The Final Season: My Last Year as Head Coach in the NFL


As unflinching, candid, and tough as the man himself, The Final Season is Bill Parcell's swan song as head coach in the NFL. During 1999, a grueling, difficult season, Parcell's found his resolve and coaching ability tested at every turn.

It wasn't supposed to be like that, though.

The two-time champion coach who had guided two different teams to the Super Bowl was expected by fans and pundits to drive the New York jets all the way. After all, ...

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As unflinching, candid, and tough as the man himself, The Final Season is Bill Parcell's swan song as head coach in the NFL. During 1999, a grueling, difficult season, Parcell's found his resolve and coaching ability tested at every turn.

It wasn't supposed to be like that, though.

The two-time champion coach who had guided two different teams to the Super Bowl was expected by fans and pundits to drive the New York jets all the way. After all, they had reached the AFC Championship the year before. But fate would not allow it. In the preseason, respected and longtime owner Leon Hess died, casting a season-long pall of uncertainty over the organization. During training camp, two players were arrested after a bar fight. In the final game of the preseason, Wayne Chrebet one of their top receivers, was injured. Then a huge blow-in the season opener Vinny Testaverde, the Pro Bowl quarterback, ruptured his Achilles tendon and was out for the year. Things grew progressively worse-at one point Parcells had lost nine starters. He also endured personal suffering when his dear friend and agent Robert Fraley died in the same plane crash that killed Payne Stewart.

Parcells struggled to keep his team on track, trying to maintain their confidence in the face of enormous odds. "When you're losing, you coach better. You're on top of every detail. You scrutinize yourself, your coaches, your players, and the system you're using." He became his own fiercest critic: "No matter how long you have coached, no matter how many games you have won, no matter how many playoff games, conference championships, Super Bowls you've won, it's all irrelevant. You are not winning now and that's what counts. You think you suck. You are a loser as a coach."

Things hit rock bottom when the team went 1-6. But
Parcells the coaches, and the players would not lie down. "If you don't play to win, then you shouldn't play at all." Parcells called up every strategic and motivational ploy he could dream up, and through sheer force of will and a great amount of pride, the jets won seven of their last nine games.

In The Final Season, readers will not only get an unsparing look inside one of football's greatest minds and a champion's philosophy but also Parcells frank take on good owners; his battles with "owner-operators"; the greatest "warriors" he's coached for and against; the players who are "dogs"; the game's most challenging coaches; and his seasons with the Giants and the Patriots. Parcells also provides the reasons for retiring from coaching as well as his perspective on Bill Belichick's controversial resignation and eventual departure for New England.

A rare, behind-the-scenes football memoir, The Final Season brims with insights and revelations, a testament to a great competitor and future Hall of Famer.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Great expectations were heaped upon the New York Jets after Bill Parcells took a 1-15 team to the brink of the Super Bowl in two short years. Then, crucial injuries, heartbreaking losses, and a messy changing-of-the-guard spoiled Parcells' swan song. Given the disaster, one might expect Parcells to be bitter or remorseful. To the contrary, The Final Season reveals an underlying calm to a coaching legend known for his bluster.

The Final Season is written as a succession of Parcells' journal entries. One of the joys of reading it is being an armchair quarterback. As coach and general manager, Parcells was known to fill his roster with "Parcells guys," hungry players with a competitive edge. Alas, some of his 1999 decisions backfired. Rick Mirer, signed as a backup to quarterback Vinny Testaverde, had to assume the reins when Testaverde went down in week one. Mirer, following Parcells' conservative play calling, performed just poorly enough to lose. Experienced but lackadaisical, Mirer was ultimately replaced with the inexperienced, fiery Ray Lucas, and the season turned around for the Jets. But by then it was too late.

Hindsight makes some of Parcells' statements painfully prescient. In a lecture to incoming rookies, Parcells explained that players who could not protect Testaverde would not get playing time in preseason games: "You are not going to get my quarterback knocked out for the season. Then I am going to have a team rebellion on my hands because we do not have a first-team quarterback." When Testaverde indeed did go down in the first week of the season, it was not the fault of a blown blocking assignment, but it did leave the team in turmoil.

At least, thought Parcells, he was not alone in his predicament. On September 14th, Parcells wrote of how sorry he felt for Rams coach Dick Vermeil: "I called to console him when he lost his quarterback, Trent Green, to a knee injury in the final preseason game. He was devastated. He had built most of what he wanted to do on offense this year around Green, and now he had to go with a kid named Kurt Warner out of the World Football League. He has never started an NFL game."

One of Parcells' charms is that he does not mince words. Lamenting a bad call by an official, he wrote, "It was a ridiculous call by a guy who shouldn't have been involved. I got upset with him and called him an asshole. I really shouldn't have done that, and I apologized to him a few minutes later. But his call really sucked."

