The Tuna: Super Bowl XXXI Distraction

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The story was published in the Providence Journal on January, 22, 1993.  The headline: “Patriots tap Parcells to be savior; Ex-Giant leader: Back to his roots”.  Parcells would be taking over a franchise that had only won two games the previous season.  The team needed an identity and Parcells would quickly give the team purpose.  “I started my coaching career here in New England (linebacker coach in 1980) and I am going to end it here.  This will be my last coaching job,” Parcells said.


Photo courtesy of bostonblobe.com

Parcells was coming off a two year layoff from coaching the New York Giants where he went 80-49-1.  They made the playoffs five times, won eight of 11 postseason games and were a two-time Super Bowl Champion.  “The Patriots have convinced me they are willing and able to bring a championship-caliber team to New England.  That was my only concern during our discussions.  I have no reservations on that now.  If I did, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”  

After three seasons of building a coaching staff, drafting young talented football players and creating a new program in New England the Patriots were on to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. 

The Patriots were led to the big game by Drew Bledsoe, Curtis Martin, Terry Glenn, Chris Slade, Willie McGinnest and Ty Law.  Parcells and his coaching staff were preparing for the Super Bowl to be played at the Louisiana Super Dome against the Green Bay Packers.  “I want to improve the Patriots to the point where we can compete for a championship,” said Parcells at his 1993 introduction.  “I pledge to the fans and the players that I won’t rest until we approach that goal.”  Parcells followed through on his word, the team was about to play in the biggest game. 

While the Patriots were preparing for the Green Bay Packers, Parcells had some things going on off the field.  Parcells had one year left on his deal with the Patriots following the Super Bowl, but his relationship with Robert Kraft was deteriorating.  Parcells was stripped of some personnel power prior to the ’96 Draft,  Parcells wanted a defensive lineman but Kraft wanted a receiver and instructed Bobby Grier to draft the Ohio State product. 

“If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries”, said Parcells in one of the most famous quotes in team history.  The two huge egos would clash and Parcells was debating retirement, again.  However rumors were swirling around the league leading up to the Super Bowl that Parcells was entertaining leaving the Patriots to head back to New York.  This time it would be to coach the Jets and not the Giants.  The Jets needed a new direction similar to the Patriots back in 1993 when they hired Parcells.  The team needed a new head coach and reportedly no-one else was interviewed, this would lead speculation that they were interested in the Tuna. 

While the Parcells drama off the field was unfolding there was a Super Bowl to be played.  The Patriots were underdogs heading into the game, a game where Packers quarterback Brett Favre struck first for his team with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison.  Bledsoe was picked off in the first quarter by defensive back Doug Evans and running back Dorsey Levens set them up for another score.  The Packers kicked a field goal and lead 10-0.  

The Patriots took the lead in the first quarter.  Bledsoe threw touchdown passes to Keith Byars and tight end Ben Coates and scored 14 unanswered points.  The lead for the Patriots would be short lived as the Packers went on a run.  Favre threw an 81-yard touchdown to Antonio Freeman.  The Packers would go on to a 27-14 lead at the half.  The Patriots scored after the half to cut the lead down to 27-21, but then the nail in the coffin happened. 

On the ensuing kickoff following the Patriots touchdown, Desmond Howard brought the pigskin to the house, returning it 99 yards and then the two-point conversion gave the Packers a 35-21 lead, which would end up the final score.  

This would be the last visit to the Super Bowl for the Patriots until the 2001 NFL season.  Following the Super Bowl, Parcells left the Patriots and headed to the Jets.  But not right away though, he was still under contract and Kraft wasn’t going to let his head coach go for nothing. 

The Jets hired Bill Belichick as their next head football coach but brought Parcells to the team as an “advisor”.  The only way the Jets could essentially circumvent the rules to bring Parcells to the Meadowlands was to hire him as an advisor.  The Patriots threatened to sue Parcells and the Jets, and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue mediated a deal between both teams.  Kraft was adamant about acquiring the Jets No.1 pick but the Jets weren’t interested in such a deal. 

The Patriots would end up releasing Parcells from his contract for a third and fourth-round draft pick that season, a second-round pick the year after and a first-round pick after that.  Parcells went to the Jets and earned complete control over the organization, but he would not see the success he had in the past. 

The Tuna, love him or hate him, helped take a franchise that was known for losing to a Super Bowl.  He drafted the foundation of the franchise that would also contribute to future championships for the team in the early ’00’s. 

"This isn't about power and who picks who and who does that.  It's not about that.  We just have a little philosophical difference," Parcells said.  "Bob owns the team and he has every right to run the team exactly the way he wants to run it.  I personally have no problem with that." 

Parcells set the tone for the Patriots, but five years later Bill Belichick would do all the grocery shopping and a dynasty would begin. 



Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Tuna: Super Bowl XXXI Distraction
The Tuna: Super Bowl XXXI Distraction
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