As he prepares for one of the greatest honors he’ll receive, Bill Parcells can’t help but look back with regret at a moment which cast a section of his career in a negative light.
Parcells told Jim Corbett of USA Today that he wished he’d have handled things differently with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, perhaps avoiding the ugly divorce after the 1996 season.
“I regret leaving New England. Had we done things differently, . . . ” Parcells said. “I had a good young team there. I hated to leave that team, because I knew what we could do.
“I was absolutely too headstrong. And he might have been a little headstrong, too. I think both Kraft and myself, retrospectively, would have done things a little differently.”
For all the games and championships won, there are those who remember Parcells as a jumper, a man with loyalty only to himself. The fact he was negotiating with the Jets for a deal that would send him to a division rival before coaching the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI is the first piece of evidence his critics use to establish that.
But Kraft said the two buried the hatchet about 10 years ago, acknowledging he had a role in the split as well.
“Look, I was a new owner,” Kraft said. “I had a lot of debt. I had stardust in my eyes. I had a Hall of Fame coach. I was green and new. And I don’t think Bill had ever dealt with someone like myself. He had a contract that said he’d coach year to year. And that didn’t make me feel secure. . . .
“I think we would have been a great team together at a different time, me understanding what I understand now, this being my 20th season as an owner, and him being seasoned. I wish it could have worked out differently.”
The Patriots got back on their feet, winning three Super Bowls under Parcells disciple Bill Belichick. And Parcells is about to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But the thoughts of what might have been still run strong, as that chapter changed the course franchises beyond Boston.