Bill Parcells got to ride off in triumph after beating the Bills in their first Super Bowl appearance ... and when he moved to the Patriots, his teams ended the Bills' AFC East dominance in 1994.
Sam Gash says it's difficult to explain unless you've been around the guy for a while. Bill Parcells seems to have an aura about him, a majestic inner confidence that filters through a locker room and somehow makes good players better.
Nobody messes with the Tuna, also known as the New York Jets head coach. Ask anybody, in private of course, who has ever played for him or coached under him. The hierarchy essentially is set up like this:
Here's Bill Parcells.
Is everyone else.
"I loved Coach Parcells," said Gash, who played fullback for three seasons under Parcells in New England. "When I played for him, I would have run through a wall for him. I always knew he had a purpose behind it."
Say whatever you want about Parcells. He is as brash as the day is long. Some might say his ego is up there with the biggest in professional sports. Like his close buddy, Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, he uses intimidation as one of his most effective weapons. The Tuna is 58 years old, but has been known to threaten players with a punch in the mouth during practice.
Heck, he was 400 miles away earlier this week, but he seemed to have everyone at attention in the Bills' locker room. They chose their words carefully when talking about the Tuna. Maybe that's because Parcells has won so many big games against the Bills, often with inferior teams.
"It's just his persona," receiver Andre Reed said. "It's how he coaches his players and the way he runs his team. I would love to play for him. He's just a good coach, period. He brings out the best in his players."
As if this town doesn't know.
Take the Bills' first Super Bowl, perhaps Parcells' biggest masterpiece and a game in which Western New York came to despise and admire him at the same time. The outcome was not just about a kick that went wide right.
The Bills were heavily favored to beat the New York Giants, who were without starting quarterback Phil Simms. Parcells devised a perfect game plan that slowed down the Bills' no-huddle offense. The Giants doubled the Bills in time of possession and played good defense.
Yes, the kick sailed right, but Parcells put the Giants in position to force the pressure situation. Who knows? Maybe the outcome would have been different were Parcells on Buffalo's sideline.
"I really didn't call here to re-live history, I really didn't," Parcells said during the weekly conference call. "I called to give some information about my team and to give my impressions about the Buffalo Bills for 1999. I don't want to talk about what happened 10 years ago."
It's understandable. The Jets are 0-1, and they could be staring at 0-2 by tonight, so the dictator was slightly ornery. History might not be worth much to Parcells now, but it does reveal a pattern of how he has affected Buffalo -- the team and, therefore, the town.
He was on the opposite sideline in 1994, when the Bills' dominance in the AFC ended with a 41-17 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 15 and eliminated any hope for the playoffs. The Pats were 6-10 in 1995, but they beat the Bills twice and helped prevent them from winning the division.
Sure, the Bills have an 8-7 record all-time against the Tuna, but they have never really hurt him in a big game. Four Buffalo victories came in the first year Parcells took over poor teams, the 1993 Pats and the 1997 Jets.
Last year, when it seemed nobody else could stop Doug Flutie, the Jets did. Flutie completed only 38 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions in two games against New York. Defensive end Phil Hansen was convinced he was exposed on a reverse after Parcells and his staff found a tendency on video.
The Jets won both contests, the second of which gave them their first AFC East title. It also forced the Bills to play a wild-card game on the road, which they lost to the Miami Dolphins.
"It's the ultimate compliment to a coach (before an upcoming game), when you think of the coach first," Flutie said. "No matter who he has on the field, he's going to get the most out of them and get them to play football."
Tonight, the Jets will be without five starters, including quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles. Leon Johnson, a special teams ace who received a good share of playing time at running back, is gone for the year after blowing out his knee.
It's times like this when Bills fans should worry most. Parcells is a master of getting his team ready to play under the worst of circumstances. It seems he enjoys being in tight situations, just to show his players not to fear adversity.
"I don't think anybody relishes having their starting quarterback out," Parcells said. "Only a fool would say that."
Only a fool would dare doubt Parcells. The Bills are favored against the Jets' patched-up lineup tonight, but they have played enough games against Parcells to know a loss is possible.
Regardless of the outcome, the Jets will be ready, Parcells will still be a great coach and Gash will join his teammates walking across the field to shake the Tuna's hand and experience the presence surrounding him.
"You know that he knows so much about the game," Gash said. "When he says something, you don't want to say anything (negative). He's such a great coach, he's coached great teams and you can see how he prepares people. It's an air of respect."