Much ado has been in the New York press on the motivations for the Keyshawn Johnson trade to the Buccaneers. Though Parcells chides Johnson in the book for his not attending all of the team's off-season workouts, Parcells is generally complimentary toward Keyshawn -- he saves his vitriol for Keyshawn's agent, Jerome Stanley. Of Stanley, Parcells rants, "This guy is a jerk. He is ignorant. I don't care if he's Keyshawn's agent, I'll never talk to that son of a bitch again." Despite the many things that made him mad, Parcells handled the frustrating season with class. He explains the Jets' losses in terms of blown assignments. These, he understands, occur no matter how well the players are prepared. With the exception of one ugly loss to the Giants, Parcells was pleased with the effort his team put forth. After a 4-8 start, the Jets finished the season with four consecutive wins, all over playoff-bound teams.

Parcells decided to retire while at the Friday practice before the Jets' final regular-season game. Defensive coordinator Bill Belichick was under contract to replace him. In a bizarre turn of events, Belichick first accepted the position, then called a press conference to resign. In order to release Belichick from his contract and allow him to coach elsewhere, Parcells buried the hatchet with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Parcells and Kraft agreed to Belichick's release in a deal similar to the one orchestrated for Parcells' freedom from the Patriots three years prior.

Parcells revered late Jets owner Leon Hess for his hands-off approach, emphasis on winning, and devotion to the team -- as he assumes the role of director of football operations before the 2000-01 season, Parcells pledges to stay similarly behind the scenes with protégé Al Groh at the coaching helm. First and foremost, however, Parcells identifies himself as a coach. In his farewell speech to the team, Parcells quoted a poem, Dale Wimbrow's "A Man in the Glass," that summed up the lesson he has always attempted to instill in his charges: "You may fool the whole world down the pathway of life/And get pats on your back as you pass/But your final reward will be heartaches and tears --/If you've cheated the man in the glass!" (Brenn Jones)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 1999-2000 football season did not turn out the way that Parcells, the former head coach of the New York Jets, had envisioned. Instead of contending for a championship, the Jets' year was ruined when their starting quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, suffered a season-ending injury in the first game. Without Testaverde, as well as a number of other key players, the Jets stumbled badly at the beginning of the season before rallying to finish the year with a respectable 8-8 record. An important part of the Jets' resurgence was Ray Lucas, selected by Parcells to play quarterback after Testaverde's initial replacement, Rick Mirer, failed to spark the team. In one of the more revealing aspects of his week-by-week account of the season, the usually decisive Parcells is seen wavering between Mirer, talented but struggling, and Lucas, a natural leader but unproven. Not until Lucas took the quarterback reins did the Jets' season take off. With the help of veteran Boston Globe columnist McDonough, Parcells touches on all the action surrounding the Jets on and off the field in his last season, including the search for a new owner (following the death of longtime owner Leon Hess), the trade of Keyshawn Johnson and the bizarre resignation of Bill Belichick, Parcells's designated heir as Jet coach who ended up as coach of the New England Patriots. Written in Parcells's straightforward style, this memoir doesn't aim to settle old scores, although Parcells does issue a few barbs, with the sharpest directed at Johnson's agent, Jerome Stanley. While Parcells's fans may be disappointed that the famously opinionated coach is not more outspoken, there are enough new nuggets to make this a must read for Jet and Parcells followers alike. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Parcells (Finding a Way To Win, LJ 1/96), a highly successful football coach with the Giants, Patriots, and Jets over the last two decades, is known for being blunt, supremely confident, and more than willing to speak his mind. Largely owing to injuries to key players, Parcells's last year before retiring did not turn out the way anyone expected: instead of being in the chase for the Super Bowl, the Jets lost six of their first seven games. This book tells a different and more interesting type of story than most coaches' books. It's not about how "I led them to the championship" but how the coach maintained control in an adverse situation, did not allow his players to quit, and got them to adjust to frustrating circumstances if only for pride. The Jets won seven out of their last nine games with a third-string quarterback and finished with eight wins and eight losses. Demonstrating that hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is not the only way to be successful, this book has a strong message. It also is a lot more fun to read than it probably was for the author to live through. Highly recommended for all football collections [Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.]--John Maxymuk, Robeson Lib., Rutgers Univ., Camden, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688174910
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Parcells began playing football in the early sixties as a linebacker at Wichita State, then joined the college coaching ranks. He made his NFL coaching debut with the New England Patriots in 1980, and by 1983 had his first head coaching job with the New York Giants. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants, first in 1986, then in 1990. After taking two years off for health reasons, he became head coach of the Patriots and led them to the Super Bowl in 1996. He joined the New York jets in 1997 and is currently director of football operations. Parcells and his wife, Judy, live in New Jersey and have three daughters and two grandchildren.

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Read an Excerpt

April 1, 1999

I'm fifty-eight years old, and I don't intend to be coaching when I'm sixty. At least that's the way I'm thinking at this point in time. Toward the end of the 1998 season, when we made a good run at winning the AFC and getting to the Super Bowl, I began to think it was time to retire.

Coming down the stretch we had some tough, pressurized games, where we were working on adrenaline more than anything else. The staff was tired, and the coaching was hard, and it was tough for me and the team to find the right balance as we fought for the playoffs. Keeping the football team honed is part of the reason why my teams over the years have generally improved during the last part of the season.

It's not easy to find the right balance. I have to work them hard enough to keep them sharp, but not too hard. What's enough? How much should I give them to pump them up and to keep them at a tough level? When do you cut practices short and give them a break to rejuvenate themselves?

As for me, I've got a heart condition and a weight problem. Working on adrenaline alone isn't good for me. In fact, if I have trouble, more arrhythmia than I am comfortable with, it comes when I'm exhausted. At the start of the season in recent years, I have had my weight down and my endurance up. My weight is nowhere near as low as it should be, but it is a lot better than it is toward the end of the season. I work out hard through the spring, training camp, and the halfway mark of the season, then the crunch comes. I start to eat too much. My weight goes up. I get tired. I don't work out as much. I start asking myself, "What the hell am I doing this for?" Idon't need the money. I don't need the fame. And I certainly don't need to feel as lousy as I do sometimes, trying to take a team down the stretch and into the tournament. The pressure just beats the hell out of me, and it takes a long time to recover.

After we lost to Denver in the 1998 AFC championship, I was just about as low as I could get. I really thought we had a chance at beating them, then doing something in the Super Bowl. We had beaten Atlanta during the regular season, so I would have liked our chances in that one, but it didn't work out that way.

We ended the season by beating Seattle, Miami, Buffalo, and the Patriots, who were all fighting for a playoff spot just like we were. Every game was tough. We beat Seattle at the end of a home game on a controversial call. Then we had to go to Miami for a Sunday night game, have a short week, and play in Buffalo the following Saturday. It doesn't get any tougher than that. Two divisional opponents on the road with the division up for grabs. I hate to play night games on the road. You sit around all day waiting and it eats you up. When I get nervous, I'm a compulsive eater, and there's no way I can keep my weight under control when this happens. I lose energy. It doesn't take long. in two or three weeks my condition can go from good to bad.

That happened to me this time. Miami was a grinder. The game was up for grabs until the last two minutes, when we made a great play to win it. I've always said that those are the greatest victories of all, winning on the road, in a big game, before a packed house.

People always ask if the two Super Bowl wins with the Giants were the greatest, and I say no, which surprises them a little. I tell them the victory I liked most out of any I have ever had was when I was coaching the Giants and we went into Washington to play a very good Redskins team on a Monday night. To me, the Giants-Redskins games of that time were the greatest in the NFL. I loved to win in Washington because that was the toughest place to win, and for me, Joe Gibbs was the best coach I ever coached against. It was a great challenge. That year it looked like we were going to lose a heartbreaker, and we pulled it out on a long field goal on the last play of the game. All night long those sixty thousand Redskin fans were going crazy. In those situations, standing on the sidelines, you have to yell at one another to be heard. But as soon as the kick went through the goalposts, the stadium fell silent. The Redskins and all of their fans were stunned. We were running around, grabbing and hugging one another. We could have been whispering and heard every word. The most beautiful noise I have ever heard was the silence in the stadium that night.

It was the same way the next Saturday in Buffalo. We played a very tough defensive game, and hung on for the win. We beat New England to clinch a home playoff berth, and then beat Jacksonville in a playoff game to get to go to Denver for the AFC championship. It was an exhausting period of time for me. I just didn't have enough left to exercise every day, and when I start missing workouts it ruins me. With all the things on my mind, I was thinking about everything else but my health. I began to think 1998 was the end of the line.

Fortunately, I had a team I liked and in Leon Hess an owner who was supportive. I didn't have a lot of problems, and I didn't have a lot of jerks to deal with. There were only a handful of fines. The players were hungry and were willing to cooperate. They felt good about themselves. In 1997, when I first came to the Jets after they finished last in the league, we had a winning season, and that restored their dignity. I saw the transformation. They went from a group of guys who were beaten down to guys who were more confident. I saw the same thing in New England. I saw the same thing with the Giants. There's a distinct pattern, and when it happens, the team gets hungrier, wanting more challenges and victories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000



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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2000

    The New York Jets are a better franchise because of him and the book is great

    An excellent read for those in search of insperation! A book that can teach all of us something about life and success! Never quit.

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