Reviewing “30 for 30” featuring Parcells and Belichick
By Juan Pablo Guarin-Camargo
To start the month of February, ESPN aired the newest installation of their award-winning docu-series “30 for 30”. This one centered around the New York Jets and both Bill Parcell and Bill Belichick.
Their latest episode, aptly titled “The Two Bills”, takes fans into the long and complicated relationship behind two of the greatest coaches in NFL history; Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
The two worked together for a total of 20 years as coaches for the New York Giants, New England Patriots, and New York Jets before going their separate ways in the year 2000.
The episode explores many different aspects of the two Bills’ working relationship; how they relied heavily on each other during the championship years with the Giants, how Belichick went to coach the Cleveland Browns while Parcells resigned the next day from the Giants and how they got back together in New England for one year before conflicts between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Parcells had the two Bills leave New England entirely.
But then they got to talking about their time with the Jets.
So, let’s break this down. All quotes are directly taken from the episode and well, paint an interesting picture of the Jets back then.
In the episode, Parcells explains how his issues with Kraft taking control of the Patriots made him feel disrespected, that he felt like he could not pick out the groceries for the dinner he was asked to cook.
Instead, Parcells, along with Belichick, picked up and left for the Patriots division rivals, the Jets. While the transition was quite the circus (Belichick was named the head coach for six days while Parcells was settling the transition with league officials), Parcells ultimately became the head coach, with Belichick as his assistant head coach.
“The Jets were just trying to be cute,” said Kraft. “And they had league offices on their side to help facilitate the transition.” Kraft went on, saying “Ultimately, we got a bunch of draft picks from them, and settled the matter right there.”
During their time with the Jets, the Two Bills inherited a 1-15 team and turned them into contenders faster than a New York minute. From 1997-1999, they amassed a 39-19 record, along with an appearance in the 1998 AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champs, the John Elway-led Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, in New England, Kraft had hired Pete Carroll as the Patriots head coach from 1997-1999. However, during his tenure with the past, Carroll inked out a measly 27-21 record, ultimately getting fired after the ’99 season.
Prior to leaving the Patriots, Belichick and Kraft left things on good terms, as Kraft wanted to “clean the house of Parcells out” before he could hire a Parcells-mentored head coach, ala Bill Belichick. However, Parcells, Belichick, and former Jets owner Leon Hess were working out a deal of their own.
“I talked with Mr. Hess and Bill (Parcells) about extending my contract so I can take over for Bill with the Jets once he retires,” Belichick said. However, once Kraft fired Carroll, he sent a fax to the Jets to request a head coaching interview with Belichick for the Patriots.
“We sent the fax over, but somehow, Bill (Parcells) had intercepted it,” said Kraft. “We waited for days for a response, but when we didn’t hear anything, we had called to see what was going on. They [the Jets] were playing it like the never got it.”
Parcells immediately resigns from being the Jets head coach, opening the door for Belichick to rise up. There was only one issue; Belichick did not want to coach the Jets.
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“The problem I had with the whole arrangement was that when this happened, there was no owner. Mr. Hess passed away before the 1999 season,” Belichick said. “There were two new potential owners (Woody Johnson and James Dolan), and I hadn’t spoken with either one, but I had problems with both of them. That whole ownership situation is what led me to resign from being the Jets head coach.”
Belichick then called a press conference that same day to officially resign as the Jets head coach, becoming their full-time general manager instead. “He (Belichick) was the only two-time head coach of the New York Jets that never coached a game,” said Scott Pioli, former Jets Director of Pro Personnel.
To make matters worse, Belichick signed with Kraft and the Patriots the very next day. However, Belichick would not defect so easily. In 2000, the Jets still had contractual ownership of him for the next three years, so he was still technically under their employment.
Belichick then filed a grievance with the league office for his release, which was ultimately denied. Finally, Parcells decided to settle the matter once and for all.
In a phone call as “Darth Vader” with Kraft, Parcells ended up trading Belichick’s coaching rights in exchange for a treasure trove of draft picks. In the end, the ordeal not only strained the Two Bills’ relationship, but it would make the Jets a perennial league laughing stock.
Since Belichick and Parcells’ departure, the Jets have a 137-151 record. Belichick’s record with the Patriots in that same span; 201-71.
Oh, and eight Super Bowl appearances, winning five of them (so far.) The episode then ends with one more stab at the Jets from both Parcells and Belichick. As they were leaving MetLife Stadium, Director Ken Rodgers tried taking the Two Bills to the Jets locker room.
Both Parcells and Belichick refused to go.
While many can understand Belichick’s animosity towards the Jets, others found it surprising that Parcells would have some sort of beef with the green and white. However, in an interview with ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Parcells cleared all that up:
“We’d been there for quite a while and we knew we were pretty much done with the interview. They were just wanting to get more footage. Bill had a car waiting for him and I was ready to go. I remember, he was anxious to go and so was I, really.”
“It was like, ‘Where are they taking us now?’ That’s when we realized they wanted to take us down there and we just didn’t want to go. It wasn’t anything against anything. It was just time.”
When asked to clarify, Parcells states:
“I never had a problem with the Jets,” he said. “Listen, you know, I’m hoping Todd (Bowles) does well. He’s one of my guys.”
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Overall, the episode as a whole was a well-made production by ESPN. While Belichick and Parcells’ relationship with each other is stronger than ever, their tenures with the Jets will go down as one of the more dramatic team managements in NFL history. Former Jets assistant coach Charlie Weis said it best when he told ESPN “Leave it to the Jets to create a circus atmosphere; both on the way in and the way out.”