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Giants were seconds away from bringing Bill Parcells back in 1997

Posted Jan 15, 2015

Giants President and CEO John Mara recalled how Jim Fassell became the Giants head coach over Bill Parcells in 1997

Three NFL teams announced new head coaches this week, and four more with vacancies will do the same in the near future.

Behind monumental decisions such as those, there are stories.

While the Giants haven’t needed to make the change in more than a decade, team president and chief executive officer John Mara peeled back the curtain on one of those landmark times in 1997. That’s when the organization hired Jim Fassel, who went on to a 58-53 record in the regular season and took the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

But at the time of Fassel’s hiring, the Giants were close to a reunion with future Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, who previously led the franchise to its first two Lombardi Trophies and coached from 1983-1990.

In fact, they were a cell phone call away. That is, if those were prevalent at the time. But they were not. The rest is history.

Mara, the executive vice president and chief operating officer at the time and son of late owner Wellington Mara, recalled the story yesterday on “The Michael Kay Show.”

>> LISTEN TO JOHN MARA ON ESPN RADIO

“I was right in the middle of it, to tell you the truth,” Mara said. “We had some disagreement at the time about whether Bill should be brought back. And my father was very anxious to have him back. [Former general manager] George Young was not anxious to have him back. So [late co-owner] Bob Tisch was kind of right in the middle of it, and I was kind of right in the middle of it. Bob kind of changed his mind at the last second and said, ‘OK, if you want to bring him back.’ In the meantime, George had already walked down the hall. Actually, I think it was the first time in his life that he ever ran. He ran down the hallway, and by the time I got a call from Bob Tisch saying, ‘Listen, if you want Bill Parcells back, I’m not going to block it,’ I ran down the hallway to get George, and he had already made the call and offered the job to Fassel. And we didn’t think it was right to withdraw the offer at that point in time. So that’s what ended up happening.

>> BILL PARCELLS HALL OF FAME CENTRAL

“Had there been a cell phone at that time, that may have changed things. Not that George would have answered the cell phone. But that is what happened. And it’s funny how those things work out sometimes. And Jim did a good job for us. He took us to a Super Bowl. But who knows what would have happened if Bill had come back and who knows whether he and George would have been able to get along at that point, too.”

In addition to that piece of Giants’ lore, Mara also spoke about his time as a spotter for CBS broadcasters Don Criqui and Sonny Jurgensen. But Mara’s career in production ended on Nov. 19, 1978, a date notoriously associated with “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” when Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown to complete a mind-boggling comeback victory over the Giants.

“That was the last game I ever worked,” Mara told Kay and Don La Greca. “I think they banned me from the broadcast booth after that because I think I pounded my fists on the table so hard. That was back in the day where you actually had a microphone in front of you, and the microphone went flying all over the place. And so CBS did not ask me back after that, and rightfully so. But, yeah, I would say that was certainly the low point in the history of the franchise. At the end of that year, we made some changes, and George Young came in and things improved greatly from there. But in my lifetime, that was certainly probably the low point.

“I worked a lot of games, when I was in college and in law school, with Don Criqui. And I always had a great friendship with him. But I don’t think he ever wanted me back after that game.”