"Parcells: A Football Life"
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Ira Berkow's critique

Ira Berkow's critique

Some people questioned the sanity of working on the project for almost five years before seeking a publisher. Bill once said half-jokingly, "What if no one wants to buy the book?" Ha! The confidence stemmed from folks like the writer Ira Berkow who would occasionally read material, and provide candid feedback.

I had first met Ira in 1995, when I was hired by the New York Times's sports department as a clerk, kind of a reporter-trainee. The renowned sports columnist obliged my request for writing pointers; and we occasionally discussed my articles at his favorite restaurants. Lucky me! The great Ira Berkow has penned 18 books, and won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his Times articles. Before retiring in February 2007, he was considered one of the best feature writers on the planet. In March of 2010, I sent Ira material on the first two topics I had tackled for the book: Bill's childhood and his relationship with Leon Hess. Within a couple days, Ira telephoned me to compliment the material in general while making some persnickety editing suggestions. 

Two years later, I attempted to hire Ira as my freelance editor for the role that inevitably went to Peter Guzzardi (after a sharp stint by Jamie Malanowski). Ira, still flourishing as a septuagenarian, was too immersed in his own projects. (He's currently working on turning Bill Madden's biography on George Steinbrenner into a play.) Despite declining my offer, Ira was willing to keep reading the material, and even lightly editing it gratis. In February of 2012, he read chapters on Bill's football sabbatical (Chapter 5) and heart surgery (Chapter 14). Ira sent them back to me with a detailed critique that included the above letter produced via typewriter. (As you can see, Ira's typewriter ribbon was in its final days.) I promptly Fedexed the letter to Bill, who had been friends with another great Times columnist, Dave Anderson, but also held Ira in high regard. With the positive feedback from the master, I knew that Bill and I were on our way!

Note: For more cool images related to the process, click on the above shot, or on one of the arrows up top.

The All-Parcells Defense (in Bill's handwriting)

The All-Parcells Defense (in Bill's handwriting)

Early during the project, I requested that Bill jot down the best players he's ever coached, so that the book would include an All-Parcells team. Bill reacted with disinterest; there were too many so-called Parcells Guys who had helped turn him into a legend. And although Coach used to mercilessly cut players, he was sensitive about leaving some of them off his official compilation. Instead of giving up, I subsequently asked Bill to make a list of up to three players at each position, starting with the top one he ever coached. He was still reluctant. Months and then years passed without any follow-through, causing me to think that the idea was futile.

But in July of 2010, I noticed that Football Outsiders, the respected pigskin website, had compiled "The Bill Parcells All-Stars." Aaron Schatz, the creator of the online publication that focuses on advanced statistical analysis, selected five "skill players" on offense; a front seven for Bill's 3-4 defenses, a starting defensive backfield and three players for the key special-team spots. Feeling that Aaron had done a terrific job, I printed out the web page and mailed it to Bill. During our next interview session, I asked the Big Tuna for his thoughts on "The Bill Parcells All-Stars." To my surprise, he wasn't so impressed. Nonetheless, the Football Outsiders's compilation may have nudged him to set the record straight. About one year later, in late June 2010, Bill suddenly mailed his official All-Parcells team to me, handwritten on loose-leaf sheets, using a black felt-tip pen. He naturally started with defense.

Three defensive players on the Football Outsiders's compilation conspicuously failed to make Bill's cut: defensive end Hugh Douglas (of Coach's 1997 Jets), cornerback Mark Haynes (1983 to 1985 Giants) and inside linebacker Ted Johnson (1995 to 1996 Patriots). Even so, Bill's roundup of outside linebackers evinced the difficulty of the task. He was supposed to max out at six players since his scheme placed two at a time on the gridiron. But look closely at this original list. You can see that under Bill's official group of inside linebackers, he added a seventh player: Mo Lewis, his ex-Jets star; and wrote in parenthesis: "Too many good ones."

