Bill Parcells will be dressed to the nines tonight as he waves and smiles at the Superdome crowd and NFL Nation during his introduced along with his Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 mates. He’ll look every bit like your favorite football uncle or professor, friendly and knowledgeable and ready to help out.
And just think that before Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Melchiorri and Anne Burrell, Parcells already had established his own reality series as the new sheriff from hell — or was it heaven? — for so many pro football players who passed through his neck of the woods.
Parcells was hardly the first rough, tough, son-of-a-gun pro football coach. But he was one of the best at rolling the good cop and the bad cop all into one larger-than-life persona. And that’s one of the reasons he’s in the Hall of Fame tonight.
“The thing about Bill was he kept you on your toes,” Wayne Chrebet, Jets fans’ favorite wideout, reminisced with me late Saturday night about his on-field boss with the Green & White from 1997-99. “You’re walking around the complex and he’s coming down the hallway toward you and you really don’t know what to say. You’re looking down and he’d say, ‘Don’t worry, kid. We’ll get ‘em.’ He’d extend that hand and pick you up. You’re smiling and he’d say, ‘What are you so happy about?’
“He kept you on your toes. He never let you relax. And he always got the best out of you.”
Aaron Glenn, who played corner on Parcells’ Jets those same years and then two more years for the Cowboys, had a similar story to tell.
“He had these mind games he always played on me,” AG said. “He’d say I was too small. He’d say I couldn’t cover the best receivers in the game. I used to think, if he thinks I couldn’t cover those guys, why’d he match me up against those guys in the games? I wanted to show him what I could do.”
Parcells, who I remember more than a few times denying that he played mind games with his players, let alone us reporters, had a number of favorite tactics to get through to “his guys” as well as the guys who were his for the moment on whatever team he was resurrecting.
“I remember as a rookie,” Curtis Martin recalled of the roots of his trademark ball security, “I fumbled the ball a couple of times in training camp and Bill made me carry that ball for, like, a week straight. I wasn’t allowed to be caught without the ball. When I was eating lunch or dinner or in meetings, I had the ball in one hand. He told the entire team to knock it out of my hands whenever they saw me. I was penalized if they were able to knock it out. That attention made me focus on the ball. It was a huge part of my game, to the level that giving up the ball was letting my team down.”
There was the time, Chrebet recalled, dusting off a classic Parcells-ism, that he told No. 80, “Hey, Chrebet, your career’s going over a cliff like a dumptruck with a cement parachute.” There was that other time, early in ’98, when Wayne suffered a bad ankle sprain going out of bounds and jumping rope with the chain crew on the sideline. And a week later Bill came by to check on Wayne as he was rehabbing the injury — by kicking him in the ankle.
“It hurt enough without him kicking it,” Chrebet said, “I looked at him like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s wrong with you?’ But even at the moment, I couldn’t be mad at him. He was just making sure I was really hurt.”
He wasn’t mad, but he got some classic Tuna payback late in the ’98 season as the Jets headed for the playoffs and their highest points of the Parcells regime.
“My family was Jets fans, of course, but they were diehard Giants fans,” Chrebet reminisced one more time for me. “It was ’86. I would’ve been 13 years old. And I’m watching and thinking it’s the coolest thing in the world when Harry Carson’s got on the yellow jacket and he sneaks up behind Parcells and dumps the Gatorade on him. I said I want to do that, and I want to do it to Bill, too. It was a pipe dream at the time.”
Then as events sometimes unfold, Chrebet got his chance. He doesn’t remember which game it was (maybe the win over New England in the regular-season finale?), but he was on the sideline late in the game and he said the thought struck him: “I’m gonna get this guy for all the stuff he gave me all year. I’m gonna douse this guy with Gatorade.”
“And he laughed. He took it. He wasn’t upset. He loved every part of it,” Chrebet said, no doubt looking at the Parcells-autographed photo of the prank hanging on the wall of his den. “He was just part of the team. He was right in our circle. He brought us all together.”
There were lots of other elements to the Parcells persona, naturally: Bill’s fierce, feisty competitiveness, his cadre of selfless assistants who implemented his one-voice philosophy, his attention to all the details in all the meeting rooms.
It all came together to produce wonderful results. Teams that hadn’t been winning started winning again. The Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys, even the Dolphins whom he finished up with as team president, did better than they had been once he arrived.
And most of the players, especially “Bill’s Guys,” all sounded variations on the theme of what he meant to them.
Martin, as he was approaching his Hall enshrinement last year: “I know I wouldn’t be in this position I’m in had I not listened to him.”
Glenn: “He once told me, ‘I challenged you. I knew what you had and I wanted to get the best out of you.’ That’s something he can do with any player at any level.”
Giants great Lawrence Taylor to ESPNNewYork.com on Saturday: “If I’d played for another coach on another team, I probably would’ve been a good player. But Bill was the one who made me LT.”
