Friends to the end? Parcells, Belichick share secrets
IRVING, Texas -- Two longtime football coaches were talking this summer about the way things used to be, back when they worked together and really pushed their players.
They lamented how much more coddling is done these days, especially in training camp. So they decided to do something about it. One said he was going back to the old way; the other said he'd do the same.
That might not seem like a remarkable tale, except that the conversation was between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
And it was one of what's becoming a routine series of calls between them.
"Hey, he's a guy I think a lot of," Parcells said Tuesday. "It's a good sounding board, that's all. I'm probably using him right now more than he's using me."
The two Bills haven't talked about each other much since Belichick left Parcells and the New York Jets behind six years ago, dissolving a succession plan that was put in writing, ruining what many thought was more than a working relationship.
Belichick has gone on to win three Super Bowls, one more than Parcells. If that alone didn't rankle the Big Tuna, then talk of Belichick winning without Parcells but Parcells never winning without Belichick probably did.
Time apparently heals everything, as might the fact that Parcells' son-in-law, Scott Pioli, is the vice president of player personnel for the New England Patriots. Whatever the reason, the lines of communication are open and the coaches who've combined to win 25 percent of the Super Bowls over the last two decades may even have each other on speed dial.
"I have talked to him say four, five times in the last month," Parcells said. "We just talk. It doesn't take long to get to the point. One of us has something to ask we just go right to it. I called the other day and I called him back the next morning to ask him another 30-second question about something that he was doing."
Parcells said he's bouncing off Belichick things like how many players at each position should make the 53-man roster.
"He knows what my problems are," Parcells said. "He knows the whole numbers on our defense with scheme and what do we have to keep here ... offenses are similar, too. It's someone to talk to about, 'What are you going to do here?' and 'What are you thinking about there?"'
One of their conversations earlier this summer was about practices. It was actually a question about Parcells' practice routine this preseason that led to his disclosure of his renewed ties to Belichick. Belichick already had spoken Tuesday and isn't scheduled to talk to reporters again until after a game Thursday night.
"I sat down with Bill Belichick this summer and we started talking about all this stuff we used to do," Parcells said. "He says, 'I used to get mad at you at the way you used to make us do this. Now I'm going to go do it.' He reminded me of a couple of things that we used to do."
Parcells said that over the years, coaches have become so concerned about players not getting injured in preseason that they've forgotten the No. 1 objective: have players ready for the season.
"Sometimes," he said, "you forget that you have to coach them hard."
The reminder seems to be working. Dallas is 3-0 for the first time since 1985 and New England is 2-1. The Cowboys have given up the fewest points in the NFL preseason, while the Patriots have scored the second-most points and allowed the third fewest.
Sure, it's only the preseason, but it's a good indication their strategy is working -- like in their days together with the New York Giants, Patriots and Jets.
"I've always run a pretty hard camp," Parcells said. "But I'd say this year's camp was harder."
It's still going on, too. The Cowboys left California on Aug. 20, yet Parcells has retained a training-camp approach. For instance, there were two practices Tuesday.
"It's definitely the most challenging camp I've been a part of," said right guard Marco Rivera, in his second season in Dallas and 11th in the NFL. "Coach keeps saying to us we're battle-hardened because of this camp. It's true. If we do the work here, the games are fun."
Parcells also is planning to shake up his schedule during the season. Players on the fringe of the roster will get less work on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays -- which means more snaps for veterans.
That's actually part of a bigger change that involves scrapping the 21st century approach of "more shorter segments, quicker work, and then on to something else," rotating the emphasis between the offense and defense.
"I'm going back to where you're going to have to stick it out," Parcells said. "I just think that helps the mental toughness of your team. That's what Bill and I really were talking about. He told me that's what he was going to do. He asked me what I've been doing and I told him, 'I'm doing the same thing as you."'
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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