General manager George Young and head coach Bill Parcells were the architects of the New York Giants’ success in the 1980s and early 1990s, a run that saw the Giants win Super Bowl titles in the 1986 and 1990 seasons.
Their partnership was never easy. And it almost didn’t last long enough to bring the Giants to Super Bowl glory.
Young hired Parcells, an unproven 42-year-old defensive assistant after Ray Perkins, the coach Young brought in when he got the GM job in 1979, bolted for Alabama.
Parcells was in over his head as a rookie coach. The Giants went 3-12-1 and Young, considering replacing Parcells, had a much-publicized flirtation with Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger.
Schnellenberger ended up not taking Young’s offer to become Giants head coach for the 1984 season.
“I remember George talking to him and then coming back to us,” John Mara said.
“I can’t get him this year, but I can get him next year. So let’s give Parcells one more year,” Young told ownership.
“Had Schnellenberger said yes, Parcells would’ve been fired at the end of the ’83 season, something I know Bill was bitter about for years to come,” Mara said.
Parcells always had a desire to have more control over personnel, an area where Young clearly had decision-making authority. For Parcells, that issue raised its head during his later coaching tenure with the New England Patriots, where he uttered his famous “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries” quote.
In New York, who would play quarterback was a bone of contention. Young made Phil Simms the first pick of his tenure as GM in 1979. Simms threw for 39 touchdowns and 42 interceptions over his first three seasons, before missing the 1982 season with a knee injury. Parcells chose Scott Brunner as the starter during that awful 1983 season. Brunner’s nine touchdowns were overshadowed by 22 interceptions.
Another player Young and Parcells battled over was running back Dave Meggett. The Giants took the 5-foot-7 Meggett in Round 5 of the 1989 NFL Draft, over Parcells’ objection. The coach said at the time he didn’t know how he would use him, and Meggett would be cut if he couldn’t thrive as a kickoff and punt returner.
The Giants took Meggett, he became perhaps one the best return man in Giants’ franchise history and was a player Parcells brought to New England when he became the Patriots’ head coach in 1993.
Despite their differences, the Giants won two Super Bowls and went to the playoffs five times in the eight seasons Young and Parcells were together at the top of the team’s decision-making pyramid.
Tellingly, though, when it comes to their relationship, Parcells did not mention Young’s name during his 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech.