When the New York Jets hired Coach Bill Parcells as a consultant last week, someone asked club president Steve Gutman for the new employee's job description.
Gutman, the well-meaning accountant who functions as owner Leon Hess' front man with this woebegone NFL franchise, seemed astounded at the question.
"A consultant consults," he explained.
Which suggests he doesn't coach, since that's what a coach does and what Parcells can't do for the Jets until Feb. 1, 1998.
So when he sits upstairs and watches his team self-destruct--something the Jets do with remarkable regularity--the consultant presumably will resist the impulse to call down to the sidelines and offer some, uhh, consultation.
Or will he?
If he doesn't consult on football matters, what does he consult on? Uniform designs? Stadium decorations? Clubhouse furniture?
"I'm not allowed to partake in anything on the field, and I'm not under any illusions on that," Parcells said when the strange arrangement was outlined. "I will not have any final decisions on personnel. I will just act in an advisory capacity."
So when the subject of the No. 1 draft choice comes up and Parcells is consulted, his advice on the subject will not be final. He'll say Peyton Manning and the Jets will draft Orlando Pace. Or vice-versa.
And when it comes time to trim the training camp roster, the cuts will be made by somebody, anybody else, but certainly not Parcells, since that would violate the spirit of his consultant's role.
Parcells was asked if the league had approved this odd setup.
"I know the Jets would not have proceeded unless they cleared that with the commissioner," he said.
Asked the same thing, Gutman deftly danced away from it, preferring to concentrate, he said, on football questions.
It turns out the team ran this idea past the league's lawyers and got neither approval nor rejection. Equipped with positive thinking generated by four wins in their last 37 games, the Jets interpreted this as a go-ahead.
All this for Parcells, who did not invent football but certainly would have if someone else hadn't gotten around to it first.
Parcells likes to bully people. When the Patriots drafted Terry Glenn against his wishes, the coach went out of his way to demean the rookie wide receiver. Ninety catches later, after Glenn had helped Parcells to the Super Bowl, the coach dropped the wise-guy stuff.
One of his ex-players once suggested that Parcells could be elected king of the world on Sunday and by Tuesday he'd be unhappy. Confronted with that statement, Parcells bristled and asked for an identification of the guy with the loose lips.
The tough guy was taking names.
There are dozens of other coaches who come with less baggage. The Jets, bless their hearts, had to have the one guy equipped with an excess of suitcases, all of them often packed.
Consider the man's track record. Before bailing out on the last year of his contract with New England -- when he took the job, he said it would be his last one in football -- Parcells pulled out of a deal to take over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Owner Hugh Culverhouse, since deceased, described the experience as like being left at the altar.
When Parcells left the Super Bowl-champion Giants in 1991, he waited until May when the team had few coaching options to replace him. After winning the Super Bowl in 1987, he brokered a deal with Atlanta to become general manager-coach. The late Pete Rozelle shot down that bit of flim-flam, pointing out there was time left on his Giants contract.
His coaching portfolio is full of short stays -- one year at Hastings College, the next year at Wichita State; one year at Air Force, another in his first incarnation at New England. One time, he accepted an assistant's job with the Giants and quit after one month. There also have been pit stops at Army, Florida State, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech.
Apparently, the man has a perpetual case of wanderlust.
If he likes to travel so much, he has come to the right place. The Jets train on Long Island and play their games 40 miles and two bridges away in New Jersey.