“Somebody told me that if Bill doesn’t mess with you, you’re in trouble,” Chrebet said. “He messed with me a lot. We were both Jersey guys and he busted my chops. The good thing was you could fire back at him a little bit, but you knew your limits. But I wanted to coached, Bill knew everything that was going on, and everybody bought into it. This guy came in and I’m like, ‘I’m glad you’re here. I’m ready to win.’ “
For these reasons and many others, we’ll get to see Bill Parcells holding forth one more time from the field on Super Bowl Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Glenn, Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Lawrence Taylor, New Orleans, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Superdome, Wayne Chrebet
Posted in Randy Lange | 243 Comments »
It’s time for the NFL to sit back in NOLA, take a deep breath, and put its party pants on for tonight and tomorrow in advance of Sunday night’s Super Bowl. The Harbaughs conducted their I-Concur news conference this morning, Commissioner Goodell’s wrapped up his annual state-of-the-league Q&A, and there’s not much else of an official nature to do down by the banks of the Mississippi except to laissez les bon temps rouler.
Except for some serious work of 46 individuals who will be virtually locked in a New Orleans meeting room for eight hours beginning Saturday morning.
Those 46 are the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee who will choose this year’s Class of ’13 for entrance into football’s shrine. Before them tomorrow morning along with their French roast coffee and beignets will be the list of 17 HOF final candidates, which they will proceed to prune away to no fewer than four and no more than seven members of this year’s class.
And the name on the list that most Jets fans will be keenly interested in is that of Bill Parcells.
Certainly it’s the top name on the list made by Curtis Martin, who made the Hall last year and was presented for enshrinement by Parcells in Canton last August.
“Bill’s more than deserving,” Martin told me from his Florida home this afternoon. “I’m not one of those guys that will look back and say he should’ve been in last year or whatever. At the end of the day it is what it is. But I’m really hoping and I do believe that he’ll make it this year, and I’m really looking forward to going back out there to Canton and celebrating it with him.”
Parcells was a finalist along with Martin a year ago, but unlike his superb running back, the Tuna couldn’t swim upstream from the final 10 candidates into the final five. In less than a day he’ll try to make that climb again.
Another who thinks he’ll do it is Gary Myers, the Daily News columnist and Selection Committee member who was the point man in guiding Martin’s candidacy to fruition last year and this year will also be making the Parcells presentation to the committee.
“Bill’s impact on the game, I believe, makes his a very strong case,” Myers said in his piece in the News this morning. “If Parcells isn’t a Hall of Famer, then just who is?”
Much of Myers’ presentation and the discussion “in the room” will no doubt deal with Parcells’ credentials with the Giants, who won two Super Bowls under his command, and his Patriots, who made one Super appearance. But his four-year stop with the Jets, from 1997-99 as head coach and in 2000 running the football operations, will also factor into the discussion.
Parcells arrived in ’97 and turned the Jets around from their 4-28 record of the previous two seasons into a winning team that was in the playoff hunt until their 13-10 loss at Detroit in the final game of the regular season. In ’98 he directed them all the way to a 10-0 lead early in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game before their season came to an end at Denver. Injuries crushed the start of the ’99 season, but by the end of the year the Jets were the proverbial team nobody would’ve wanted to face if they had made the playoffs. The 2000 season was filled with promise until a disastrous December downturn.
And then Bill was gone. The one playoff berth and title-game appearance wasn’t what Parcells or anyone else in Jets Nation wanted, and yet he was the first coach in franchise history to produce 30 wins in a three-year span, the first to preside over 40 wins in a four-year span. The Jets were the third of the four franchises he guided to playoff berths, an NFL coaching record. He brought the Green & White back to relevancy as in the last 16 years the Jets have made seven playoff appearances and posted 10 winning seasons, as good as or better than the totals in those two categories over the franchise’s previous 37 seasons.
Of course there are no guarantees. The dynamics that last year kept Parcells out in his third time as a Hall finalist could repeat. A new field of well-qualified finalists could freeze Bill out of the final-five again.
But this year just feels like it’s “temps” that BP “roule.” As Myers said, if not Parcells, who? As Martin told me, “I can’t imagine Bill not being in the Hall of Fame two years in a row. Last year was kind of hard to believe. This year would be incredibly hard to understand.”
The Selection Committee members know that as well. Sometime shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, I suspect that Parcells will begin his ascension into the pigskin pantheon.
We’ll have a follow-up story on Bill Parcells’ Hall of Fame candidacy Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Gary Myers, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 102 Comments »
It’s Pro Football Hall of Fame time again, and that means Bill Parcells again is in play to be inducted into the Canton shrine.
The Hall of Fame this morning announced the 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for election into the Hall when the selection committee meets in New Orleans on Saturday, Feb. 2, the day before Super Bowl XLVII.
