NEW ORLEANS — Bill Parcells was a winner everywhere he coached. Time and time again, he took over struggling franchises and showed them what it takes to be a success, including a pair of Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.
Parcells pulled off another victory Saturday — election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Getting in on his fourth try, Parcells led an induction class that also included mouthy defensive lineman Warren Sapp, prolific receiver Cris Carter and a pair of stalwarts from the trenches, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen.
Almost as noteworthy were the finalists who didn’t get in, including running back Jerome Bettis and owners Art Modell and Edward DeBartolo Jr. Players and coaches from the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, spent all week lobbying for Modell, their former owner who died last year, to claim a place in the hall.
It didn’t work out, no doubt pleasing fans in Cleveland who remain bitter about Modell moving the original Browns to Baltimore.
Parcells had to wait a while, earning a bust in Canton on his fourth try. He thought he might get in the previous year in tandem with one of his former players, Curtis Martin.
“It was a little less stressful than last year,” Parcells said in a telephone interview from Florida. “I was kind of hoping we could do it together, but as fate would have it, it didn’t work out.”
Giants president and CEO John Mara said Parcells‘ selection for the hall was “long overdue,” but his candidacy stirred plenty of debate — a one-hour discussion among the selection committee members, by far the longest amount of time dedicated to any finalist.
“He’s one of the best coaches in NFL history,” Mara said. “He turned our franchise around. We went through a long period in the 1960’s and 70’s when we were a laughingstock. When Bill took over in 1983, he survived a very difficult first year, but then turned us into a perennial playoff contender and won two Super Bowls for us. He coached three other teams and everywhere he went, he had great success.”
No one was more emotional than Carter, who took six years to get in despite putting up some of the best receiving numbers in NFL history. He broke down in tears but quickly pointed out “it’s not because I’m sad.”
“This is the happiest day of my life,” he said. “When people said, ‘Aw, you know, it really doesn’t matter, you’re a Hall of Famer in my eyes,’ I said, ‘It’s more important that I’m a Hall of Famer in the Hall’s eyes.’ And I really, really wanted this. “
Sapp said his stomach was churning all day.
He doesn’t have to fret anymore. Next stop, Canton.