Palm Beach, Fla. – Could Bill Parcells be coming back to the sidelines again?
The former Giants, Jets, Patriots and Cowboys coach admitted yesterday he has been in regular contact with suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton, but declined to say whether the two have discussed the idea of Parcells taking over coaching chores for the team in 2012.
Payton was suspended for the entire season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who ruled that the head coach failed to stop the team from running a bounty system from the 2009-11 seasons. It is uncertain whether Payton plans to appeal the suspension, although he said in a statement issued on Friday through the team that he took full responsibility for not stepping in to stop the bounty system run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
ESPN reported that Payton had consulted with Parcells about the idea of coaching the team during the suspension. Parcells, who attended yesterday’s Mets-Cardinals exhibition game in Jupiter, Fla., said he has spoken to Payton regularly since the suspension was announced last Wednesday. But the former head coach called any discussion about him taking over in 2012 as “hypothetical.”
“I have said that Sean Payton has spoken to me about the situation, but he’s really sought my counsel,” Parcells said. “This is going back to [when the suspension] first happened. That’s really the extent of it.”
When asked directly whether there had been any discussion about coaching the Saints, Parcells replied, “Not really, no. I think everything is hypothetical at this point. It would be hard to be interested in something I don’t know exists yet.”
In a later telephone interview with Newsday, Parcells said that he had spoken with Payton several times since the suspension was issued. Payton is expected to address the owners and talk to reporters at some point this week. He has only issued a statement through the team regarding his role in the bounty scandal.
Parcells would not discuss whether the two had spoken about any potential coaching vacancy. But Parcells, 70, did say that he has turned down two coaching opportunities since he stepped down from the Cowboys after the 2006 season. Parcells declined to name the teams that had reached out to him.
Parcells also said he has not been contacted with Saints officials other than Payton. The team declined to comment on the news that Payton spoke to Parcells about coaching in 2012. It is believed, however, that the team would not want Payton selecting the coach who would replace him during the suspension. The team is reportedly considering three in-house candidates to take over for Payton: defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and offensive coach Aaron Kromer.
If the Saints did hire Parcells – even on an interim basis – they would first have to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate. Also complicating Parcells’ situation is the possibility that Payton will appeal his suspension and possibly have it reduced.
It is uncertain whether Payton will file an appeal to have his punishment reduced. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said yesterday that no appeal has been filed. Payton’s agent, Don Yee, said in a statement Monday that no decision has been made on an appeal.
Parcells also said he was concerned that returning to coach might imperil his chances at being selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Parcells was a Hall of Fame finalist last year, but was not selected. If he were to return to the sidelines, he would have to wait at least another five years to be considered for the Hall of Fame. A rule recently enacted requires that coaches be retired for at least five years before being considered for the Hall of Fame.
“Of course I think about that,” Parcells said. “I can’t worry about it, because that’s worrying about something that might never happen. Was I disappointed I didn’t get in the Hall of Fame? Yes, but I’m way over that now. I’m past it now.”