What’s tougher? To play shortstop in the major leagues at 45 or be the head coach of a NFL franchise at 71?
Omar Vizquel has been told that he’s going north with the Toronto Blue Jays after having a terrific spring. The 11-time Gold Glove winner came into camp with a minor-league contract but leaves with a big-league deal for what will be his 24th season as a major-leaguer.
Bill Parcells says he owes it to his friend, New Orleans coach Sean Payton, to at least consider taking over the Saints for a year if he’s offered the job.
Parcells has been away from the sidelines since 2006 and officially out of the game since leaving the Dolphins’ front office three years later. There are some who say Parcells had one foot out the door as soon as he arrived in Miami after bolting from Dallas.
So who’s facing a bigger challenge, Vizquel or Parcells?
Let me put it this way: How many 45-year-old men do you know who were still playing shortstop in the major leagues? There have been pitchers that age and older, mostly junk throwers except for the one and only Nolan Ryan, but not many position players. Julio Franco was still in the big leagues at the age of 49, but he was used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter in his final years. Vizquel, who will turn 45 next month, won’t be in the Toronto lineup for his bat, although he can still swing it. He’s still a defensive standout all these years later, and that’s truly remarkable.
But one thing Vizquel has in his favor is that he hasn’t sat down yet, meaning he is not making a comeback. He never left. And, of course he’s in fabulous shape. In fact, he probably isn’t far off from his playing weight as a rookie in 1989.
Parcells will turn 71 in August. In the NFL, there have been only two older head coaches: George Halas of the Bears and Marv Levy of the Bills, both of whom retired at 72.
All signs – interviews and articles – point to Parcells leaning toward taking the Saints job. It’s only for one year, after all, while Payton sits out his suspension that resulted from Bounty-gate.
But which Bill Parcells will the Saints get? I find it hard to believe that they will be getting the workaholic who practically lived in his office more than his own home. That’s the type of workload that contributed to Parcells’ poor health and contributed to his departure from the sidelines in the first place.
The Bill Parcells who made his bones with the Giants and canvassed the NFL landscape usually brought key members of his staff along with him, but that wouldn’t be the case in New Orleans. He’ll be working with coaches and players he doesn’t know well.
Learning from history, Parcells prefers to walk into a situation that is winnable. In his mind, he may believe this is a winnable situation because expectations fell through the floor once the first of the Bounty-gate sanctions were announced. And the commissioner hasn’t even addressed the players yet. Maybe just getting the Saints back into the playoffs would be considered good enough for Parcells. In the old days, though, only the Super Bowl would suffice.
But then he had time. In the past, he liked to take over a franchise that had bottomed out. The Patriots were 2-14 the year before he took over; the Jets were 1-15 the year prior; and the Cowboys were coming off three consecutive 5-11 seasons when Parcells was hired.
Then, time was his friend. Given him a season or two to get the ship righted, then look out! Now, this ship with Drew Brees at the helm, is in better shape, but time has become the enemy.
It just doesn’t make football sense anymore. Parcells is still sharp – sharp enough to know that this is a younger man’s game.
Oh, I’m sure the old coach is loving the attention he’s getting. But in the end, I believe someone else will be on the Saints’ sideline next season. In the back of his mind, even Bill Parcells knows that.
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