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Friday, January 18
Updated: January 19, 3:02 PM ET
 
Parcells: 'I'm retired for good'

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Citing his inability to summon the level of commitment he knows is necessary to do the job right over the next four years, Bill Parcells apprised Tampa Bay Buccaneers ownership Friday evening that he is rejecting an offer to become head coach.

The two-time Super Bowl champion coach, who retired from the sideline after the New York Jets' 1999 season, was expected to be introduced as the successor to Tony Dungy next Tuesday during a press conference tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.

Fri, January 18
The Glazers, the Bucs' owners, have egg on their faces. You donít let a coach like Tony Dungy escape unless you have Bill Parcells locked in place.

I can't help but think that something smells awfully fishy. Part of me wonders if this is the end of it. One thing is certain: Parcells holds all the cards right now. Itís obviously a job that has intrigued him for some time. It's too perfect a situation. Too many things were in place. I'm wondering why, all of the sudden, something wasnít right for Parcells. Do you let it get to that point if you're still questioning your commitment to coach again? It may run him down but it's what Parcells does best. It's in his blood. It's who he is.

The Bucs ownership dealt with the Dungy situation clumsily, making it a mess in his final few days. The only reason to do that is to bring in Parcells.

If this is the end, the Bucs are in a situation where theyíve gone from the laughing stock of the league, to a perennial playoff contender, to putting themselves in a situation that, because of lack of direction and leadership, they fall back into ruin.

In Dungy, the Bucs had a great coach, a leader of men whose only downfall was that he hadnít won a Super Bowl. I donít think there is another upgrade. You donít make that change unless you believe there is a guy can come in and take you to the next level -- that guy was Parcells.

"It's just not there," Parcells said Friday night from his home in Sea Girt, N.J. "I understand (the commitment) it takes and it wasn't there. The demands of the job were more than I could say, in my heart, I wanted to do. I had to do, in my heart, what was the right thing."

The decision culminated a courtship of more than a year.

"Bill Parcells, early this evening, told us that he would not be returning to coaching," Bucs executive vice president Joel Glazer told The Associated Press on Friday. "In our continued pursuit of a championship, we remain confident that our new coach will utilize the solid foundation that we have built to achieve our goals."

Certainly the loss of Parcells leaves the Bucs in a horrific bind. Dungy is gone, likely to become the next head coach in Indianapolis. Former University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier, a local favorite who would have been pursued by Tampa Bay, is with the Washington Redskins. There are few high-profile coaches left in the unemployment line.

The dismissal of Dungy on Monday evening had paved the way for Parcells to accept a Bucs job he was rumored to be considering as far back as the week preceding Super Bowl XXXV last year. In fact, league sources said Parcells had tentatively agreed last year to take the job and then backed away after deliberating it.

But over the past 48 hours -- bothered by doubts about his commitment, some personal issues and his seemingly unending concerns over his NFL legacy -- Parcells had wavered. When he informed the Glazer family, owners of the Bucs' franchise, he could not accept the position, he emphasized that his coaching career is indeed over for good.

Only time will tell if Parcells, who in 15 seasons posted a 149-106-1 record in stints with the New York Giants (1983-90), New England Patriots (1993-96) and the Jets (1997-99), will feel the urge to scratch the itch again. But given the ramifications of this close encounter and his decision to reject a job he acknowledged was "very, very appealing," Friday night very likely ended any and all flirtations with another Parcells incarnation.

This time, it appears, he means it.

"Hopefully now people will stop writing about 'Parcells coming back,'" he said. "I'm retired for good and that's it. Period. That's the end."

Parcells, 60, eschewed a four-year contract worth about $4.2 -$4.3 million per year. He had entered into a non-binding agreement with the team, ESPN.com confirmed, approximately a month ago. The deal, which enabled either side to walk away without retribution, was the basis for what would have been a formal contract.

When team officials insisted Tuesday they had not been in previous contact with Parcells, they were simply bantering semantics. The deal, instead, had been in the works for some time.

Some published reports insisted the contract would be for five years and total $30 million or more. But even after Spurrier signed a landmark five-year, $25 million deal with the Washington Redskins on Sunday night, Parcells did not try to raise the ante with the Bucs, team sources said.

Parcells was to have been joined in Tampa by Jets assistant general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who would have been named the team's general manager in a press conference scheduled for either Thursday or Friday. But Tannenbaum, a Parcells protťgť and a staunch loyalist, could not close his deal with the Bucs because of the coach's indecision. Late Friday afternoon, just hours before Parcells stunned the Glazer family with his decision, Tannenbaum announced he was staying in New York.

That immediately gave rise to speculation that Parcells might indeed turn down the job.

Sources close to Parcells insisted Friday night that the coach's decision had nothing to do with money, management structure or issues of control over personnel. In a two-hour conversation with current general manager Rich McKay earlier this week, in fact, Parcells had asked him to stay on. In essence, Parcells' goal was to construct a so-called "powerhouse" front office, with himself, McKay and Tannenbaum.

Ownership will now have to turn to McKay, who is being considered by the Atlanta Falcons for a high-profile management position but has one year remaining on his Bucs contract, to attempt to bail the club out of a tough situation. Certainly by firing Dungy, without ensuring that Parcells was onboard, leaves Tampa Bay red-faced and in a dire situation.

"This came down to one thing for Bill," said a source close to him. "Did he want to do it or did he just think that he wanted to do it? That was the question he kept asking himself and, ultimately, he was the only one who knew the answer."

There were hints Parcells was purposely delaying his introduction in Tampa so that he could assemble a staff, and there is some truth to that. The NFL on Thursday sent a letter to the Bucs and to Parcells reminding them of the league's rules against tampering with assistant coaches who are already under contract. But over the last two days, Parcells' dilatory tactics were more a matter of his own waffling.

One element of Parcells' decision Friday, but just one component of the final call by a man whose motives are never easy to categorize, was a Thursday announcement that he is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the second year in a row. Parcells had hoped to be inducted last year, but did not receive the requisite votes. He clearly felt that a return to the sidelines now might preclude his induction this time around as well, because his detractors would have noted all past predictions of a possible comeback.

Friday's events marked at least the second time -- and possibly the third, if reports Parcells reneged on a deal a year ago are true -- that he jilted the Bucs at the altar. After the '92 season, he agreed to take over the team's football operation and become head coach and he backed out of a deal with then-Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.




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