Josh McDaniels, Bill Parcells, and Changes of Heart

The football world is abuzz about McDaniels’ decision not to coach the Colts

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches from the sideline during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

With Josh McDaniels changing his mind at seemingly the last minute and choosing not to take the head coach opening with the Indianapolis Colts, NFL experts are up in arms.  The logic goes, in spurning the Colts the Bill Belichick assistant has burned an awful lot of bridges.

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The fallout from McDaniels’ change of heart has become intense, but there are a few instances of a coach changing his mind at the eleventh hour and leaving a team in the lurch.  In those instances, it did not seem to impact that coach’s career very much.

New York Giants coach Bill Parcells is carried on the shoulders of Lawrence Taylor (56) and Carl Banks (58) after winning the Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 28, 1991. The Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20-19. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

After winning his second Super Bowl with the New York Giants, Bill Parcells went into what turned out to be a temporary retirement from coaching.  The retirement lasted two seasons, but it almost didn’t last that long.  After the 1991 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned their head coaching search to Parcells.

There was a handshake agreement between Parcells and Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, and Culverhouse had arranged for a press conference to introduce the new Buccaneers coach.  It was then that Parcells decided, likely wisely, to not work with Culverhouse.

“I feel like I’ve been jilted at the altar,” Culverhouse said at the time.  Tampa Bay was of course miserable at the time, as they were for most of Culverhouse’s tenure as the franchise’s owner.  It’s likely that he was the cause of Parcells’ change of heart, much the way he was the cause of Bo Jackson’s decision to not sign with the Buccaneers after the 1986 NFL Draft.

Still, the fact remains that Bill Parcells had agreed in principle to sign on with the Buccaneers as a head coach.  The situation was very similar to the situation the Colts find themselves in right now.  A handshake agreement turned into a deal that fell apart at the last minute.  The Buccaneers walked away upset with Parcells and upset at the situation.

Since 1992, Parcells went on to continue a great career.  No bridges of significance were burned.  The Big Tuna found a job the very next year, taking over the New England Patriots with ownership seemingly unconcerned about his about-face in Tampa.  After reaching a Super Bowl with New England, the New York Jets stretched the NFL rules to bring in Parcells as an advisor, then giving him the head coach job when Bill Belichick quit the Jets just hours after being hired.

Parcells would go on to retire for a second time.  Like the first, it didn’t take.  The Dallas Cowboys moved mountains to get Parcells to Dallas.  When he didn’t succeed on a grand level with the Cowboys, Parcells moved into a front office position with the Miami Dolphins.

In other words, Bill Parcells was punished for burning bridges with four more high-paying NFL positions.

Bill Belichick, who became the New York Jets head coach when Bill Parcells resigned Monday Jan. 3, 2000, abruptly resigned the position during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2000, at the Jets training complex in Hempstead, N.Y. Belichick quit Tuesday as coach of the New York Jets, one day after being elevated to the position. Belichick insisted he is not burned out after 25 years in pro coaching, but he said the uncertainty surrounding his place in the organization dictated his decision. (AP Photo/John Dunn)

Part of that Parcells saga involves the other famous instance of a head coach turning down a team when it was essentially too late for them to do so.

After three years of Parcells coaching the Jets, he decided to step down.  He did this with the understanding that the Jets would hire his top assistant, Bill Belichick, as their next head coach.  The Jets complied with this.  Belichick was named the next head coach and the Jets arranged a press conference for the next day.

When Bill Belichick arrived at the press conference, he immediately scribbled a resignation on a sheet of paper and announced in front of the New York area media that he would not continue as the Jets’ head coach.  His tenure officially lasted a day.

Belichick’s move is a bit more brazen than what Parcells did or what McDaniels just did.  While those two backed out at the last minute, Belichick waited until after the last minute.  Rather than turn down the Jets, he resigned after a day.

For this, Belichick was punished in that he was not punished one bit.  He would go on to take the head coach position with the New England Patriots, who he proceeded to take to eight Super Bowls.

All this suggests that Josh McDaniels’ coaching career might not be adversely impacted by his decision to not go to Indianapolis.

McDaniels, after all, is a branch on Belichick’s coaching tree.  Belichick turned out fine after what he did to the Jets, and his mentor Bill Parcells had no problem finding work after doing the same thing to the Bucs.

If anything, this might suggest bigger problems with the Colts than previously imagined.  In Parcells’ case, he was turning down Hugh Culverhouse more than the city of Tampa or the Buccaneers’ players.  Jim Irsay may have said or done something that rubbed McDaniels the wrong way.

Reports indicate that the Patriots made a last-ditch effort to keep McDaniels around, which says a lot about the offensive coordinator being that it comes from a team known for making everybody expendable.  Robert Kraft was, according to tweets, set on keeping McDaniels around.

It is unlikely that any promises were made about future opportunities.  For one, Bill Belichick doesn’t seem like the type to set a retirement date in advance.  Beyond that, it’s unlikely that Belichick takes much stock in anyone being the “coach in waiting,” since he was with the Jets and didn’t take the job in the end.

What we know, and likely the most we’ll know, is that McDaniels had a change of heart, the Colts are upset at the Patriots, and the Patriots are generally unbothered by accusations of wrongdoing.

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One thing is certain:  When the Colts and Patriots play again, we will hear a lot about this.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.