Bill Parcells Still Considers Himself a Student to One Man


If you ever get the chance to watch Bill Parcells’ “A Football Life,” it is worthy of watching. We get to see the man behind the success and the people that helped carry the Hall of Fame coach to each and every one of his life endeavors. Sometimes it takes someone like a mentor or a life partner to encourage and persuade someone towards a goal they are trying to pursue, and if it works out, that person is forever indebted to that person’s inspiration and could very well turn to them again in the future in times of dilemma. For Parcells, he attributes his success as a football coach to one man: Mickey Corcoran.

Parcells’ boyhood roots stem from northeastern New Jersey, Oradell to be exact, where he attended River Dell High School; he was then known by his given name Duane. Upon entering the high school, Parcells, at 6’2″, was quickly noticed by the coaches and played basketball, baseball and football.

It was in basketball where the seeds were planted in the relationship between Parcells and Corcoran. Corcoran was the school’s basketball coach, and within weeks of Parcells’ arrival, Corcoran was paid an unexpected visit by Parcells’ old man, Charles Parcells, known as “Chubby,” who was a talented football player in his own right for Hackensack High School (not that far from Oradell) and Georgetown.

“Chubby showed up unexpectedly and took me aside and said: ‘Sometimes Duane needs a boot in the ass,'” recalled Corcoran. “‘Feel free to take care of business.’”

Sep 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants former player Lawrence Taylor (left) and former head coach Bill Parcells are honored at halftime of the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As basketball began, Corcoran knew what he must do to his new player. As he would later say, “It wasn’t until the football season was over and Bill came over to basketball that we started really getting to know each other. I threw him out of the gym two-three times that first year for not controlling his emotions. But he always came back the next day because I knew he’d come back. He was too much of a competitor.”

Corcoran recalled a junior varsity game in  sophomore year where River Dell was facing Park Ridge. Leading by 17, Parcells was charged with a technical foul, and an enraged Corcoran benched him for the remainder of the game. River Dell ended up losing by one. Upon telling the story years later with Parcells in attendance, Parcells quipped, “Your job was to win. It was a good thing you had the principal in your back pocket.”

Parcells’ athleticism won him a football scholarship to Colgate, but his football career nearly stalled when he was enticed to accept a $50,000 offer to play baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies. His father wouldn’t allow him to take the deal, instead telling him to finish college. An enraged Bill quit school after his Sophomore year and Chubby kicked him out of the house and told him to get a job.

Disparaged, Parcells turned once again to Corcoran for help.

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“Bill shows up at my office at 8:30 one morning in September and says: ‘I need your help,’ ” Corcoran said. “He told me he’d committed himself to football and wanted to upgrade to a stronger football program. So I called Hank Foldberg, the head coach at Wichita, who I’d known when he was at West Point, and arranged to get Bill a partial scholarship there.”

And off Parcells went to Wichita State. His success at the linebacker position resulted in him getting drafted by the Detroit Lions. However, he found that his heart was more into coaching. For the next 15 years, Parcells would travel the country and rise through the ranks of coaching. From Army to Florida State to Texas Tech and Air Force, Parcells coached his way up the ladder and in 1979, he accepted an offer to be the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants under head coach Ray Perkins.

When considering the Giants position, Parcells once again turned to Corcoran, who advised him, “If you want the brass ring, go to the Giants.”

Faced with the harsh reality of leaving his family, who were living in Colorado, Parcells resigned from his post after six weeks and headed back to Colorado and attempted to live a life outside of football. Taking a job with a land development company, a now-miserable Parcells decided that it was a big mistake to leave football. With encouragement from his family, Parcells returned to football in 1980 and became the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots. In 1981, Perkins again offered him the defensive coordinator job, which he accepted.

Parcells right away made an impact with the players he had around him, such as veterans Harry Carson and George Martin and newcomer Lawrence Taylor. After the 1982 season, Perkins accepted a position to become the head coach and athletic director of the University of Alabama. For the 1983 season, Parcells was named the new Giants head coach.

That first year was a test of character for everyone wearing blue, especially the new head coach, as the team finished with a paltry 3-12-1 record and over the course of that year, Parcells lost both his parents. After receiving a second chance by General Manager George Young, Parcells entered the 1984 season with a different approach.

Their terrible record the year before gave New York the third overall pick in that year’s draft and they selected linebacker Carl Banks, who would become a big piece of the championship puzzle. With a revamped and improved squad, the Giants finished 9-7 in ’84 and won a wild card game against the Los Angeles Rams. After that season, Mickey Corcoran said to him, “Bill, God put you on this Earth to be a football coach. Great time.”

With those words, Parcells now knew his place. The rest of the decade saw the Giants reach extraordinary heights, and in 1986 won Super Bowl XXI after the team posted a franchise record 14-2 regular season record. 1990 saw the Giants pick up their second Lombardi trophy, but after that season, Parcells stepped down due to health issues. [fs-daily]

When Parcells won that first Lombardi Trophy, it was probably the biggest tribute he could ever give to his coach and mentor. As a young boy attending St. Cecilia’s in Englewood, NJ, Corcoran’s basketball coach was the man himself, Vince Lombardi.

Now that one of his proudest pupils found success and he and his team were awarded the game’s ultimate prize bearing his former coach’s name, Corcoran again thought back to all the times he kicked young Duane out of the gym and benched him when he misbehaved. Where maybe someone else would have turned the other cheek and quit, he knew that Parcells would be back each time a little wiser. What he probably didn’t know at the time, though, was what Parcells would be capable of.

Sep 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants former head coach Bill Parcells is honored at halftime of the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

For all those life lessons, Parcells was able to instill in his players those same values he learned as a boy. After the Giants, he had successful head coaching stints with the Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.

He is the only NFL head coach to lead four different teams to the playoffs. The only team he didn’t win a playoff game with was Dallas. Since his departure from the sidelines, he has served in executive and consultant roles with several teams.

At age 73, the game of football and the spirit of competition still lies within Bill Parcells. Still beside him after all these years is his coach, who is approaching his mid 90s. When Parcells was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, he addressed his coach, who was in attendance, and expressed that, as his “coach, teacher, friend, second father, and guidance counselor,” he is still learning from Corcoran and intends on continuing that bond.

As only Parcells would put it, “I’ve got to get ten or fifteen more years out of you, Buster, so let’s go.”

Next: Debate For The Ages: Bill Parcells or Tom Coughlin?

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