"Parcells: A Football Life"

Scroll below this image -- the book's back cover -- for a long list of Bill's sayings. And when you're done -- or maybe before -- you can watch the Tuna discuss his maxims in a five-minute segment from our video gallery.


My late manuscript during the summer of 2014 made it virtually impossible for me to gather blurbs for the back cover. So I suggested that we take a unique approach for the unconventional book, and print some of Bill's catchy maxims instead. Crown approved the idea, which expanded on our brainchild to highlight each one that appeared in the the manuscript. But Bill was picky about which Parcellsisms made the back cover, and understandably demanded preciseness. For example, he took umbrage about how I had intended to phrase one maxim popular among his NFL acolytes: You judge a trapper by the number of pelts he carries. "That's wrong," Bill said. "You judge a trapper by his furs." I countered that I had quoted two of his disciples, and corroborated the line via a newspaper article: "How about I go with, 'You judge a trapper by the number of furs he carries.'" Bill snapped, "No. That's screwing up the quote. You judge a trapper by his furs. It's a given that he's carrying them!" How could I argue with the originator of the saying, especially when he's making so much grammatical sense?

In late August 2014, while I conveyed to Bill the choices for the back cover during a telephone conversation, Coach disowned a few, including: There is winning, and there is misery. Bill conceded that he hadn't coined the phrase. Credit goes to the NBA legend he'd long-admired: Pat Riley. Another axiom that I had wanted to use was: Don't get caught up in rabbit shit when there's elephant shit to deal with. I'd never seen it anywhere until one of Bill's best friends, Bobby Green, gave me a comprehensive list of Parcellsisms. And the witty one involving animal excrement jumped out. Alas, Bill avoided taking ownership.

He vetoed the inclusion of one popular maxim that unequivocally belonged to him: Don't tell me about the pain, just show me the baby." But I was unsurprised by Bill's reaction. Several weeks earlier, we had gone over the manuscript in Saratoga Springs before sending it to the publisher. Spotting the maxim in a chapter on his Giants, Bill circled it, and wrote in the margins: "Unnecessary. Take out." Although I had quoted remarks he had made to his staff during a practice, Bill insisted that feminists would object. To prove his point, he asked our waitress for input. The twenty-something said that although she wasn't offended, she could envision women being insulted. I didn't quite buy her assertion. I told Bill that my mother had laughed hard when I once mentioned the witticism to her. I also noted that Queen Dorcas had birthed five kids. Attempting to win my case, I immediately dialed up mom, confirmed her take, and handed my cellphone to Bill. Speaking for the first time, the two stayed on the line for a few minutes discussing other matters before I interrupted the conversation, pointing out that we had work to do. After hanging up, Bill said, "Okay, you can keep it in the book." However, when it came to the back cover, Bill refused to spotlight any casual reference to labor pain. The following Parcellsisms are among the best of the rest:

It's always darkest before it goes pitch black

Losers assemble in little groups, and bitch about the coaches and the system and other players in other little groups. Winners assemble as a team.

When you don’t know that you don’t know, it’s a lot different than when you do know that you don't know.

Losing will take a little from your credibility, but quitting will destroy it.

The higher the stakes, the tougher the competition, the more daring you must be to carry the day.

Sometimes you have to get hit in the face with a skunk before you smell it.

It's never your fault, but you're always there.

Knowledge is confidence, and confidence let’s you play fast.

Small corners with great skills can play; small corners with good skills are targets.

Just because the ship rocks a little bit doesn't mean you jump into the water.

Being in pro football is not for the well-adjusted.

Dumb players do dumb things. Smart players very seldom do dumb things.


Beyond such Parcellsisms, Bill uttered many memorable quotes throughout his long career. In 1999, while Bill was running the Jets, someone even published a small book, Talkin' Tuna: The Wit and Wisdom of Coach Bill Parcells. The 96-page compendium included many of his clever lines. In that vein, I've gathered some of Bill's colorful, off-the-cuff remarks to reporters and players.

He was retired, but hadn’t announced it

You look like a ball in tall grass. Lost.

A piece of shit plays better defense than you. At least if there is shit out there, someone might slip on it.

If you want to spend $18,000, you can break [curfew]. And if it's worth it, take me with you."

They think you can just dial 1-800 and get a quarterback.

In this game, you have to sing in the choir. You can’t sing solo.


For those who can't get enough, there's even a Twitter handle, with thousands of followers, dedicated to Parcellsisms.