- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

ESPN announced today that former Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells will join its studio crew for “Monday Night Countdown” and other NFL-related shows. He’ll also co-host an ESPN radio show with NFL reporter Chris Mortensen.

This is a big, but not unexpected hire for ESPN, which had employed Parcells during his last “retirement” from coaching in 2002. With Parcells now likely out of the NFL coaching ranks for good, he may be a mainstay of ESPN’s coverage of the NFL for years to come.

“I really like ESPN because of the people I’m going to be working with,” Parcells said. “I have a very good relationship with them.”

The Big Tuna may claim to be friendly with everyone at ESPN, but let’s be honest: most of the time we saw Parcells the Coach interacting with an ESPN reporter or any other media member, he was wearing a big scowl on his face.

I’ve never met Parcells and have never covered the NFL, but it’s no secret that as a coach he treated the media — ESPN included — with about as much love and patience as the neighbor’s dog.

Moving from coaching to the broadcast booth is a common thing, and it’s clear based on Parcells’ success in the league that he knows a lot about football and will do a good job. (Most people agree he was superb during his earlier stint.)

But there’s something about these types of hires that tends to irk people who cover sports.

Mortensen may have managed to forge a good relationship with Parcells, and I have no doubt their radio show will be one of the best on the air. But this probably won’t sit particularly well with a lot of NFL reporters.

Everyone has a right to make a living, but I recall a symposium I attended recently featuring a panel of several high-profile sports reporters. One long-time reporter for a major network said that he was always peeved to see certain coaches land these kinds of broadcasting gigs. In his view, any media organization that was treated with disdain by a coach or player shouldn’t turn around and give that same guy a high-profile position and paycheck. He even called out his own employer for some of their recent hires.

Of course, not everyone feels that Parcells falls into this category. David Elfin, who covers the NFL here at The Washington Times, says he has no problem with the hiring.

“I’m fine with Bill Parcells going back to the media,” Elfin said. “He always did what he had to do with the media and was always very quotable. I wish he had let us talk to his assistants and that he attended the media sessions at the league meetings, but he has always been a fascinating interview unlike so many of his former competitors.”

Parcells yesterday acknowledged that his dealings with the media weren’t always smooth, but insisted he never tried to make anyone’s life miserable.

“I have a lot of fun with the media,” Parcells said. “I don’t have any qualms at all. I realized a long time ago that the media has a job to do and it doesn’t have to be as adversarial as it is in some places.”

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