Bill Belichick is getting ready to try to win his sixth Super Bowl with the Patriots. But a victory at Super Bowl LII would actually earn Belichick his eighth Super Bowl ring, as he won two as defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells with the Giants.
The long relationship between Belichick and Parcells is explored in the new 30 for 30 documentary The Two Bills, which premieres on ESPN on February 1. It details the decades-long relationship with the two men, which started when Belichick applied for a job on Parcells’ staff at Air Force, moved to Belichick working for Parcells with the Giants, saw them coach against each other when Belichick was in Cleveland and Parcells was in New England, and then saw Belichick work for Parcells again with the Jets before leaving for the Patriots.
The documentary alternates back and forth between NFL Films footage of their time coaching in the 1980s and 1990s, and a recent joint interview the two men gave. Both men seem to agree that Parcells was the better coach when it came to relating to and motivating players, while Belichick was the superior strategist. Parcells credits Belichick for the game plans that shut down Bill Walsh’s offense in San Francisco and Joe Gibbs’ offense in Washington. Belichick says in the recent interview that he appreciates Parcells calling him aside from time to time and teaching him other aspects of being a head coach.
“I so appreciate what you did, Bill,” Belichick told Parcells. “Periodically I’d go into your office and you’d say, ‘I just want you to know what’s going on.’ . . . The draft, maybe a player’s got a discipline problem or a contract problem, when you’re a defensive coordinator you don’t know about all that, but Bill would tell me what’s going on. I really appreciate you doing that. It helped open my eyes to some things that I really wasn’t playing much attention to.”
Belichick and Parcells also have a remarkably detailed memory of game plans. They both could recall exactly how Belichick proposed running the dime as the base defense to stop the Lions’ run and shoot offense in 1990, and how Parcells thought running the dime as a base defense was ridiculous. And then they simultaneously smiled as they remembered how the Giants ended up beating the Lions 20-0.
Parcells controversially jumped from the Patriots to the Jets in 1997, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft says in the documentary that the NFL basically allowed the Jets to get away with tampering with Parcells. Kraft, who would later feud with the league office over Deflategate, first began to question the integrity of the league office over its handling of the Parcells transition.
“It also told me that the league office was not as pure as I might have thought,” Kraft said. “I think the league office tacitly blessed it and told them how to do it.”
For his part, Parcells sounds regretful, wondering if he could have lasted as long in New England and had the same success as Belichick if only he would have developed a better rapport with Kraft.
“If I had just been a little bit smarter about it and a little bit more diplomatic I think it probably would have worked out. Maybe not to the extent it did for Bill, but I think it could have worked out better,” Parcells said.
That “maybe not” is an extraordinary admission from Parcells. He’s a Hall of Fame coach, but he has to admit that in the end, his protege Belichick has had even greater success. Parcells sounds both proud of that and a little jealous, as a competitor who always wanted to be the best. That’s the kind of relationship the two Bills had.