One of Bill Parcells’ favorite phrases to reporters gushing about one player or another at his many NFL stops was “Let’s not send him to Canton on roller skates yet, fellas.”
Parcells didn’t exactly get to football’s shrine on an express train, but he got there as he should have nonetheless. He was voted for induction on Feb. 2, is being introduced tonight along with the Hall’s Class of ’13 by Jets great Joe Namath at the Gold Jacket Dinner, and will be enshrined in ceremonies at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium on Saturday night.
“The Big Tuna” did many great things at his head-coaching stops with the Giants, Patriots and Cowboys, but a significant part of his legacy and of Jets history was his three-season tenure as the Jets’ head coach from 1997-99.
“Bill Parcells infused new life into this franchise on many levels,” owner Woody Johnson said in a statement back in February. “From acquiring players like Curtis Martin to bringing back a winning culture, we will always be grateful to Bill for his contributions to the New York Jets. On behalf of the entire organization, I congratulate Bill on his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Below is my top 10 list of Bill Parcells coaching victories in those three seasons. It’s far from a scientific survey, just a list based on the importance of the game and the stage it was played on (primetime, playoffs). You may have some comments on other favorite BP games, so send them on to me, and you can also vote on your favorite regular-season Parcells win in the poll on our home page. (Games in chronological order, CAPS denote home teams.)
Aug. 31, 1997 — Jets 41, SEAHAWKS 3
It doesn’t start any better than this. In Parcells’ first regular-season game as head coach, the Jets pummeled the Seahawks in the Kingdome. Neil O’Donnell threw five touchdown passes, two to Wayne Chrebet and two to Jeff Graham, as the Green & White posted a 38-point win that to this day is the largest opening-day margin of victory in franchise history.
Oct. 19, 1997 — JETS 24, Patriots 19
New England came to the Meadowlands undefeated and opened a 12-3 lead on the first drive of the second half. On the Jets’ first drive of the half, Parcells made an unexpected switch at QB, replacing starter O’Donnell with backup Glenn Foley, who directed three straight touchdown drives to forge the 24-19 triumph for Parcells’ first win over the team he left to coach the Jets.
Dec. 14, 1997 — JETS 31, Buccaneers 0
The Jets were reeling after two losses dropped them to 8-6 while Tampa Bay came to town at 9-5. But the winds of the Meadowlands breathed new life into the Green & White for a win-and-we’re-in regular-season finale at Detroit the next week. Key Trent Dilfer tormenter this game: Otis Smith, who returned two interceptions for TDs in a 4:46 span of the second quarter.
Sept. 20, 1998 — JETS 44, Colts 6
Vinny Testaverde was getting his first start as the Jets QB since Parcells brought him in as a free agent in the offseason. His opposite signalcaller: first-pick-of-the-draft rookie Peyton Manning. This one was no contest as Testaverde threw four touchdown passes and Leon Johnson scored three TDs.
Oct. 19, 1998 — Jets 24, PATRIOTS 14
Parcells was so “disgusted” that he walked out on a midweek practice before this Monday night road test against 4-0 New England. The ploy had its effect as the Jets stayed close to the Patriots, then Testaverde struck for a touchdown toss to Kyle Brady and a 43-yard go-route TD to Dedric Ward in a 5:25 span of the fourth quarter to pull away for the inspiring triumph.
Oct. 25, 1998 — JETS 28, Falcons 3
This one turned out in retrospect to be the most frustrating win of the Parcells tenure, since the Jets disposed of Atlanta, which went on to finish 14-2 and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Victor Green (strip of QB Steve DeBerg) and Jerome Henderson (fumble-return TD) teamed up for one score and Testaverde threw two third-quarter TD passes.
Dec. 13, 1998 — Jets 21, DOLPHINS 16
Jumbo Elliott confirmed after this Sunday night game that Parcells had “promised” him back in the offseason that the Jets would be going to the playoffs this year. That’s in fact what they clinched with this triumph, as LB Chad Cascadden applied the crushing score on a strip-sack of Dan Marino and fumble-return TD with 1:51 to play.
Jan. 10, 1999 — JETS 34, Jaguars 24 (PO)
This was the centerpiece to the Parcells tenure in green — the Jets’ first home playoff game since ’86, which turned into their first playoff win in 12 years as Keyshawn Johnson scored on a reception and then an end-around, recovered a Jacksonville fumble and intercepted Mark Brunell’s Hail Mary pass to send them on to the AFC Championship Game at Denver.
Nov. 15, 1999 — Jets 24, PATRIOTS 17
It was a Monday night in Foxboro Stadium and not much of a contest was expected from the 2-6 Jets vs. the 6-2 Patriots. But Ray Lucas, back as the starter after sitting a game with injury, directed the Jets offense to three second-quarter touchdowns that held up to down Drew Bledsoe & Co.
Dec. 27, 1999 — Jets 38, DOLPHINS 31
The Jets won their last four games in ’99, all against playoff teams. This one was symbolic of that closing kick as Lucas defeated Marino for the second time in three weeks, this time in Miami on Monday night and coming from behind in the fourth quarter with a pair of 50-yard scoring strikes, to Wayne Chrebet and Dedric Ward.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Hall of Fame, Keyshawn Johnson, Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet
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