Bill Parcells was 3-12-1 as the rookie head coach of the Giants. He nearly lost his dream job and always knew why.
“I was just trying to be a head coach instead of being Bill Parcells,” he said.
It is why he has this advice for Joe Judge: “Be yourself.”
Judge has not once flinched in the face of everything thrown his way thus far, but the ultimate test is on its way. Judge must be himself at a time when he is on the clock racing to identify the best 53 men before the Sept. 14 home opener and teach the Giants how to win again … without the benefit of a single preseason game. Following a virtual offseason.
Parcells never faced these obstacles, and sounds thankful he didn’t.
“I think it’s very difficult for a first-year head coach,” Parcells told The Post, “and I also think it’s very difficult for first-year coordinators. There’s a lot happening in preseason besides the players. The coaching staff has to get itself organized. Game communication: Who’s where? Who’s doing what? Who’s in charge of substitution? Who’s watching timeouts. Who’s doing this, who’s doing that? They don’t even have a chance to practice that under real game conditions.”
Jason Garrett is the new Giants offensive coordinator, but he’s been there, done that. Parcells had Ron Erhardt, Dan Henning and Ray Perkins as his trusted OCs, and recognizes what Garrett will mean for Judge: “I think invaluable.”
But nothing is more invaluable during these unprecedented, daunting circumstances than coaching staffs that have continuity, and Parcells believes they will have an advantage.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Those coaches have been through the drill with their assistants. Their assistants know what to expect. It’s all new for these other guys that just put their staff together. And even if you have veteran coaches, you never know how the head coach is gonna operate exactly. It’s a difficult thing.
“First-time head coaches, first-time coordinators, first-time general managers if there are any of those, this is more difficult than it’s ever been before.”
The game has thankfully been made safer … and softer in the eyes of old-school coaches.
“We had 24 practices before our first preseason game,” Parcells said. “And 50 before our first regular-season game. And these guys are gonna have 14 padded practices before your first regular-season game. I used to have that in 10 days.”
Just because Judge is implementing some of the same tried-and-true training camp practices of Parcells and Bill Belichick hardly means he will not be his own man. His players are buying in, and that reflects positively on him as a leader.
Parcells likes that Judge removed last names from the back of the players’ training camp jerseys.
“You want your coaches, first of all, on the film to be able to identify the players by what they’re doing, not by what number they got,” he said. “You gotta know ’em by sight.”
When he began as Cowboys coach, he removed the star from the helmets of rookies. “You gotta earn the star,” Parcells said.
Before his first Patriots training camp, Parcells put the players on alert.
“I told ’em that the offseason program was important to me, and so we had a pretty good offseason program, and then I told ’em that the conditioning test prior to training camp was something that was very important to me, and they should do their very best to pass that test,” he said. “And that it was not a test that required super effort to pass. But it did require work. I used to run ’em on three 300-yard shuttles, up and back. And the linemen had a certain time, and the backs and the receivers and DBs had a certain time, and the tight ends and the linebackers …
“When we started in training camp, one of the starting guards, he couldn’t complete one of the three shuttles.
“So now I know he doesn’t give a s–t. If he doesn’t, I don’t either.
“So I put him on waivers the next day.”
Parcells knew what he was getting into when he walked into Weeb Ewbank Hall to address the woebegone Jets following the two years of the Rich Kotite Error.
“ ‘Be on time, practice and play hard, pay attention to detail. I don’t want bums on my team, I want people that are accountable,’ that kind of stuff,” Parcells said. “I didn’t just talk to the team, I talked to everybody in the building. I had a meeting with them. Everybody. Every single person. ‘You’ve had a bunch of coaches here in the last 20 years, you’ve seen ’em come and go, and you’re still here.’ I said, ‘Well, here’s the way it’s gonna be with me. I’m gonna try and change that, and I need your cooperation.’ ”
Parcells always put pressure on his players — even veterans with equity with him were not spared.
“No matter who you are, some time during this camp, I’ve gotta see it. And I always told ’em, ‘I go by what I see,’ ” Parcells said.
He saw plenty. Now he sees a young, tough, smart Giants head coach forced to confront a gargantuan challenge. Be yourself, kid, and good luck.