Parcells spurns Falcons, close to deal with Dolphins

Updated: December 20, 2007, 5:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bill Parcells will not be joining the Atlanta Falcons as head of football operations, but he didn't have to wait long for another offer.

Parcells told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Wednesday night that a deal to become the Miami Dolphins' vice president of football operations is still being finalized, but he expects to sign a contract on Thursday.

Parcells said that he has not yet signed anything. However, as ESPN has been reporting, the two sides have the framework in place for a four-year deal.

Parcells told Mortensen that the impetus for the former Giants, Jets, Patriots, and Cowboys coach seriously considering overtures from the Dolphins came this morning when team owner Wayne Huizenga told him that he no longer intended to sell the team. Miami has had conversations with Parcells for the past two weeks.

According to a statement from Atlanta owner Arthur Blank on Wednesday, the team had an agreement in principle with Parcells, but after he told the Falcons he was considering a similar offer from the Dolphins, negotiations fell through.

According to Mortensen and ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, Dolphins sources say it's unlikely that Parcells' deal with Miami will fall through as it did with the Falcons.

The Dolphins and Parcells had dialogue almost two weeks ago about the job, but the deal was put on ice when Huizenga seriously entertained offers for the sale of his franchise, sources said. Huizenga has assured Parcells that he will remain in control of the team, according to a Dolphins official. That was the dramatic development that altered his course with Atlanta.

"We gave it our best shot, and it didn't work out. We will continue down the same overall path, proceeding with plans to hire a general manager and a head coach. We will identify and consider every strongly viable candidate for these positions, with the goal of hiring the best," Blank said, according to a statement.

Parcells, an ESPN NFL analyst, was considering an offer to join the team's front office as vice president of football operations, a role that would put him in charge of finding the next coach for a team rocked by the suspension and imprisonment of Michael Vick and the sudden resignation of Bobby Petrino.

The announcement that talks broke down with Parcells leaves the makeup of the Falcons' front office, and their search for a replacement for Petrino, in question.

Pasquarelli: Falcons fishing

Barring some glitch in negotiations, the owner of The Fish seems to have reeled in The Tuna leaving Falcons owner Arthur Blank once again staring at an empty net, writes Len Pasquarelli. Story

• Pasquarelli: Falcons were hot on Parcells' trail in '87

The announcement was a far cry from earlier Wednesday, when Parcells told Mortensen that he was leaning toward accepting the Falcons' offer.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to do it. [Owner] Arthur [Blank] and I have had some pretty constructive discussions. I basically will oversee the football operations. We'll meet today -- not in Atlanta -- and work out some of the final details but I don't think there's any deal breakers here," Parcells said earlier.

According to the statement, Rich McKay will remain president of the club and will retain general manager responsibilities until a new GM is hired.

Regarding McKay, who was given full power of football operations in a six-year contract signed in December 2003, Blank indicated the GM won't be around much longer.

"We will continue down the same overall path, proceeding with plans to hire a general manager and a head coach," Blank said. "We will identify and consider every strongly viable candidate for these positions, with the goal of hiring the best."

Blank added that the Falcons remain committed to "looking at every option for building a championship-caliber team for our fans.

"I have stated we will leave no stone unturned in doing so, and this effort is one example of that," Blank said.

The courtship with Parcells may have no real effect on the team's search for a new coach. The Falcons are expected to wait at least until the end of the regular season to begin serious talks with candidates.

Though Parcells reportedly wasn't interested in becoming an NFL head coach for the fifth time, running back Warrick Dunn and tight end Alge Crumpler said his presence in the front office likely would have brought credibility to a scorned locker room and boosted a dwindling fan base.

Both players seemed encouraged that Blank approached successful, no-nonsense authority figures such as Parcells or former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

"What we need here is stability," Dunn said. "This team still has a lot of good football players, but it's been a wasted year. Everything that could've gone wrong either went wrong or completely blew up. A guy like Bill Parcells has a reputation for building a structure in place so that everybody is accountable to the team."

Crumpler thought Parcells or Cowher would use an approach that his first coach, Dan Reeves, used in their three years together. When Reeves was fired in December 2003, Crumpler was relieved that his successor, Jim Mora, also had an open line of communication with veteran players.

Mora led the Falcons to just their second NFC title game in his first season, but Blank fired him on Jan. 1 after missing the playoffs two straight years.

"Just tell me what the deal is, and that's it," Crumpler said. "As older guys, that's all we ask."

The Dolphins declined comment, only saying no contract was signed, and no one at Huizenga's business office was authorized to comment when reached Wednesday evening by The Associated Press.

Miami's players were also caught off-stride by the news, which broke after they finished practice.

"I don't know anything," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

So, for the second time in less than a week, an off-field story is dominating the conversation at Miami's training complex.

The first revelation came last Friday: Huizenga has been in talks about selling the team to two real estate developers for about $1.1 billion, although it seems that deal has since unraveled and there's no immediate plans by the owner to sell even a portion of the franchise.

And now this: Parcells, who previously coached the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys, is apparently set to return to the NFL.

"Really?" defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said when told by The AP about Parcells' apparent interest in the Dolphins. "You can't control it. But somebody like the Big Tuna, regardless of who's in the front office or who's not, brings a lot of respect and a lot of credibility with him. ... If you're a free agent out there, that might draw you in."

When the Falcons announced Parcells turned them down -- while also releasing the details of his talks with the Dolphins -- several Miami players were playing cards and dominoes in the locker room.

Many immediately turned their attention to the television, seeking more information. Clearly, the mere mention of Parcells coming to Miami created an immediate buzz.

"I have a lot of respect for what he's been able to do in other places and I'd expect, if he did come in here, for him to do the same," Holliday said. "I don't know what's going to happen upstairs. I have no idea. I have a lot of respect for [GM] Randy Mueller, as well. But my interest is in what's best for this team and getting us in the right direction."

With his team mired in the longest playoff drought in franchise history -- six years and counting -- Huizenga has long sought different ways of doing exactly that. If that contract gets signed, bringing in the 66-year-old Parcells might wind up being the latest big Huizenga move.

In January 2004, he hired Miami's greatest player, Dan Marino, as senior vice president of football operations, a job created just for him. Marino resigned from the loosely defined role 22 days later, saying he didn't want to change his lifestyle.

Later that year, Huizenga hired coach Nick Saban away from LSU; he lasted only two seasons in Miami before bolting after the 2006 campaign to return to college football at Alabama.

"Bill Parcells," Holliday said, pausing and smiling. "That's a big name."

ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli, ESPN's Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.