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NFL '97 / WEEK 1

A High-Flying Start for Parcells

Pro football: O'Donnell throws for five touchdowns as coach debuts with Jets in 41-3 rout of the Seahawks.


SEATTLE — No matter what alliterative flights of fancy New York's tabloid headline writers charter, coupling Jets with juggernaut or turning their "S" into Super Bowl, they're making the trip alone.

"It's one game," said Wayne Chrebet, who caught two of Neil O'Donnell's five touchdown passes in New York's 41-3 victory over the Seahawks on Sunday. "It's in perspective. It's one game, not the Super Bowl. We're 1-0."

Chrebet just began his third season as a Jet, and this is the first time he has been 1-0.

Bill Parcells has never been 1-0 with a franchise. Fourteen years ago, the Rams spoiled his debut as a head coach, defeating his New York Giants, 16-6.

A year later, the Giants were in the playoffs, and four years later they were winning Super Bowl XXI.

Super Giants.

In 1993, the Buffalo Bills defeated New England in Parcells' first game as its coach, 38-14.

A year later, the Patriots were in the playoffs.

Nine months ago, they lost Super Bowl XXXI.

Super Patriots.

Not so Super Jets. Not yet.

"I couldn't hope for anything better than that," said Parcells, who was given a $2.4-million annual contract, power to rival the Pope and a mandate to get the Jets into a Super Bowl while owner Leon Hess, 83, can still enjoy it.

"I realize it's a long season and it's just one step, so had we lost the game, I would have told the team the same thing. You know, 'you're in a marathon.'

"It's one game. In a few hours, we'll be lifting weights again and getting ready to play next week."

They'll play Buffalo as a 1-0 team for only the ninth time since 1969, the season of Namath and the Super Bowl guarantee delivered upon. They've been 2-0 only four times since.

But they don't know how to lose under Parcells, having come into the season with a 4-0 record in exhibition games.

"[Parcells' attitude] in any professional sport means a lot. You have to have an attitude. . . . We showed in the preseason that we could get things done if we put our minds to it," said noted author Keyshawn Johnson, who caught six passes from "Stiff Puppet" O'Donnell for 68 yards and was on the field to congratulate "Team Mascot" Chrebet after both of his touchdown catches.

"He's my teammate. I always congratulate my teammates," said Johnson, who was perhaps saving the good stuff for the sequel to "Just Give Me the Damn Ball," his rookie-year diary that did not sell many copies around Hofstra University on Long Island, where Stiff Puppet, Team Mascot and the rest of the Jets train.

There were a lot of congratulations handed out. O'Donnell took eight plays to get the Jets into the end zone, finding Chrebet--familiar in Seattle because he does a marvelous Steve Largent imitation--open over Fred Thomas.

And Parcells served notice that there's a new sheriff in town on New York's next series, when he had rookie John Hall kick a 55-yard field goal that would have been good from 65.

The Jets had fourth and 11 on the Seattle 42 before Reggie Brown was guilty of encroachment on New York's punt formation. That put the ball on the Seahawk 37.

"My special teams coach [Mike Sweatman] said to punt it," Parcells said. "I said, 'Hell no.' If the ball gets to the 37, and I'm not in a defensive posture, then the ball's going to be kicked . . .

"I'm just trying to be aggressive . . . to try to win the game. So whatever I think this particular team has to do to win the game, I'm going to do it."

Hall's contribution from there was to kick every kickoff into the end zone, all of them following O'Donnell touchdown passes save for that following a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter.

O'Donnell, who had never thrown more than three touchdown passes in a game, had scores of 35 and 31 yards to Chrebet, 26 and 47 to Jay Graham and a yard to Kyle Brady.

Brady's catch was accomplished in the second quarter as he stood virtually alone, while the Seattle defense was occupied elsewhere.

Or preoccupied.

When franchise savior Paul Allen stepped in front of the bench just before the kickoff, and waved north, south, east and west to the 53,893 in the Kingdome, that was the Seahawks' high-water mark.

"I tell you, it was humiliating and embarrassing today," Seattle Coach Dennis Erickson said. "I don't know what to say. I'm in total shock [at] what happened."

They even lost starting quarterback John Friesz in the second quarter because of a broken thumb. Warren Moon's 41-year-old body and decades of experience didn't help.

"Don't make too much of this, fellas," Parcells pleaded. "It's one game."

It's one win. That's all the Jets got all last season.

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