 

The All-Parcells Offense (in Bill's handwriting)

The All-Parcells Offense (in Bill's handwriting)

After receiving Bill's All-Parcells team in June 2010, I called him to confirm, and almost blew it by poking fun of his penmanship. Bill turned silent, apparently peeved at my comment. So I quickly changed the subject. Anyone familiar with Coach's teams will be able to decipher the names. And of course, purchasing the book will give you the official, typeset lists.

Wideout Terrell Owens who played for Bill's 2006 Cowboys marks the most glaring omission from The All-Parcells Offense. The Tuna also left off three players who had made "The Bill Parcells All-Stars" published by Football Outsiders: guard Larry Allen (2003 to 2005 Cowboys), fullback Richie Anderson (1997 to 1999 Jets; 2003 to 2004 Cowboys) and guard Marco Rivera (2005 to 2006 Cowboys).

While Bill and I were going over the galley proofs in early August, he uttered one of his occasional remarks creating a pickle: "Do we really have to include this All-Parcells team?" Ugh! I reminded Bill that we were at the final stage of the process: searching for errors in the manuscript, not revamping the vision of the book. To my relief, Coach replied, "Okay."

 

All-Parcells Opponents (in Bill's handwriting)

All-Parcells Opponents (in Bill's handwriting)

For space considerations, the All-Parcells Opponents, based on this looseleaf version by Bill, were left out of the book. The typewritten list can be found in our "Exclusive Material" section. To transport back there, click here.

 

Bill's raw "Unsung Opponents"

Bill's raw "Unsung Opponents"

This marks the first of three looseleaf sheets that Bill used for his "Unsung Opponents" -- the most underrated players he's coached against, and a brief remark about each guy. For the book, I alphabetized the compilation while confirming the teams. Given Bill's preternatural memory, my main chore involved merely finding out the years per team for each player.

Bill essentially made a last-minute addition to the galley proofs. For an explanation of the publishing term, you can jump to the first page of our "Galley Proofs" section. Or to see the way that we literally amended Bill's compilation during the late stage of the process, click here.

 

Ira Berkow's critique

Some people questioned the sanity of working on the project for almost five years before seeking a publisher. Bill once said half-jokingly, "What if no one wants to buy the book?" Ha! The confidence stemmed from folks like the writer Ira Berkow who would occasionally read material, and provide candid feedback.

I had first met Ira in 1995, when I was hired by the New York Times's sports department as a clerk, kind of a reporter-trainee. The renowned sports columnist obliged my request for writing pointers; and we occasionally discussed my articles at his favorite restaurants. Lucky me! The great Ira Berkow has penned 18 books, and won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his Times articles. Before retiring in February 2007, he was considered one of the best feature writers on the planet. In March of 2010, I sent Ira material on the first two topics I had tackled for the book: Bill's childhood and his relationship with Leon Hess. Within a couple days, Ira telephoned me to compliment the material in general while making some persnickety editing suggestions. 

Two years later, I attempted to hire Ira as my freelance editor for the role that inevitably went to Peter Guzzardi (after a sharp stint by Jamie Malanowski). Ira, still flourishing as a septuagenarian, was too immersed in his own projects. (He's currently working on turning Bill Madden's biography on George Steinbrenner into a play.) Despite declining my offer, Ira was willing to keep reading the material, and even lightly editing it gratis. In February of 2012, he read chapters on Bill's football sabbatical (Chapter 5) and heart surgery (Chapter 14). Ira sent them back to me with a detailed critique that included the above letter produced via typewriter. (As you can see, Ira's typewriter ribbon was in its final days.) I promptly Fedexed the letter to Bill, who had been friends with another great Times columnist, Dave Anderson, but also held Ira in high regard. With the positive feedback from the master, I knew that Bill and I were on our way!

Note: For more cool images related to the process, click on the above shot, or on one of the arrows up top.

