For those of you who still rue the day Bill Parcells left the Patriots, has five Super Bowl wins done nothing to change your mind?
At the time, it was a difficult time to be a Patriot fan. When things were bad, they were just plain awful. And even when things were good, it wasn’t completely warm and fuzzy. Knowing what you know now, it’s a no-brainer. But back then, Parcells was like that beautiful girl who finally went out on a date with you, then jilted you later for some big strong jock type.
Then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had his hands full with the Jets and the Patriots in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On three occasions he had to deal with squabbles and underhanded dealings between the two teams, ruling twice and changing the rules once. In the end, the Patriots came out of it looking like a Rolls-Royce, while the Jets came out looking like a Ford Edsel. But the whole Parcells imbroglio dominated all things Patriot between 1996 and 2000, with his exodus to the Jets, and Bill Belichick’s eventual exodus to the Patriots.
And Terry Glenn was the linchpin.
Glenn passed away early Monday morning in a car accident in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas. He was 43 years old. His 38-year-old fiancée was also in the car and sustained serious injuries. Glenn died in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy died of an assassin’s bullets 54 years ago tomorrow. Belichick said that Glenn “deep down inside (was) a good person with good intentions and a good heart.” Patriot owner Bob Kraft, who was at the epicenter of the drafting of Glenn, said that “his rookie season will be remembered as one of the most impactful in franchise history.”
Even more impactful than his 90-catch 1996 season, which ended in the Patriots going to Super Bowl XXXI, was the drafting of Glenn himself.
Parcells joined the Patriots in 1993, brought on board by then owner James Busch Orthwein, to clean up a messy and downtrodden franchise, still smarting from the Lisa Olson scandal of 1990. Many NFL experts could not believe that Parcells would take on such a job. Patriot Nation, on the other hand, rejoiced. Finally, a real big time head coach comes to Foxborough. Raymond Berry took the Patriots to a Super Bowl and Chuck Fairbanks should have also. But Parcells was the real deal.
The following year, with Orthwein threatening to move the Patriots to his home base in St. Louis, he sold the Patriots to Kraft, who at the time owned Foxborough (originally Schaefer) Stadium. Kraft kept the Patriots in New England. Orthwein had made Parcells both head coach and general manager, not Kraft. Two years later, that fact would come into play, with historical consequences.
The 1994 Patriots made the playoffs, but were ousted in the Wild Card round by Cleveland, 20-13, who at the time was the original Browns and coached by Belichick. The 1995 Patriots saw a regression, winning only six games and missing the playoffs. Heading into the 1996 draft, Parcells wanted to take a defensive stud with the seventh pick and set his sights on defensive lineman Tony Brackens of Texas.
Kraft and then director of personnel Bobby Grier overruled Parcells and ordered him to take Glenn, a gifted wide receiver out of Ohio State. Parcells was furious at the overrule, but somehow recovered his composure and drafted safety Lawyer Milloy of Washington and linebacker Tedy Bruschi of Arizona later in the draft. This would turn out to be one of the best drafts in Patriot history, and for reasons way beyond what these men did on the playing field.
Within a short time after the draft, news broke that Parcells had his contract with the Patriots shortened by a year. No reasons as to why were given, it was just assumed that it was related to the drafting of Glenn. For the record, Brackens was taken in the second round (33rd overall) by Jacksonville, played with the Jaguars for eight seasons and made the Pro Bowl once, in 1999.
Glenn struggled in his early days as a Patriot. In training camp, Glenn sustained an injury and took longer than Parcells wanted to heal up, resulting in the famous “she” reference. What effect that had on Glenn isn’t really well known, but it did result in one of the best rookie performances in recent memory.
Glenn electrified the Patriots and their fans in 1996. He caught 90 passes for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns. He reached his zenith on November 3 against Miami, catching 10 passes for 112 yards. In the AFC Divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh in a thick fog at Foxborough, he caught a 53-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe on the first play of the game, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin on the next play to make it 7-0 Patriots. Glenn called that catch the biggest of his career.
The Patriots won that game, 28-3, then went on to beat Brackens’ Jacksonville team 20-6 at Foxborough to punch their tickets to the second Super Bowl game in team history. The Patriots headed to New Orleans and lost to Green Bay, 35-21. That trip was dominated not by the Patriot players or the Packer players, but instead by Parcells.
