Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.


It was the worst kind of Tuna surprise. Bill Parcells, not a Hall of Famer?

It doesn't seem possible, but so it was decreed Saturday by the 44 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, most of whom I respect and many of whom are old friends.

Sorry, guys and gals, you got this one wrong.

Parcells' candidacy will live to see another day, and he figures to make it eventually. I think.

But there is no good reason to wait on a legacy that includes two Super Bowl victories, three conference titles and the distinction of taking four franchises to the playoffs.

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Then there's this: After Super Bowl XLVI, the Parcells tree will have produced eight head-coaching rings once Bill Belichick or Tom Coughlin adds to those already won by them, Parcells and Sean Payton.

I could go on, but what's the point? All you need to know about the inconsistency at work here is that Marv Levy has a bust in Canton despite being a bust in the Super Bowl.

Career total of championships: zero, unless you count his two in the CFL.

Levy, a spry 86, is a nice enough fellow, but not nice enough to prevent me from cornering him after the selection show and asking about Parcells.

Does he think Tuna should be on the Canton menu? "That is an unqualified yes, honestly,'' he said.

Was he surprised he didn't make it? "I certainly had an inclination that Bill would be one of the inductees,'' Levy said. "So I feel bad for him. He's a fine coach, a fine person.''

By the way, Parcells went 4-1 in the playoffs against the Hall of Fame coaches from his prime -- Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh and Levy.

Hall of Famers are not required or encouraged to reveal their votes, and they are forbidden from discussing what went on during their deliberations.

But I do know the debate was long and strong and I have a pretty good idea that New York-area scribes on the panel were pro-Tuna, including Newsday's Bob Glauber, who presented the case for Parcells.

Beyond that, it's difficult to say what went wrong. Ira Miller of The Sports Xchange, a long-time voter I assumed was against Parcells' candidacy, said he voted for him in the cut from 10 to five and would have again if he had made it that far. But he shed light on some of the concerns about Parcells, including his often awkward transitions from one team to another, notably from the Patriots to the Jets after the 1996 season.

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"He's not a slam dunk, but he's a very strong candidate,'' Miller said. "He's done some things I don't like. He's also done some terrific things in coaching.''

There is little doubt that Parcells' abrasive personality and less-than-graceful behavior hurt his chances. They shouldn't have. Heck, I never have met the guy but always have disliked him from afar. So what?

Facts are facts. He was a resurrector of franchises and a towering, charismatic figure for more than a quarter-century, as demonstrated by the tumult that surrounded each of his coaching moves.

The backlash over the Parcells snub should help him get in down the road. Curtis Martin started the chorus upon being named to the Class of 2012, immediately announcing that he would ask Parcells to present him.

One of Parcells' standard lines when reporters got overly excited about a young player was "Don't go putting him in Canton yet.''

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Parcells is 70 and clearly is done with coaching. The time for putting him in Canton was now.