The All-Parcells Defense (in Bill's handwriting)

Early during the project, I requested that Bill jot down the best players he's ever coached, so that the book would include an All-Parcells team. Bill reacted with disinterest; there were too many so-called Parcells Guys who had helped turn him into a legend. And although Coach used to mercilessly cut players, he was sensitive about leaving some of them off his official compilation. Instead of giving up, I subsequently asked Bill to make a list of up to three players at each position, starting with the top one he ever coached. He was still reluctant. Months and then years passed without any follow-through, causing me to think that the idea was futile.

But in July of 2010, I noticed that Football Outsiders, the respected pigskin website, had compiled "The Bill Parcells All-Stars." Aaron Schatz, the creator of the online publication that focuses on advanced statistical analysis, selected five "skill players" on offense; a front seven for Bill's 3-4 defenses, a starting defensive backfield and three players for the key special-team spots. Feeling that Aaron had done a terrific job, I printed out the web page and mailed it to Bill. During our next interview session, I asked the Big Tuna for his thoughts on "The Bill Parcells All-Stars." To my surprise, he wasn't so impressed. Nonetheless, the Football Outsiders's compilation may have nudged him to set the record straight. About one year later, in late June 2010, Bill suddenly mailed his official All-Parcells team to me, handwritten on loose-leaf sheets, using a black felt-tip pen. He naturally started with defense.

Three defensive players on the Football Outsiders's compilation conspicuously failed to make Bill's cut: defensive end Hugh Douglas (of Coach's 1997 Jets), cornerback Mark Haynes (1983 to 1985 Giants) and inside linebacker Ted Johnson (1995 to 1996 Patriots). Even so, Bill's roundup of outside linebackers evinced the difficulty of the task. He was supposed to max out at six players since his scheme placed two at a time on the gridiron. But look closely at this original list. You can see that under Bill's official group of inside linebackers, he added a seventh player: Mo Lewis, his ex-Jets star; and wrote in parenthesis: "Too many good ones."

 

The All-Parcells Offense (in Bill's handwriting)

After receiving Bill's All-Parcells team in June 2010, I called him to confirm, and almost blew it by poking fun of his penmanship. Bill turned silent, apparently peeved at my comment. So I quickly changed the subject. Anyone familiar with Coach's teams will be able to decipher the names. And of course, purchasing the book will give you the official, typeset lists.

Wideout Terrell Owens who played for Bill's 2006 Cowboys marks the most glaring omission from The All-Parcells Offense. The Tuna also left off three players who had made "The Bill Parcells All-Stars" published by Football Outsiders: guard Larry Allen (2003 to 2005 Cowboys), fullback Richie Anderson (1997 to 1999 Jets; 2003 to 2004 Cowboys) and guard Marco Rivera (2005 to 2006 Cowboys).

While Bill and I were going over the galley proofs in early August, he uttered one of his occasional remarks creating a pickle: "Do we really have to include this All-Parcells team?" Ugh! I reminded Bill that we were at the final stage of the process: searching for errors in the manuscript, not revamping the vision of the book. To my relief, Coach replied, "Okay."

 

All-Parcells Opponents (in Bill's handwriting)

For space considerations, the All-Parcells Opponents, based on this looseleaf version by Bill, were left out of the book. The typewritten list can be found in our "Exclusive Material" section. To transport back there, click here.

 

Bill's raw "Unsung Opponents"

This marks the first of three looseleaf sheets that Bill used for his "Unsung Opponents" -- the most underrated players he's coached against, and a brief remark about each guy. For the book, I alphabetized the compilation while confirming the teams. Given Bill's preternatural memory, my main chore involved merely finding out the years per team for each player.

Bill essentially made a last-minute addition to the galley proofs. For an explanation of the publishing term, you can jump to the first page of our "Galley Proofs" section. Or to see the way that we literally amended Bill's compilation during the late stage of the process, click here.

 

Ira Berkow's critique
The All-Parcells Defense (in Bill's handwriting)
The All-Parcells Offense (in Bill's handwriting)
All-Parcells Opponents (in Bill's handwriting)
Bill's raw "Unsung Opponents"