The late Globe columnist Will McDonough broke a story the Monday prior to the Super Bowl that Parcells would leave the Patriots to take on the New York Jets head coaching job. Sure enough, after the Super Bowl, Parcells took a different flight back to New England, then resigned a few days later. That was when he gave his “If you’re going to prepare the meal, they at least have to let you shop for the groceries” press conference. Threats of litigation followed, and the Jets hired Parcells as a “consultant” while Al Groh would actually coach the team. Tagliabue forced the two teams to broker a deal, and the Patriots agreed to let Parcells coach the Jets in return for four draft picks.
Pete Carroll took over the Patriots, and Glenn suddenly became hard to coach. Glenn made the Pro Bowl in 1999, but otherwise he became problematic. On a Sunday night sports talk show, he gave his famous “D-I-D” speech, meaning that when he was asked if he still wanted to play for the Patriots, he said “I did want to play for the Patriots. That’s D-I-D!” Meanwhile, Parcells injected new life in the Jets, and managed to pry Martin from the Patriots after the 1997 season with a restricted free agent offer sheet loaded with poison pills that the Patriots could not match. Tagliabue had to make those poison pills illegal, but the Patriots lost perhaps the best running back they ever had.
By 2000, the Patriots were back to being a mess again. Carroll lost control of the team, and eventually Kraft fired him. As soon as Parcells caught wind of Carroll’s firing, he had to act quickly and prevent the Patriots from scooping up his defensive coordinator as their new head coach.
It is sometimes forgotten that during the 1996 season, Belichick was on Parcells’ staff. His official title was “assistant head coach and defensive backs coach”. Belichick got to know Glenn that year and actually connected with him. But Parcells took Belichick with him in 1997 to the Jets and made him the defensive coordinator. There was also this clause in Belichick’s contract that said that he would automatically ascend to the head coach job of the Jets in case of Parcells’ retirement.
When Parcells found out about Carroll being fired, Parcells acted “real quick” and retired from coaching, automatically installing Belichick as the new head coach before the fax from Foxborough came in to ask to interview Belichick. However, the next day, Belichick “resigned as HC of the NYJ” and gave a rambling press conference as to why he did what he did. Tagliabue again stepped in, and brokered a trade between the two teams, Belichick to the Patriots for a first round pick.
Sadly, Glenn could not make it with the Patriots even under Belichick. Believe it or not, Glenn was the recipient of the first touchdown pass of Tom Brady’s career, in an October 14th game against the Chargers. Glenn would later be suspended by the NFL for missing drug tests, and the Patriots traded him to Green Bay later in the year. Glenn did not receive a ring for Super Bowl XXXVI.
While the Patriots launched the greatest dynasty in NFL history, Glenn would ironically be reunited with Parcells and Bledsoe in Dallas. Glenn played the last 5 years of his career in Big D, catching 208 passes and 20 touchdowns. In a tweet on Monday, Bledsoe said that “TG overcame horrible adversity to become a really good man.” Glenn retired during the 2007 season.
Much of Glenn’s troubles stemmed from his childhood. His mother was murdered when he was 13, then he bounced around from various aunts before landing in the home of one of his high school teammates. But his life as a youth in Columbus was very problematic. During the pregame of the 1996 AFC Championship Game, NBC ran a piece on Glenn which touched on the murder of his mother. After the piece, co-host Mike Ditka remarked, “This kid’s tough.” This is the same kid that Parcells referred to as “she”.
So, what would have happened to the Patriots if Parcells had been allowed to take Brackens and not forced to take Glenn? One can only imagine. Belichick was not highly regarded following his five-year stint in Cleveland, which ended when the Browns left Cleveland, moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. When Belichick came to New England in 2000, many fans and experts preferred then Jacksonville defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Nobody could have predicted the greatness Belichick would bring to the Patriots.
As for Glenn, he was making a nice life for himself in Dallas, engaged to be married and with five children. He continued to have problems after football, but all reports say that he had begun to turn things around. Details of the automobile crash that took his life have yet to come out, but his life was obviously cut way too short, and a man who led an undeniably troubled life has peace at last.
Patriot Nation should not regard his passing lightly. His drafting led to what the Patriots are today. But fans and followers should remember him for the talent he was, and all the adversity he had to overcome. And that in every sense of the word, he was, and always will be, “he” and nothing else.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary