’re not just born a Godfather.

Finally, in 2002, Belichick broke through with the Patriots, winning a championship after building a dominating defense.

But to say that Belichick was the reason for Parcells’ success is just absurd. Parcells grew up a defensive coach. So it’s pointless to make the argument that it was Belichick’s defenses that made Parcells great—because they were Parcells’ defenses more so than Belichick’s.

And even if you think the Pats don’t have much talent, they’re much better than this year’s Cowboys team. The only reason the ‘Boys are succeeding is because of Parcells’ genius. And since Belichick isn’t at the Tuna’s side, don’t even try to say Belichick is the true mastermind. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Brenda!

What evidence is there to say that Parcells is not the driving force behind his own success? None! He’s never failed, with or without Belichick. Just one thing, Brenda, prevents you making a convincing argument—your complete lack of facts to back up your position.

Parcells has won with talent, without talent, with good assistant coaches and with bad ones. He’s won in New England, New York and now Dallas. He might be the best head coach of all time. And you want to say he wasn’t responsible? I’ll let coach Belichick make my argument for me.

“[Parcells] made the decisions and did them,” Belichick said to asapsports.com, when asked what he had learned from Parcells. “It wasn’t anything that I was involved in…Why he did them and some of the things he did were successful because of the way he did them. And they may or may not have been successful if somebody else had done the same thing.”

Belichick’s a great coach, just like Brenda’s a great writer. But sometimes, you’ve just got to admit that there’s someone out there a little better. Belichick doesn’t quite match up to his counterpart, just like Brenda doesn’t quite match up to…well, you get the idea.

—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at sherman@fas.harvard.edu.

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