They say that time heals all wounds, and you need no further proof than the career of newest Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Duane Charles “Bill” Parcells. In the 20 short years since Parcells came to New England he went from Savior of the Franchise to Public Enemy No. 1 to Legend You Remember Fondly for All He Did. And I can’t imagine there’s a Patriots fan among us who isn’t glad Tuna got into Canton. Sure, things ended badly. But anyone who’s still holding a grudge is like one of those Japanese soldiers they were still finding in the ’50s who thought WWII was still going.
It’s hard to overstate how big a deal Parcells was in New England. When he hit town, the Pats were at their lowest point. In the Marianas Trench of a 30 year history that was mostly spent on rock bottom. They were coming off a 1-15 season. Involved in a major PR nightmare after Zeke Mowatt waved his junk in a female reporters face and owner Victor Kiam called her “a classic bitch.” The NFL forced Kiam out and in all likelihood the franchise was moving. Home games were practically empty and blackouts were the norm. But the moment Parcells signed on he gave the Pats instant credibility. I don’t know the exact numbers, but in a matter of days the team went from 20,000-something season tickets to a waiting list of over 60,000. In two years he had them in the playoffs. Two years after that he had them in the Super Bowl. And all along he dominated sports coverage in Boston like perhaps no one ever has. As Shakespeare said of Caesar, Tuna bestrode the narrow Earth like a colossus. For better or worse.
I say “worse” because so much of him dominating the news was the Parcells-Kraft soap opera, which was a bigger topic than anything that ever happened on the field. Every man, woman and child in New England knew Tuna was leaving at the end of the year and going to the Jets, but both sides had to act out this charade like it wasn’t happening. It was probably the most controversial, divisive topic in Boston since Forced Busing. Lines were drawn. Brother turned on brother. You were either on Team Bill or Team Robert; there was no “… and 3% are undecided.” Making it to the Super Bowl should’ve made the story go away but it only magnified it. Parcells and Mr. Kraft publicly tried to play nice and gave us some of the most excruciatingly awkward and unintentionally hilarious moments of all time. To a man, every player on Green Bay said they resented the whole Super Bowl week being dominated by Parcells talk and used it as motivation. And when Tuna famously skipped the team flight, then put on that dog & pony show in New York when Belichick was named the head coach but really Tuna would be the head coach, it seemed like we’d hold that grudge forever.
But naaah. It’s impossible to look at the big picture and not see what the big man-boobed Jerseyite did for Patriots football. Or shudder to think where we’d be if Parcells decided he’d rather hang at the horse track in Florida than come here and we kept having bum-of-the-year coaches like Dick MacPherson and Rod Rust. It wasn’t all a success. His record here was .500. He was openly contemptuous of the man who payed his salary and put up $170 million of his own money for the right to be his boss. He’s apparently the only person who ever lived who treated Mrs. Kraft like garbage. What he used to do to a pair of drawstring sweatpants bordered on criminal. And without Belichick on the sidelines he went to as many Super Bowls as your mom did. He wasn’t even a slam dunk to get into the Hall; the selection committee argued for an hour over his induction. But I think I speak for all Pats fans when I say I’m glad they did. Godspeed, Tuna. @JerryThornton1