For better and worse, the Patriots Hall of Fame inductee each summer is decided by an online vote of fans on Patriots.com. It’s literally a virtual popularity contest.
If you’re a guy like Rodney Harrison, Kevin Faulk or Matt Light, being a fan favorite within the digital walls of Patriot Nation helps you take your deserved spot in the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later.
But if you’re a guy like Richard Seymour – who is this year’s inductee after losing out to lesser talents like Light in past votes – or God forbid Bill Parcells, having Hall induction be a popularity contest is not ideal.
The harsh reality for the Tuna is that it’s a near certainty he’ll never win the fan voting among three relatively worthy Hall of Fame finalists, especially as more and more candidates from the Super Bowl dynasty era enter the fray. Certainly not in Parcells’ lifetime as he approaches his 79th birthday this August. He hasn’t so far and there is nothing to indicate he ever will.
Let’s get this straight, regardless of the way Bill Parcells left New England, he is very much a Patriots Hall of Famer.
His arrival in 1993 brought legitimacy to the franchise.
He picked Drew Bledsoe with the No. 1 overall pick that New England very much earned under the direction of previous boss Dick MacPherson who was very much loved and very much overmatched leading the Patriots to a 2-14 mark in 1992.
Parcells created long lines at the ticket window and long-term stability for the franchise. He played at least some role in adding value to a team that Robert Kraft, a seasoned season ticket holder with a butt that knew the cold metal Foxboro Stadium benches well, already had his eye on.
As Tuna’s short, impactful tenure in New England rolled on he built a playoff team and then a Super Bowl squad.
His drafts from 1992, after the Bledsoe homerun pick over second-option Rick Mirer, included the likes of Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Ted Johnson, Curtis Martin, Terry Glenn, Lawyer Milloy and Tedy Bruschi. While the controversial Glenn pick may have been the beginning of the end for Parcells in New England, there is no doubt his stamp on those 1990s drafts helped Bill Belichick, whom he brought to the Patriots as an assistant in 1996, win a trio of Super Bowls in the early 2000s.
Oh, we almost forgot, Parcells’ hiring of Belichick laid the groundwork for a relationship between the defensive coach and Kraft that led to a future head coaching hiring that fueled much criticism and much more winning than anyone had ever seen in New England.
Make no mistake, it ended horrifically with Parcells. He wanted to have complete control of the grocery list. He was a mercenary by nature who was already flirting with future employment with the hated Jets while leading the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI. After landing in New York, and taking Belichick with him in one of the least-believable “consultant” schemes ever, he snookered his former boss and co-workers out of the future Hall of Fame running back Martin.
It was the ugliest of ugly divorces, but the fruits of the four-year marriage can’t be argued, debated or diminished.
So if the still-jilted fans won’t put Parcells in his rightful spot along fellow franchise greats in the Patriots Hall of Fame, it’s up to Kraft to step in. Noted for his ability to bridge gaps, close deals and cross the isle in business, politics and sports, the patriarch of the most successful NFL dynasty must use his power to put Parcells in the Hall the way Kraft did in the past with franchise founder Billy Sullivan and longtime play-by-play voice Gil Santos.
Be the bigger man and be bigger than the fans.
It’s the right thing to do. And the time is right to do it.