This is Parcells’ fourth time as a finalist, meaning final 15, and in this case it may well be that the third time plus one is the charm for the Tuna. Last year he made it to the final 10 during the day-long balloting process but did not advance to the final five, as did Curtis Martin, who was then selected for the Hall a year ago in his second year of eligibility.
Here is the Hall’s list of finalists, which includes the two senior nominees, DT Curley Culp and LB Dave Robinson, announced in August. (Four first-time nominees designated with an (f), two senior committee nominees with an asterisk):
Larry Allen (f) — G/T, 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys; 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers
Jerome Bettis — RB, 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Brown — WR/KR/PR, 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders; 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter — WR, 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles; 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings; 2002 Miami Dolphins
Curley Culp* — DT, 1968-74 Kansas City Chiefs; 1974-80 Houston Oilers; 1980-81 Detroit Lions
Edward DeBartolo Jr. — Owner, 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene — LB/DE, 1985-92 Los Angeles Rams; 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1996, ’98-99 Carolina Panthers; 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Charles Haley — DE/LB, 1986-91, ’99 San Francisco 49ers; 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Art Modell — Owner, 1961-95 Cleveland Browns; 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens
Jonathan Ogden (f) — T, 1996-2007 Baltimore Ravens
Bill Parcells — Coach, 1983-90 New York Giants; 1993-96 New England Patriots; 1997-99 New York Jets; 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys
Andre Reed — WR, 1985-99 Buffalo Bills; 2000 Washington Redskins
Dave Robinson* — LB, 1963-72 Green Bay Packers; 1973-74 Washington Redskins
Warren Sapp (f) — DT, 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Will Shields — G, 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Michael Strahan (f) — DE, 1993-2007 New York Giants
Aeneas Williams — CB/S, 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals; 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
All Hall of Fame candidates must go through a winnowing process that this year began with 127 nominees, then was reduced to 27 semifinalists. To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.
Bob Sutton Departing?
The Kansas City Star is reporting today that longtime Jets assistant coach Bob Sutton has been hired by new Chiefs coach Andy Reid as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator. The Jets have not commented on Sutton’s reported departure and the Chiefs have not announced anything regarding the hiring of coordinators yet.
Sutton, the former Army head coach, was with the Jets the past 13 seasons, 10 as linebackers coach and from 2006-08 as Eric Mangini’s defensive coordinator.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Bob Sutton, Curtis Martin, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 218 Comments »
It’s a testament to what the Jets have become that a 6-10 team could wait until nine days after the end of its season to hold its end-of-season news conference — and create a bigger scene than it would have eight days earlier.
All the trappings of a major news event were here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today: satellite trucks and Sal Pal standups outside the reporters’ area, assigned seating for the packed news conference room, Woody Johnson and Rex Ryan in business suits facing the media music.
There could have been contention among the beat reporters for the Jets possibly having been in violation of the “Bill Parcells Rule” that advises all teams to hold end-of-season news conferences within seven days after their last games, the rule named for when the Tuna took the organization “down to the bunker” for a month or two after some of those seasons back in the Eighties.
But it was never the Jets’ intention to violate the spirit of the rule, and the NFL and the Pro Football Writers of America agreed to let this process take its course. Then Johnson may have defused any lingering questions with his opening remarks.
“I want to make an apology. I’ve read your statements,” the Jets’ now 14th-year chairman and CEO said of the stories about the delay of the post mortem. “The coach is not responsible for this. I wanted him to wait until I had a chance to think a little more about the season. … Your comments about the delay are valid. I take them for what they are. I should’ve gotten back to them earlier.”
That being said, reporters still came at the duo rapidly and relentlessly, at least on the several occasions when multiple people had tough questions that they had to pose simultaneously.
Just as it was within their rights to ask all those questions, pertinent and impertinent, it was also within Rex’s and Woody’s rights to decline to answer every question directly. That’s the way it is at all news conferences of this sort. Some topics can’t be discussed at this time. Some can’t be discussed at any time.
But reporters and fans can easily read between most lines. And the space between one set of lines was clearly legible when Ryan was asked twice early on about the unusual situation of the head coach staying and the guy above him coming in new to the organization, about Rex facing a “make-or-break situation” for the 2013 season.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have the exact same agenda as the general manager will have — that is, we want to win,” Ryan said. “I don’t know who the general manager is, but I promise you he wants to win as bad as I do. I look at this as a new beginning, just like it’ll be a new beginning for the GM. That’s how I’m approaching it.
“You’re one of 32 men in this country who have this, you’re in the NFL as a head coach. That is an unbelievable honor and a privilege, that’s certainly the way I feel. But I’m excited. I do look at it as a beginning. We’re going to be a dangerous football team, I can promise you that. How many wins and all that, I can’t tell you, but you’re not going to want to play the New York Jets. I know that’s the mentality we’re going take. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
And reading further between those lines, you can call that Rex’s bluster, or his supreme confidence in his own ability and in the people around him, but it’s something that has further rubbed off on Johnson the four previous seasons.
