Forget Colts and Josh McDaniels; no team knows runaway brides better than Bucs

Before Bill Parcells became the Cowboys' head coach, he left the Bucs at the altar — twice. [AP Photo/Bill Haber (2006)]
Before Bill Parcells became the Cowboys' head coach, he left the Bucs at the altar — twice. [AP Photo/Bill Haber (2006)]
Published February 9
Updated February 9

There was a lot of shock and disappointment after Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels backed out of his agreement to become head coach of the Colts.

But the home of runaway brides still is Tampa Bay.

Not once, but twice, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells agreed to coach the Bucs, only to leave them at the altar.

The first time took place after the 1991 season. Then-Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse called an 11 a.m. news conference. Just before the show was to begin, NFL insider Will McDonough went on NBC with Bob Costas to report Parcells had pulled out of the deal at the eleventh hour, saying he just didn't feel "comfortable.''

A crestfallen Culverhouse waved a document with more than 30 demands by Parcells he had signed off on in front of reporters that day.

The next time turned out to be one of the most embarrassing chapters in Bucs history.

At least two weeks before Tony Dungy coached his final game in Tampa Bay, the Glazer family that owns the Bucs entered a secret agreement with Parcells.

After reporting on the story for several weeks and having about a half dozen sources confirm it, I approached Dungy the week before the Bucs' divisional playoff game at Philadelphia. He was focused on preparing his team and didn't believe his job was in jeopardy.

Two days before the game, the Times published the story, saying, among other things, Parcells had agreed to a contract to coach the Bucs, Monte Kiffin would remain as defensive coordinator and Jets assistant general manager Mike Tannenbaum would become general manager.

"I didn't really worry about it,'' Dungy wrote in his first book, Quiet Strength. "But I didn't want the players to be distracted. So I brought the paper with me on the flight so I could talk to the Glazers. I knew I could ask Joel (Glazer), given our conversation in Atlanta and his assurance then that I was their coach.''

None of the Glazers were on the flight. "I wondered if those "unnamed sources,'' in the Times were correct,'' Dungy wrote.

The Bucs lost to the Eagles 31-9. A couple days later, Dungy was fired.

Whether it was pushback from the coaching community or his impending divorce, Parcells backed out of the deal again.

"At the end of the day, I couldn't make the commitment that I knew it took to do the job the way I know it should be done," Parcells said. "I couldn't make myself say, 'Let's go.' I didn't want to go there and after eight months say, 'What am I doing here?'

"After next season I'll be out for three years and I'll be 61, and that's it," Parcells said. "I'm not entertaining any other job — pro or college."

Under Parcells' direction, the Bucs had hired offensive line coach Bill Muir. Although the Bucs denied their flirtations with the Tuna at the time, a year later, when Parcells was hired as the Cowboys' head coach, they pulled out a signed contract and demanded draft picks from Dallas as compensation. The NFL ruled against them.

Not unlike Parcells, or Bill Belichick, who quit after one day as the Jets head coach, McDaniels didn't fall far from that coaching tree.

His decision was especially galling, since the Colts had signed several assistant coaches to their staff even though they didn't have a signature on a piece of paper from McDaniels, who recommended them.

Reportedly, McDaniels was set to go to the Colts until Belichick and owner Robert Kraft convinced him to remain in New England.

Belichick agreed to allow McDaniels a glimpse into his scouting methods and manipulation of the salary cap, the kind of access rarely afforded an assistant coach that could be invaluable in the future.

While no agreement exists in writing, it's reasonable to believe McDaniels is a coach-in-waiting for the Patriots when Belichick opts to retire.

Among the most visceral reactions to McDaniels' flip-flop came from Dungy.

"Haven't read the article but I can tell you there is NO excuse big enough to justify this,'' Dungy tweeted. "It's one thing to go back on your word to an organization. But having assistant coaches leave jobs to go with you then leave them out to dry is indefensible. For COMFORT??''

ESPN's Adam Schefter quoted an NFL executive saying while unpopular, "good for Josh, it's not his fault playoff system and interview window is what it is.''

Dungy responded again. "When is it "good" for someone to go back on their word?'' he tweeted. "We're not talking about simply changing your mind. Everyone know how the hiring system works. Kyle Shanahan, Dan Quinn, many others had the same system. Whoever said that has the wrong values in life!''

Dungy has several reasons to criticize McDaniels. He won a Super Bowl with the Colts and is close to owner Jim Irsay. Had Parcells not intervened, you have to wonder if the Glazers would've fired Dungy.

The Bucs recovered, trading for Raiders coach Jon Gruden and winning Super Bowl XXXVII. But the episode was costly. The Bucs had to part with two first-round picks, a pair of second round picks and $8-million.

Chances are, McDaniels' cold feet won't cost the Colts as much as that.