By Ernie Palladino
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Less than three weeks from now, the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will gather in a room in New Orleans to vote on the worthiness of defensive end Michael Strahan and coach Bill Parcells for enshrinement in its Canton, Oh., cathedral.
If that 46-member voting board has any sense, they will vote them both in. For Strahan, it will be a deserved honor, one made even more impressive by the fact that this is his first time on the ballot.
For Parcells, it will be the culmination of a fairly lengthy eligibility period, during which voters rightfully kept him out because of an inkling that he might return to the coaching sidelines after his induction.
Strahan is pretty much a no-brainer. He holds the single-season record for sacks, even if his friend Brett Favre did take a major flop for him in the final game of 2001. He was just as dominant a run-stopper as he was a pass rusher throughout his career, and that's despite constantly lining up at left defensive end, where he had to take on the tight end as well as the right tackle.
Parcells was always a sticky situation. His coaching credentials are impeccable, and that goes beyond what he did in winning two Super Bowls with the Giants. Remember, the guy took New England to the Super Bowl, too, becoming one of only four coaches to take more than one team to the season's final game. He took the Jets to the AFC championship game.
We all know what happened after that, with successor Bill Belichick bailing on his introduction day and eventually heading up to New England.
But that doesn't go on Parcells' tab.
But there was always that feeling that Parcells wasn't done, and the Tuna never did anything to disabuse people of that notion. Voters feared he would make a post-induction return in the fashion of Washington's great coach, Joe Gibbs, and perhaps have his legacy suffer as Gibbs' did from 2004-07.
He proved the voters correct, at least in the coming back part. Denied selection twice after he left the Jets, Parcells indeed returned to the coaching lines with the Dallas Cowboys.
Coaches immediately became eligible after their retirements back then. Now, they must stay off the headphones five years, the same waiting period as the players. Parcells became eligible last year for the first time under the new rules at age 70, and made it to the final 10 before they voted him down.
Now he's 71. Any lingering doubts about his intents to return to coaching should have vanished by now, though with the Tuna you'll never really know until he enters that big Hall-of-Fame in the sky.
It's not going to happen, though. The voters can cast their ballots with almost 100 percent assurance that Parcells is not going to coach again.
Whether they will or not is the question. Parcells could be a bristly guy to the media at times -- a lot of the times -- and he was always controlling. A lot of the media were turned off by his seemingly premature departures that left teams in a bind. Remember his May, 1991 resignation from the Giants that gave birth to the horrendous Ray Handley era?
None of that should matter. As Gary Myers of the Daily News aptly pointed out, Parcells was a dominant coach of a very dominant coaching era. Going 2-1 against Bill Walsh in the playoffs, beating Gibbs in the NFC Championship game of 1990, and beating Marv Levy in that season's Super Bowl stand as great credentials. Note that each of those coaches is enshrined in Canton.
There is certainly room to consider Parcells. It's not a particularly "strong" class of finalists compared to other years. About the only slam-dunks next to Strahan should be defensive lineman Warren Sapp and, perhaps, defensive lineman Charles Haley.
No John Elways, no Dan Marinos on the ballot. And the voters can select between four and seven new members.
The opportunity is there.
It's time for the voters to give Parcells his due.
Think Parcells will get in this time? Sound off in the comments!
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