“Having been in the business of football for quite a while, you can recognize talent when you see it,” the owner. “I’m expressing my confidence in Rex. The only way you’re going to get better is by admitting what you haven’t done so far. Rex knows where he wants to improve and I believe him. He took us two years to a very high level, and it was just a question of whether we made it all the way in those years. I have confidence in Rex as a head coach, as a leader, as a motivator, as a playcaller.
“My confidence in Rex, I’ve stated a number of times,” the owner said later. “I think the general manager, whoever we select, it’s very important that he has to have a good relationship with Rex, which I’m sure he’ll have. That’s the GM’s job, and that’s all I’m going to say on that. We’re going to have all the pieces to put something really great on the field, led by Rex.”
All this being said, it was Jerry Glanville who I recall was the first to say NFL stood for “Not For Long.” So there’s no timeline for Ryan, no leash in the hall closet, no lame duck under glass on the menu. But there are a lot of front office and coaching shoes to fill, a lot of new players arriving, a lot of familiar names departing, some of their own volition, some not. The words today are fine, but a lot of work needs to be done for the Jets to be as dangerous as they can be.
Twenty-12 has finally been deep-sixed. It’s on to 2013.
Tags: Atlantic Health Training Center, Bill Parcells, Jerry Glanville, Rex Ryan, Sal Paolantonio, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 200 Comments »
This is a tough day for us who work at the Atlantic Health Training Center. It’s another one of those days that comes around every so often before or after New Year’s Day on which the Jets begin to tear down and build back up again.
I’d been a part of these periods on the outside as a beatwriter in 1995 (Pete Carroll out), ’97 (Rich Kotite out), ’01 (Bill Parcells regime comes to an end) and ’06 — Herm Edwards to KC, Terry Bradway back to scouting, Mike Tannenbaum ascending to the GM’s office.
And today Mike T is cleaning out that office after owner Woody Johnson said he won’t be back for the ’13 season.
Here is Tannenbaum’s statement to the media, issued a short while ago this afternoon:
I want to thank Woody and his entire family for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime — serving as the General Manager of the New York Jets for seven years.
I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of rebuilding a winning tradition for Jets fans over the past 15 years. My days with Coach Parcells through my years as General Manager of the team that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games have been the fulfillment of a dream I have had since I was a little kid and I’ll always be grateful to Woody, the two head coaches, Rex and Eric, as well as all of the players, staff and the entire organization for this opportunity.
While of course it is disappointing to not achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, I am incredibly proud of our overall winning record and success. I feel very fortunate to have been the general manager who drafted cornerstone players during a period that yielded four playoff victories and 22 Pro Bowl appearances.
I appreciate that it is rare for someone to stay with one organization with such a wide range of responsibilities for so many years. My time with the Jets will always be special to me and my family and it has prepared me well for whatever comes next.
There are champions on this team that haven’t been crowned yet. I am confident that the base we’ve established will allow the New York Jets to continue a winning tradition for years to come and I wish everyone in the organization the best of luck.
As D’Brickashaw Ferguson said today in the locker room, “What happens now? I’ve only been here under one GM.” I could say the same: I’ve only been a Jets employee under one GM, who had a hand in welcoming me to the organization back in March 2007. But I know what I’ll do: More of what I’ve been doing the past six seasons, which is chronicling the people in the pads and the people upstairs who keep trying to rally all the champions on each team to bring home another championship trophy.
There were reasons for Johnson to make a forceful move concerning his GM’s office with an eye on the immediate future. In seeing certain developments over the past year or two, the owner’s in line with the many we’ve heard from over that span. Fans, beat reporters and columnists have all formed and expressed strong opinions about Tannenbaum’s seven-year tenure, and I won’t add to them now. But I do feel Mike should leave with a few positive words about his years on the hot seat.
For a while it looked like he might be the new model for NFL general managers of the new millennium. His creative salary cap management was often stunning, as were some of his draft-day trades. As assistant GM, he signed and brought in “the Four Aces” on time to 2000 training camp. His first two drafts as GM in ’06-07, the Jets picked Pro Bowlers Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis and a PB-caliber LB in David Harris. At the start of the ’11 camp, he was able to keep Harris in the fold as the last of the re-signed “Core Four.”
There were some trades and signings and non-signings that I as a fan of the team wished Mike T didn’t make, but that’s been the great thing about working for T and Woody Johnson, where a diversity of opinions was welcomed, from inside and especially from outside.
On a personal note, that was the best part of coming to work for the Jets. Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini had to sign off on the decision by then-EVP Matt Higgins and then-SVP Bob Parente to recommend bringing me, a former beatwriter and critic of the team, on board in ’07. Maybe T swallowed hard once or twice, but he welcomed me to the team from the start and never once suggested we take a particular point of view on newyorkjets.com. He accepted the consequences of making the Jets one of the most open teams in pro sports.
