LAST THURSDAY 66-year-old Bill Parcells signed a four-year contract to be the Dolphins' football czar, which raises two questions: What should we expect from Parcells in his role as chief talent evaluator? And, will the Tuna in the big corner office have as much juice with players as he did when he was on the sideline?
To answer the first question, look for Parcells to trade. He loves doing it. He hates sitting still on draft day. "I always knew I could trade with two people: Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells," says former Dallas and Miami coach Jimmy Johnson. "They never hesitate." At only one of his four coaching stops was Parcells also the final authority on draft day—with the Jets, where he called the shots from 1997 to 2000. One of his first moves on that job was to parlay the top pick in the '97 draft (which turned out to be All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace, who went to the Rams) into seven picks. The results—just as they are with many of Parcells's front-office moves—were mixed. His top selection that year, linebacker James Farrior, has been better in his six years in Pittsburgh than he was in five seasons as a part-time starter with the Jets. (Ironically, the best player from that deal was seventh-round defensive tackle Jason Ferguson.) Parcells dealt for four first-round picks in his final draft, in 2000, and again the haul was merely so-so: defensive ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham—who combined to make four Pro Bowl appearances—plus quarterback Chad Pennington and tight end Anthony Becht.
But before he has the chance to entertain thoughts of swapping what will likely be the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Parcells will probably need to hire a G.M. and a coach, as it's unlikely that the incumbents (Randy Mueller and Cam Cameron, respectively) will stay on after this year's disastrous one-win season. It's unclear who Parcells will go after, but don't expect him to install himself as coach.
When he was on the sideline, Parcells was often able to lean on a player and get him to perform better, as he did with quarterback Tony Romo and linebacker DeMarcus Ware in Dallas. But in his new job Parcells risks undermining his coach by calling someone out. And will the players even be affected by a front-office guy whose greatest accomplishments are so far in the past? One of the best Dolphins, running back Ronnie Brown, was nine years old when Parcells was last carried off a Super Bowl field, in 1991. Parcells has won three playoff games since. He may soon find that it's more difficult to inspire as much fealty from a locker room full of guys who never played for him as he did from Hall of Famers like Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson.