MIAMI -- Bill Parcells was his usual self, which means, he wasn't in the mood.
"How long's this gonna take?" he asked, before agreeing to only his second wide-ranging interview since taking over the Dolphins last December.
|He isn't a head coach anymore, but you'll still find Bill Parcells on the practice field. (US Presswire)|
Then Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga called with a job offer for something called "executive vice president of football operations."
It meant Parcells could hire five of his former assistants from Dallas, including GM Jeff Ireland, and plan for the Lombardi Trophy.
"Once you've been to the pinnacle, won the Super Bowl," he said, "nothing is good enough. It's like Pat Riley said, 'There's two emotions, winning and misery.'"
Sometimes, of course, you can't tell if Parcells is winning or just miserable. But underneath is a guy who actually is what he is, even if he loves the theater of it all.
"I absolutely don't want to coach again, but I love teaching -- even more, I love teaching the coaches," said Parcells, who can be seen after practice talking to head coach Tony Sparano or showing a lineman how to shed a block. "I enjoy the process, acquiring and teaching players to mold them into a competitive unit. I think of myself as a guidance counselor."
I asked him, in racing terms, if he took the long view of coaching, like trainer Nick Zito does with his horses, or the short view, like D. Wayne Lukas.
"I've always had to take the Zito approach because that's always been the situation," he said. "The Patriots were 9-39 (over three years) before I got there, the Jets 10-38, the Cowboys 15-33. I think I know how to turn it around."
Parcells said the "reservoir" of coaching thousands of players has taught him a few things, among them, that "confrontation is healthy."
"I learned it from my mother," said Parcells who grew up in northern New Jersey. "I think if you put the cards on the table, it reduces sensitivity. OK, and maybe I use a little verbal castigation now and then."
He recalled that "even though Lawrence Taylor and I might not be speaking to each other all week, he would come stand next to me on Sunday at the beginning of the national anthem. You can look at footage of any game. It showed we were in it together."
For the Dolphins, Parcells won't compromise his vision. Building with young players and a few veterans, his style is be good or be gone. And even when you're good -- like franchise record-holding kicker Jay Feely -- you won't be the man if you don't fit the plan.
"I have certain non-negotiables," said Parcells. "I want height in my linebackers (goodbye Zach Thomas). I want pressure players, guys who can get to the quarterback. When we scout, we look for defensive lineman who can move back. Harry Carson was a defensive lineman in college, so was Matt Millen, so was Willie McGinest. They have to be all over the field. I'm not going to change."
After 30 years, he has certain players, certain games, that are central to him.
"I think Curtis Martin is what the National Football League should be all about," Parcells said of his former running back with the Patriots and Jets. "He was a young man without any family structure, a bad environment, who maximized his opportunity as a player and as a person. I have a high, high, high regard for Curtis Martin."
One of his signature games is the '91 NFC Championship Game where the Giants beat the 49ers 15-13 on five field goals from Matt Bahr.
"That game had so many great players, so many great plays," he said. "The referee, Jerry Markbreit, told me he'd officiated 467 games and that was the greatest game he'd ever seen."
I asked him if it were the first time he hugged a kicker. He made a face.
Parcells said his coaching/teaching influences came from four greats -- Chuck Noll, Chuck Knox, Al Davis and Tom Landry. From them, he learned how to coach and how to deal with the media.
It was fitting, in both categories, that at the end of practice Tuesday, Parcells was working with wide receiver Davone Bess -- teaching him the stiff-arm.