Revis was asked in today’s ”baggie day” locker room session about Tannenbaum’s dismissal. At first he sounded hardened to the situation, but he quickly segued to the humanity of a departing leader.
“Everybody gets evaluated. In this business we get evaluated every week. It’s just the business side of it,” Revis began. “He did great things here for the last couple of years. It is really sad. You do not want to see anyone get fired or any players getting released in this manner but it happened. He had a great speech that he wrote in the team meeting. Guys clapped for him afterwards and felt sorry for him.”
Mike also crafted the statement above, which included unconditional thanks to the man who decided to end his tenure. And around the time media members were reading that first graph, Tannenbaum went from his second-floor office to the first-floor media room not to do a formal interview with the beats — that would have to wait for another day — but to thank the reporters for their coverage of him and his team ever since he arrived as Parcells’ “cap guy” back in ’97.
Does all that make Mike Tannenbaum a great GM who was done wrong today? No. As Laveranues Coles, T’s third-round pick in that famed 2000 draft made popular around Jets locker rooms, “It is what it is.” Tannenbaum is what he is, a football administrator who made some great moves and some moves that didn’t work out. He was dismissed on “Black Monday” but he’ll move forward, find a new job and start a new legacy. And we wish him the best.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Eric Mangini, Laveranues Coles, Mike Tannenbaum, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 179 Comments »
Curtis Martin followed up his emotional news conference before the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Gold Jacket Dinner on Friday night with a bravura performance running the anchor leg among the six members of the Class of ’12 at Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
“This is God’s honest truth,” Martin said as the sixth and final member of the class to speak and to receive his bust at Fawcett Stadium. “I came up here, I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he has for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me. And literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football.”
Martin spoke the longest of the six enshrinees but none of the 12,100 in the stadium noticed the extra minutes passing because he timelessly captured the moment in typical Curtis fashion. He broke the huddle with an anecdote from the weekend on huge tackle Willie Roaf. He darted into how he got into football “for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself, because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.”
He cut back as smoothly as ever into soul-baring personal stories about growing up on the mean streets of Pittsburgh and his special relationship with his mother, Rochella, that left him again teary-eyed, and all of the thousands in the stadium silently weeping along with him.
And he strode toward his goal line this night with another anecdote about getting hit so hard in a game against Oakland that he saw black, and kept seeing black as he tried to walk it off, until he realized he was in the Raiders’ defensive huddle.
“I was asked earlier this week if I would allow my child to play football,” he said. “I said, well, football’s getting bigger, stronger, faster and tougher. I don’t know. I would probably be reluctant. But if my kid can learn what I learned from this game, I’d let him play. I think it’s worth the risk.”
Bill Parcells, Curt’s coach with the Patriots in 1995-96 and with the Jets in 1998-99, presented Martin to the gathered fans after helping him slip on his gold jacket at the dinner in the Canton Memorial Civic Center the night before.
”Curtis has tremendous compassion for his fellow man,” Parcells said. ”He is, I think, the poster child for what the NFL is supposed to be. You come into the league, maximize your abilities, you save your money, you make a smooth transition into society, and then you pass all those things on to other people. That’s what this guy has done.”
The Jets were represented at the ceremony by a strong contingent at the ceremony, led by owner Woody Johnson, president Neil Glat and GM Mike Tannenbaum, who helped orchestrate the restricted free agency offer sheet with Parcells that brought Martin from New England to the Jets in 1998. A number of current and former players were there also. I don’t have a complete list but I know Joe Namath was there, as were Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall and current starting RG Brandon Moore. Eric Allen, Rich Gentile and the multimedia crew were also there, and we’ll have video of events from the weekend up on the Website shortly.
Some Curtis Memories
I couldn’t stay in Canton for Saturday’s festivities, but I knew I at least had to be on hand Friday to honor him. I don’t have any touchingly emotional stories, just small, telling glimpses about covering Martin for the Jets from 1998 through his glorious 2004 season and into 2006, when he tried and tried to get his body ready to play but knew his career was over.
There was the one training camp day at the Netherlands dining hall on the Hofstra campus, when this one beatwriter among many, covering the team for a smaller North Jersey newspaper, asked Martin on the way in to lunch if he had time to talk for a story. He said yes, but then he didn’t show, having taken the side door up to his dorm, no doubt for a nap before the afternoon practice. I accepted being stood up by a big-name player, no big deal, happened before.
Then as I was about to head back for the pressroom, Martin showed up and asked, “I forgot that I was going to talk with you. Do you still need me?” I sensed then the special qualities of No. 28.
