In a history filled with dysfunction, ESPN’s latest documentary fuels the fire of frustration deeper with New York Jets fans.
Last week, ESPN’s 30 for 30 featured a show called “The Two Bills”. The two participants were Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
The two coaches sat a few feet from each other and reminisced about their history together as coaches. Starting with the New York Giants in 1979, the two had a long coaching career spanning into the late ’90s together.
Everywhere the two went together they had success and reached a Super Bowl. Except the Jets.
If rooting for the New York Jets isn’t hard enough on their abused fan base, this documentary certainly did not help. Looking over the history of these two great coaches, who have seven Super Bowls won and 11 Super Bowl appearances between them, just adds more salt to the wound.
After pairing together with the Giants from 1979 until 1990 (Parcells left for one year in 1980 to be a linebacker’s coach for the Patriots), Belichick left to coach the Cleveland Browns. Parcells resigned as head coach of the Giants soon after, which caused some disappointment in the Giants players who hoped Belichick would have been named head coach.
Bill Parcells coached the Patriots from 1992-1996, leading New England to the Super Bowl in his final season. Parcells originally signed a five-year deal to coach in New England, but had his deal re-worked so he would be able to leave after the fourth year. However, his contract also stated that he could not coach anywhere else for that fifth year, only New England. A big reason why Parcells wanted to leave the Patriots was because he felt like he didn’t have a big enough say in personnel decisions. After the 1996 season and leading the Pats to the Super Bowl, Parcells quit.
After leading the Browns to the postseason in 1994, disaster struck Belichick’s team in 1995. Owner Art Modell decided to move the franchise to Baltimore, with the announcement coming halfway through the season. The result was a 5-11 finish and a pink slip for Belichick. Belichick joined Parcells in New England in 1996 as a special assistant, helping them reach the Super Bowl.
Enter Jets owner Leon Hess, originally hiring Parcells in an “advisory” roll, with head coaching responsibilities going to Belichick for the 1997 season. After the 1997 season, Parcells would then take over as head coach and Belichick would go back to being defensive coordinator. Realizing this was a joke, the NFL commissioner worked out a compensation deal with the Jets and New England that allowed the Patriots to receive the Jets third and fourth round picks in 1997, a second round pick in 1998 and a first rounder in 1999.
With the Jets, the two turned a 1-15 season into the team’s only first-round bye and first division title in 1998. The team also advanced to the AFC Championship Game, where they ultimately lost to Denver. However, a promising season in 1999 was derailed when quarterback Vinny Testaverde went down with a torn achilies in the first game of the season. To make matters worse, Leon Hess, the head coach who had signed an agreement with Belichick that promised him the head coaching job after Parcells, died in May of 1999.
Fast forward to when Parcells suddenly resigned as head coach of the Jets the day after the 1999 season ended. Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent a fax to the Jets asking that he be given permission to interview Belichick for the head coaching position.
Uncertainty in the ownership situation with the Jets (who were still in the process of finding another owner) made Belichick uneasy and he went back on the agreement that was put in both of his and Parcells’ contracts when they were hired after the 1996 season. Under that agreement, upon Parcells’ retirement as head coach, Belichick would replace him. Seeing his perfect chance to get the Jets back, Robert Kraft illegally contacted Belichick and made a back-room deal to hire him as coach of New England.
Thus, a day after being named head coach, Belichick quit as HC of the NYJ (a famous phrase he put on napkin) at a press conference that was supposed to announce his hiring. For cheating and breaking the NFL rules on contacting employees of other teams, the Jets were rewarded the Patriots’ first round pick in 2000.
Now that you know the story, what really bothered me about “The Two Bills” was the Jets being the laughing stock of all this.
It seems so fitting knowing the Jets, that they had the biggest hand in creating the Patriots dynasty because of their dysfunction and dumb luck. There would have been no Belichick to New England if Leon Hess didn’t die and create such instability in the Jets’ ownership.
There would be no Tom Brady (at least not when he originally came along) unless Jets linebacker Mo Lewis didn’t knockout Drew Bledsoe on September 23, 2001 and open the door to the greatest quarterback of all-time. That led to eight Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl titles. The ultimate kick in the pants is the fact that the greatest coach in NFL history was TWICE named head coach of the Jets, but never coached a game for them.
What made the documentary even more gut-wrenching to Jets fans though, was after the interviews were over, the producer wanted “The Bills” to tour the Jets’ locker room like they did the Giants’ (after all, they spent three seasons together with the Jets). However, Parcells first, then Belichick after, both didn’t want to do it. Just another slap in the face to the Jets organization.
Parcells did explain this, per Rich Cimini of ESPN, but to viewers who didn’t see this article, it just looks bad.
Someday this franchise will rise and make everyone that has dismissed them eat their words.