Everyone knows the scene in "The Godfather: Part III" when an aging Don Michael Corleone utters his most famous line: "Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in." Well, the same could be said for former Giants/Patriots/Jets/Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. Each time he heads for the hills to watch baseball and races featuring his beloved horses, the game of football pulls him back in.
This game is hard for anyone to ever walk away from. The daily competition, the excitement of building a team, the relationships with the players -- it all makes the solitude of retirement tough to take. Parcells has never just worked in football -- he has lived in football. When football is your life, it's hard to ever leave.
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Awhile back, Parcells shared a very telling story: "My wife said to me once, 'Explain to me why you continue to do this? The times that you enjoy it are so much fewer than the rest of the other stuff. What kind of ego do you have that you have to keep proving things to yourself? Why do you do it? You're not happy, so why do you keep doing it?'
"I told her she didn't understand. I told her it's just about competition because my whole life, since I was 7 years old, you went to the gym or you went to the playground. It was always 'Who are we playing and where?' I'm still doing it. Nothing has changed. It's still 'Who are we playing today?' "
With Sean Payton facing a one-year suspension, he has turned to his former boss, Parcells, to fill his shoes in the upcoming season. It was Payton's idea, and from my view, a great one. Who better to take over an established team, essentially coaching the coaches? Parcells is the master of setting up a game plan, demanding excellence from his players and then managing a game. He won't have to worry about shopping for the groceries or planning for next season. His sole focus would be on handling the team for the 2012 campaign -- something he can do at a Hall of Fame level.
Those fortunate enough to call Parcells a friend gain the benefit of his incredible knowledge about the game, as well as his unique perspective. His stories are endless. His ability to use metaphors to make his point clear are remarkable. Most of all, he is a great teacher. Each phone call with Parcells supplies me with valuable lessons on the game of football and the game of life. But most importantly, our enlightening conversations change the way I look at things. In this role with New Orleans, Parcells would further the education of all the Saints coaches. He'd teach them how to think like a head coach, how to act like a head coach and most of all, how to be a head coach.
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This is the best thing that could happen to rising Saints assistants Pete Carmichael or Aaron Kromer. This experience would make them both better coaches. The reason Payton wants Parcells to be the interim coach is because he realizes what Parcells did for him as a young coach. Parcells showed Peyton a new way of looking at football, as well as a way to embrace confrontation. Any coach who shies away from confrontation can never be a great coach, but it takes confidence, courage and knowledge of the game to challenge players. Anyone can randomly scream at players, but few can drive players to perfection, and even fewer can gain their ultimate respect. Parcells taught this to Payton. In this scenario, he could teach the rest of Payton's staff.
The situation in New Orleans is not easy for anyone. If a coach without the stature of Parcells comes into the building, he will be viewed as the substitute teacher -- just a place holder. Parcells would respect Payton's programs, but he would add his unique talents to the job. No one would ever confuse Parcells for a substitute teacher. In fact, there would be a new level of expectations, as most players and coaches would look to impress Parcells with their work habits and commitment to the game. The bar would be raised and the Saints' entire organization would benefit.
I sent Parcells a text the other day saying even Frank Sinatra came back for an encore. I hope the man from Oradell, N.J., follows the man from Hoboken and comes back for one more year. It would make the game we all love even better.