He confided in me when he didn’t have to, for stories about goals for the season and playing in the pain that was his constant companion, although no one ever really knew because he never complained and never missed a game. I tried to get him to complain just a little about the way some reporters were willing to write him off one Jets season after a bad start due to some nearly crippling injuries.
“I probably would have written that I stunk, too,” he said.
And he had and continues to have a way with words. Like all other people in the media fishbowl, he revisits timeworn themes and familiar anecdotes during his interviews. But in the locker room day after day, he was never like the comedian on the road who recycles the same routine night after night. Curtis always looked in the questioner’s eyes and had a new word or two, a new phrase that resonated, a new way to make a particular point to reporters and the fans.
Such as Friday at his news conference. He spent perhaps a half-hour answering questions from all of us in the New York Jets media contingent as if he’d never heard them before. He gave details of the murder of his grandmother that he said he’d never detailed for a large interview session before. I’d never been up close to anyone who had bared his soul like that, and I was choked with emotion myself in trying to sum up the story to another reporter a few minutes later.
Being the New York Jets rep at this news conference, I had to ask Curtis about the recent announcement that the Jets will be retiring his uniform number on opening day, Sept. 9, at MetLife Stadium. It’s an honor that’s certainly not on the Canton level, yet I thought Martin might want to speak specifically about the Jets. And he did.
“New York has been the best time of my life,” he said. “I’ve appreciated both organizations that I have played for, but I’ve been at the Jets longer than I was at New England, three times as long as I was at New England. So between the city, the fans, the media and the team, the impact it’s had on my life, and now to be honored with Woody and the Jets deciding to retire my number, next to the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what would be bigger than that.”
Bravo one more time, Curtis. And we’ll see you again in September.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Canton, Curtis Martin, Fawcett Stadium, Mike Tannenbaum, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Rochella Martin, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 8 Comments »
Curtis Martin’s journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has very much been a theme for newyorkjets.com and for many other media and fan outlets since his quest began in early 2011 and came to fruition with his choice by the selection committee this past February. And it will continue to be something we’ll be involved in up to and through his enshrinement in Canton on Saturday, Aug. 4.
This afternoon, as the big day looms less than two weeks from now, Curtis made a stop for an international conference call with writers who wanted to chat with him for stories this week and next. He said even though the big day is drawing ever closer, he’s still kind of getting his grips on the event.
“I’m still having a problem really understanding that something that was so far outside of my dreams or my aspirations is actually happening right now,” he said. “I don’t think it hit me yet, and it may not hit me till I get to canton. But I’m definitely proud and appreciative of the moment.”
Something that always struck me about Martin was that even though he said he never aspired to this level, he was nevertheless always the consummate Hall of Fame-quality player throughout his career. And that includes not only fulfilling all his duties as a running back and team leader on the field, but off it as well.
Specifically, when he was in the locker room and talking with reporters before or after a game, he always knew exactly what to say and how to say it. That trait continued to come to the front during this conference call when, confronted with questions he’s answered any number of times, he still came up answers, in his inimitable football eloquence, that shed light onto his tremendous mindset as he went about fashioning his career as one of the great backs ever to play the game.
Here are a few highlights from the call that I gleaned for all the No. 28 fans out there:
Surely you must have dreamed about entering the Hall of Fame at some time during your career.
“That was never a dream. Football was never a dream for me,” he said. “I ended up playing football just to stay out of trouble and stay alive. Football was something my mother forced me to do just so I could grow up in the neighborhood I grew up in. The Hall of Fame wasn’t something I would even dream about dreaming about.”
Is there any player you looked up to and shaped your career after?
“I was never a football fan. I was never really a fan of the game. But when I played Pop Warner football, I wore a neck brace and goggles like Eric Dickerson. He might have been the closest player for me that I emulated when I played the game.”
Is there anyone you felt was your greatest opponent?
“For me there was a player like that on every team. I would always pick someone out. One of my favorite players to pick out was Ray Lewis. I always wanted to challenge him to see if I could win the game between us whenever we played Baltimore. But my biggest challenge was outdoing myself. Anytime I stepped on the field, I tried to out-compete myself. I don’t think anybody could compete with me as hard as I competed with myself.”
How about your legendary low fumble rate?
“I just took pride in it. I remember being a rookie, we were in [New England's] training camp and I fumbled the ball a couple of times. Bill Parcells made me carry the ball maybe for a week straight. I wasn’t allowed to be caught without the football. When I was eating lunch or eating dinner, I had the ball in one hand. When I was in meetings, I had the ball in one hand. He told the entire team to knock it out of my hands whenever they saw me and I was penalized if they were able to knock it out of my hands, even if we were in a meeting room. That kind of attention made me focus on the ball and that was a huge part of my game. I always felt that giving the ball up was letting my team down.”
What about your perhaps underrated skills as a receiver?
