NDIANAPOLIS -- I Somebody asks me what I think of Bill Parcells and without thinking much I blurt, “A real grouch, but boy could he coach.”
But that’s what I meant, so why take it back?
So he was a grouch and so he could coach. Any way you slice it, he should roll into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday’s first ballot.
Here we go, handicapping this Hall election:
• No. 1 Bill Parcells.
“When you work for Bill Belichick,” says Parcells’ old Patriots offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, who takes over Monday as Penn State’s head coach, “there’s only one cook in the kitchen. The rest of us are just dishwashers.”
Same went for Parcells. He’s a totally singular guy — always the boss, always the spokesman. Any assistant who didn’t understand that just didn’t work for Parcells very long.
He coached only five losing seasons out of 19 as an NFL head coach. He simply wouldn’t put up with losing, the way Vince Lombardi and Don Shula wouldn’t.
• No. 2 Tim Brown.
Mystery to me why Brown hasn’t been elected before, because he’s been eligible a long time. He was greased lightning, with 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards. Imagine taking the ball that far that often. A singular talent who was also lucky to be in Al Davis’ employ for 16 years.
• No. 3 Curtis Martin.
He’ll have the support of a relatively sizeable voting contingent from the New York/New Jersey. He’ll need it against a rich field, because I’m a little higher on him than most of the selectors. Anybody who reeled off more than 17,000 yards — that’s 170 times up and down the field — qualifies in spades.
• No. 4 Cortez Kennedy.
I may be a little higher on Kennedy than some other selectors, but I go back more than 20 years with him, to when he was terrorizing Miami Hurricanes opponents. Eight Pro Bowls, that’s a ton, and earned every single one of ’em.
• No. 5 Chris Doleman.
Here’s another guy I may rate a little higher than some others will. I thought he was great at Pitt before he ever joined the Vikings. Only three players ever collected more sacks than Doleman’s 150 1/2. That’s a gang of one-man gang-tackling.
• No. 6 Kevin Greene.
Another quarterback tormentor. He walked on at Auburn and never walked on a field again. He was always charging, always punishing, always frothing at the mouth. Made the 1990s All-Decades Team, as well he should have.
• No. 7 Jerome Bettis.
They called him The Bus but I never rode one that went that berserk. You had to tackle him or risk having your head torn off. I simply can’t imagine why he made All-Pro only twice, in 1993 and ’96. There never was a more powerful runner unless maybe Bronko Nagurski, and believe it or not, I don’t go back quite that far.
• No. 8 Cris Carter.
So I’m a little prejudiced because I so enjoyed Carter’s 2002 with the Dolphins even though he played only five games. Thought he was one of the most expressive guys to play the game, and he went 16 seasons, which is forever and a day in the NFL.
• No. 9 Dermontti Dawson.
Any All-Pro team Dawson didn’t make from 1993 through ’98 was hardly worth making. A star for 13 seasons, he was the center who paved so many roads for Bettis.
• No. 10 Andre Reed.
We’re getting into dangerous territory where you low-rate a guy at your peril. Any receiving records Reed didn’t set with Buffalo weren’t worth claiming. Name a better fourth-round pick than this Kutztown State University product.
• No. 11 Dick Stanfel.
This is a name that has faded into the mists of times, but he made All-Pro five times in seven seasons as an undersized 236-pound offensive guard. When he pulled out to block, cornerbacks scrambled for cover.
• No. 12 Willie Roaf.
The Saints took him as the first offensive lineman in the 1993 draft and never regretted it. A 300-pounder who blocked like a road paver. First-team All-Pro seven times.
• No. 13 Charles Haley.
This bristly gent is the only player ever to win five Super Bowls, two with the 49ers and the rest with the Cowboys. A very nasty sort, not exactly what you’d expect from James Madison University.
• No. 14 Aeneas Williams.
They must have known he’d be a load when they named him Aeneas Demetrious Williams. He was all of that through eight Pro Bowls. A world-class person as well as player.
• No. 15 Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
I’m probably selling him a little short, this low, but the only Hall I think owners should be in is the Hall of Big Bucks. However, DeBartolo was as smart as he needed to be when he hired Bill Walsh to coach.
• No. 16 Jack Butler.
Great interceptor. Great tackler. What else is there for a cornerback?
• No. 17 Will Shields.
Started every game as a Chiefs guard for 14 seasons. This is way too low to rate him, but the competition is terrific in this Hall field.