Even before the 1997 season started the New York Jets made a bold move in hiring Bill Parcells away from the New England Patriots to be their head coach. This season would start the Jets return to more national prominence after decades of mostly losing seasons.
Originally the New York Jets were reported to have hired Bill Belichick as head coach and Bill Parcells was to come on board as a consultant. The New England Patriots complained to the NFL that the Jets had tampered with Parcells because they believed he was still under contract to them. A week after that had played out the owners of the Jets, Leon Hess, and Patriots, Bob Kraft, met with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue at the league offices in New York City to settle the matter. Tagliabue ruled that Parcells would take over as Jets head coach immediately but the Patriots would then receive compensation in the form of Jets draft choices over the next three years. Bill Belichick then joined Parcells on his staff as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. It was as a result of these events that the rivalry between the Jets and Patriots would be so tense for the next 15-plus years.
On the field under the "Tuna," the Jets would finish one game short of making the playoffs, when they lost to the final game of the season versus the Detroit Lions. Their record that season was 9-7 and showed that with the proper leadership the Jets' on field talent could be driven to victory. The one player that benefited from that the most was Pro Bowler Aaron Glenn, who made it both as a cornerback and kick returner. The tenure of Bill Parcells would only last for three seasons, however, as Belichick was being groomed to take over starting with the 2000 season. That was not to be since the day that Bill Belichick was named head coach of the Jets he resigned and eventually took over with the Patriots. The Jets complained to the league, to retaliate the way the Patriots had for the Parcells hiring, and would receive a Patriots draft choice as compensation.
I recall how elated I was that the New York Jets finally had a head coach with the pedigree of Parcells to right the ship and bring them more success and playoff appearances. However, I was saddened that it only lasted those three seasons from 1997-1999. Then when Belichick decided not to follow Parcells to keep that continuity going how my feelings shifted again to deep hatred of Belichick and the Patriots that I still feel today. The next part of this Look Back series will feature the 2002 New York Jets season.
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