“I prided myself in being the best at whatever I needed to do. I’m very competitive. Even if I don’t like to do something, I’m determined to be the best at it. I don’t like second place, I don’t like playing second string. That’s just the way I’m wired. To me it wasn’t necessarily about being a good receiver out of the backfield. To me it was all encompassed in being a good running back. I wanted to be the best at everything I did.”
I never get tired of hearing Curtis Martin talk about football and I hope you don’t, either. We’ll have a few more stories about him as Canton looms before us. I’ll be making the trip to the Hall town to be at the big commemorative dinner on Friday, Aug. 3, and Eric Allen and our multimedia department will cover Curtis’ big day when he is officially enshrined at Fawcett Stadium, along with his 2012 classmates, Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Coleman, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf, on Saturday night, Aug. 4.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 60 Comments »
Matt Slauson will be one of the guests of honor Monday night, April 16, when Our Time, a non-profit organization that has been helping children who stutter for over a decade, will hold its 10th annual benefit gala, “Tackling Our Fears, Defending Our Dreams,” at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
Our Time continues annual tradition of celebrating an accomplished person who stutters by honoring Slauson, the Jets’ starting left guard.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by Our Time,” Slauson said. “As a person who has battled stuttering my entire life, I feel it’s important to help kids that are afflicted with this difficult problem. Whether overcoming this impediment completely or simply becoming more confident when speaking, I want kids who stutter to know they can be successful and accomplish anything they want to.”
Our Time will also bestow its first Advocacy Award to longtime supporter and Chair Emeritus, Budd Mayer. And the event will bring out some big names and professional artists for performances and presentations, including Rachel Dratch, Edie Falco, Victor Garber, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Kind, Jesse L. Martin, Matthew Modine, John Oliver, Ron Rifkin, Amy Ryan and cast members from “The Book of Mormon.”
For more information on the event, you can reach Our Time at 212-414-9696.
Curtis Checks Out Canton
At the beginning the week we brought word that Curtis Martin had selected Bill Parcells to be his presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Aug. 4. That came as part of Curtis’ visit to the Canton, Ohio, shrine to tour the Hall of Fame and meet with staff in preparation for his enshrinement.
You can go to the Pro Football HOF site here to read a short story on Martin’s visit and also watch a video in which Curtis talks about his career and his upcoming big day.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Hall of Fame, Matt Slauson, Our Time
Posted in Randy Lange | 73 Comments »
It’s not exactly a news flash since we saw it coming down Paterson Plank Road months — make that years — ago, but Jets great Curtis Martin has confirmed that he has chosen former Jets coach Bill Parcells to be his presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 4.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Martin told the Canton Repository on Monday at the Hall of Fame, where he was making one of his pre-induction visits to meet with the Hall’s staff and get the Canton lay of the land. “You never know how life works. Maybe someone else would have been placed in my life to take the place of Parcells, but I think there’s only one of him. I just don’t see someone else having that type of impact on me.”
Back when we met with Curtis in his Indianapolis hotel room the day of the Super Bowl and of his introduction as a member of the Class of ’12, he showed the depth of his feeling for Parcells when he talked about his getting into the Hall and Parcells, also a final-10 HOF candidate in February, not making it in his third try.
“This year, the more emotional part for me was the fact that Bill didn’t get in with me,” Curtis said. “I’d rather he’d be going in without me. I think what he’s accomplished in this game is phenomenal. It was bittersweet for me.”
The night before, Martin telegraphed to NFL Network’s Fran Charles that Parcells would be his choice as presenter.
“I think it’s a simple decision,” he said then. “I’m definitely not even close to being in this position — I don’t think I’d have played more than four or five years — without Bill Parcells as my mentor.”
Tags: Bill Parcells, Canton Repository, Curtis Martin, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 164 Comments »
As you’ve heard, the NFL voted on this year’s rules changes at the owners’ annual meeting in Florida that concluded Wednesday. The one rule change that we all probably saw coming was 2010′s postseason overtime rule being adopted for all games.
Initially I was against tinkering with the OT rule. You know the arguments for and against. I always felt there was nothing wrong with the NFL’s true “sudden death” approach, and as such I respectfully disagreed with the league observers and commentators who suggested it would somehow be an “embarrassment” for a Super Bowl to be decided by a field goal on the opening drive of overtime.
Why? It’s how OT games have been decided since 1974. If one team didn’t get an “opportunity” to score in OT, so what? If a team doesn’t want to lose that way, don’t let the game go to overtime. And if it does get to OT, don’t let the other guys score first. Simple. This isn’t baseball. It’s football.
But of course the trend has been to modify overtimes, to decide tied games by the abominable college rule that also is used in many states for their high school games. I’ve always been a proponent of Bill Parcells’ philosophy. Why would you change the fundamental nature of the game by removing punt returns and field position? Let’s play football, not have a field goal contest or a shootout.
