If you’re the parents of Venus and Serena Williams, which sister do you root for when they go head to head?
Come on. That’s not a fair question.
OK, so what if you’re a legendary NFL head coach and two of your protégés are set to square off this Sunday night on primetime television in a game with playoff implications? What then?
Former Giants head coach and 2-time Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells is in some way responsible for Tom Coughlin and Mike Zimmer holding the top post on the coaching staff for the Giants and Vikings, respectively. He’s not touching the question of rooting interest, according to a story published Tuesday on ESPN.com.
“I’m just looking,” Parcells told ESPN’s Ben Goessling. “I’m a Giant at heart — that’s my team, that’s what I grew up watching. I’m always interested in the Giants, and have a high regard for Tom Coughlin. But to be honest with you, I’m going to try to find out what the heck’s going on here. It’s just, ‘Let’s see.’ I’m not rooting for or against anybody. I have a vested interest in both of those people.”
Zimmer, the Vikings head coach in his second year, famously counts Parcells as one of his primary mentors. Parcells is known to text Zimmer after games with words of encouragement or constructive criticism. Zimmer also pulls some sayings from time to time from the coach.
Zimmer’s even relayed stories in which Parcells pulled the young defensive coordinator aside when they worked together with the Dallas Cowboys to say he’d better pay attention because one day Zimmer would be a head coach and would need to know why certain decisions were made.
Despite a successful run as coordinator of the Cowboys and later the Cincinnati Bengals, Zimmer had been passed over a handful of times for head coaching opportunities. The widespread speculation is that he could be too blunt in job interviews, but Zimmer has refuted those assumptions to a degree since being hired in Minnesota.
Parcells told ESPN that he saw the potential, and that he vouched for Zimmer when the Vikings were set to interview one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league after firing head coach Leslie Frazier in 2013.
“I thought he had potential,” Parcells told ESPN, “but you’re never sure, because you can’t explain what being a head coach is like and how it’s different than being an assistant. People have to go through it, and never know how it’s going to happen. But I’m very happy that he’s got the chance. I think football needs guys like him.”
Still, Parcells’ ties to the Giants are strong. That’s where he won a pair of Super Bowls in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. He also hired Coughlin, the current head coach of the Giants, as a receivers coach years ago. And so, with the Vikings clawing for a chance to win the NFC North and the Giants still technically alive in the mediocre NFC East, Parcells didn’t pick a rooting interest in that ESPN piece.
For the full story and more from ESPN’s interview with Parcells, check out this post.