HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. Because Joe Gibbs is one of the few successful coaches to make a clean break with the NFL, he has a pretty good eye for those who can't. Bill Parcells is at the top of his list.
"Parcells is the chronic guy," Gibbs said in a recent interview. "He's going to want to be in the limelight. He's going to want to be in the forefront. If he can, he will find a way of doing that. ... If he doesn't resurface, I'll be surprised. And I told him that."
Although no one ever can predict what Parcells will do, these are meaningful words from a man who understands the challenges of building a rewarding life after football. Gibbs, 60, has resisted the temptation of a comeback simply because he found something else to do: He has become a successful owner in NASCAR's Winston Cup series, and even won a championship last year with driver Bobby Labonte.
"If you study the people who have done that, gotten out, it's almost like they have to find something else they love," said Gibbs, a close friend of Parcells'. "You take John Madden. I'm sure a lot of people said this about Madden. Well, he found that TV work was exciting and challenging, and he loved it.
"There's other guys that go out, you can almost sense it. (Mike) Ditka, the whole time I was doing that TV show with him, I'm thinking, 'There's going to come a point here where this man's back.' I played golf with Marty Schottenheimer last year and I could almost count on it -- that if Marty got the right opportunity, he's going back."
Ditka came out of retirement to coach the New Orleans Saints and lasted only three years. This season, Schottenheimer will coach Gibbs' former team, the Washington Redskins, after being out of the game for two years.
What of Parcells? He did not respond to a request for comment, but has told friends recently that he does not envision coming back. Still, he also acknowledged that if he does come back he'd be better off on the field than in the front office. "The last time I talked to him I said, 'What you ought to do is just jump back in there and reorganize a football team,' " Gibbs said. " 'Run it from the top. Pick you a coach and harass him.' He'll be perfect at that."
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