Yet the NFL didn’t adopt those rules. I wasn’t a big fan of the new rule it did adopt two years ago at this time, either. But after trying it on for size (even though it was only in effect once, and Tim Tebow of all people made it moot by lifting Denver over Pittsburgh the old-fashioned way, by TD on the first play of OT two months ago), it seems to me that if the league was going to revamp its overtime rules, it went with the best rule.
By 30-2, the owners this week voted to extend the rule to all games. Perhaps the margin of that vote was influenced by coaches who want to deal with the same rules for all games, not a different set for the postseason. But it appears that the new rule is being embraced by the league.
A historical note: Green & White fans of a certain age will miss the old OT rule, which was very good to their team over the years. The Jets have played 39 overtime games since ’74. Twelve of them have been decided on an opening-drive field goal. The Jets won nine of those games while losing three. In fact, the last game they lost without touching the ball on offense was in 1992, when they fell to the Colts at Indianapolis, 6-3. Since then they had won seven straight on the opening drive of OT. Not one of those wins was “embarrassing.” They were all won by the rules in effect at the time.
No longer. But at least we’re not playing more than one extra inning in breaking our ties now.
Below is a transcript of Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay’s short Q&A with reporters on Wednesday discussing all the rules and bylaw proposals. And feel free to leave a comment about the OT rule or any of the other rules changes that are discussed below or should be discussed at next year’s annual meeting.
McKay: There were seven total rule proposals voted on today. Five of those passed; two of those did not.
The two that did not pass: One was submitted by Buffalo, which was a change in instant replay to move the decision-maker from the referee to the replay assistant upstairs, which did not pass. The second was to change the horse collar rule that we have and take out the exception that we have for the quarterback in the pocket. It did not pass.
The other ones all passed, including Pittsburgh’s proposal to take our modified sudden death overtime procedures and move them into the regular season. It did pass. All of the rest of them that I have covered with you before, those all passed.
On the bylaw side, we passed Bylaw Proposal No. 1, which is a very simple cleanup trying to make Thanksgiving day and Christmas day or Christmas night games the same as our other night games.
We tabled a number of the ones that dealt with the player and roster movements, including some IR proposals. We felt there was some really good input and we felt like we would table them. We will vote on them in May. That would include the trade deadline; the overall roster limit of 90; the one activation you could make off of IR; and the one concussion-diagnosis exception to our active/inactive list that was proposed. We just have some work to do on those.
On why Playing Rule Proposal No. 2, which would have removed the horse collar penalty exception for quarterbacks in the pocket, did not pass despite promoting player safety…
We never are going to back up from player safety. We are always going to push the agenda as much as we can. We appreciate when teams push it also. In this instance, the rule was developed for an open-field tackle where we felt like a defender had a chance with an alternative to do something else, and we felt like the injury risk was going to occur because the defender was able to actually use the runner’s momentum against himself and swing and fall on the back of his legs. We never thought that necessarily applied in the pocket. We watched the tape and didn’t feel that was a change that was also fair to the defender. The defender in the pocket is fighting off an offensive player, grabbing and just trying to do everything he can. We just didn’t see the injury risk and that is why we didn’t support it. It is not a place we like to be because we are always going to promote player safety. We just didn’t think this had an impact on player safety.
On if there were discussions on Thursday night games and limiting travel…
There was. Howard Katz gave a report and gave us some guidelines that he is going to try to use as they schedule those and when the commissioner creates the schedule. Those were shown to the teams and talked about. The teams were pretty comfortable with those guidelines.
On if resistance to the bylaw proposals that focused on the roster caused them to be tabled…
No, there were some really good ideas and suggestions. There is not necessarily resistance. We have just got to work on the language a little bit. They do not need to be passed today. We will pass them in May, we will deal with them and we will show them to the union and do all the normal steps. We knew coming in that we traditionally do that a lot with bylaws, and we felt like in this instance that was the way we would go and we would table them.
On further discussing Bylaw Proposal No. 6, which would allow for a designated player to return from injured reserve after a defined time period…
The IR rule, perhaps there are a couple of amendments we may propose to that, yes.
On if average time of game could decrease as a result of the approval of Playing Rule Proposal No. 7, which calls for all turnovers to be confirmed by the instant replay official…
It potentially could. When you see it, it feels like it would slow the game down because you are taking what would be a challenge and taking it upstairs for confirmation. We didn’t see that in the scoring plays, and we think in the turnovers it will have the same effect. It is pretty much even, although in this instance the difference is we have a lot of plays that are turnovers, we go to a commercial break and the coach challenges coming out of the commercial break, which now really slows down the game. You will have none of that in this instance because the confirmation will occur before that. We like the way the procedure worked on scoring plays, and we felt like this was a change we could make without adding game time.
Tags: Bill Parcells, NFL owners' annual meeting, overtime rule, Rich McKay
Posted in Randy Lange | 200 Comments »