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From Barnes & NobleThe 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)