Bill Parcells has the perfect answer at the ready for the potentially thorny question of whether he has any rooting interest in Super Bowl XLVI. After all, he coached in Super Bowls for both teams, and both coaches vying for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Sunday's Giants-Patriots game are former Parcells assistants who have four Super Bowl titles between them.
"I will watch the game with interest," Parcells said with a laugh from his home in Jupiter, Fla. "I'm anxious to see what they're doing and how they go about approaching things. Both of those guys mean a great deal to me, and I'm happy for their success."
Parcells also will be happy to know that he has had a lasting imprint on both coaches, with Coughlin and Belichick citing tremendous admiration for their former boss. It is not difficult to see that their teams are built in a mode similar to Parcells' two championship teams with the Giants and his other Super Bowl appearance with New England.
Parcells and Belichick were together on the Giants' staff for both Super Bowl titles, combining to build a dominant defense. All three were together for the Giants' 1990 title run, with Belichick running the defense and Coughlin coaching the receivers.
Belichick is considered a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he steps away from the sideline, and Coughlin no doubt will receive strong consideration for a spot in Canton if he wins a second Super Bowl title. Parcells himself is eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame; the vote will be conducted Saturday and announced late that afternoon.
"Look, it's one of the greatest honors you could ever receive, and I would be humbled by it, but I understand the process," Parcells said. "It's one of those deals that would be very special to me."
Belichick believes Parcells should be a lock to get in.
"Absolutely. Bill has done a tremendous job in his time in the National Football League,'' Belichick said. "Bill has had a great influence on my career and me personally. I can't imagine he'd be left out of that group.''
There may be no better example of appreciating Parcells' legacy than Sunday's game, in which two of his former star pupils will compete for pro football's biggest prize at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be Coughlin's gritty Giants, who just sneaked into the playoffs at 9-7 and stayed on their late-season roll in the postseason, against Belichick's Patriots, who have won 10 straight behind future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and a defense that has been just resourceful enough to overcome injury and ineffectiveness, particularly in the secondary.
"The thing I admire mostly from Bill was the belief in continuity, the stability," Coughlin said of Parcells. "There were very few peaks and valleys. There was a feeling of pressure. The finger was always on the coaching staff and how they prepared their team and how the players responded to that. Ultimately, anyone who was around Parcells for any length of time learned how to win. That's the biggest thing I took away from it."
Coughlin was the Giants' receivers coach from 1988-90. Parcells remembers meeting him at the Senior Bowl in 1988 after former Eagles coach Marion Campbell, for whom Coughlin also worked, recommended him.
"Tom's a very hard worker, and he always has his teams prepared," Parcells said. "You can see that his teams are always hard-nosed, tough-minded, competitive teams. They fight hard and they play hard, and I think they're a reflection of what Tom Coughlin is all about."
Belichick was on the Giants' staff with Parcells when the two were assistants under Ray Perkins in 1981, and Parcells thought enough of Belichick, then a special-teams coach, to bring him on as defensive coordinator when he assumed the head-coaching job in 1983. The two worked together to perfect a 3-4 defense that now is one of the preferred strategic alignments throughout the league.
"I think Bill [Belichick] is a real smart guy, and he's done a great job over the years," Parcells said. "His record speaks for itself. I think the guy's tremendous."
Parcells may have trouble picking one coach over the other, but in some ways, he can't lose. At least one member of the Parcells coaching tree will win another Super Bowl.
"You're talking about two great coaches," Parcells said. "I'm just proud of both of them."