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Jameis Winston lit up the Jacksonville Jaguars on prime time Monday night, practically stamping himself as the New Orleans Saints new starting quarterback, despite coach Sean Payton’s refusal to publicly do so after the game.
But Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells believes the competition has already been decided.
“These guys have been on the field with Sean Payton a year and a full camp — Taysom Hill, longer than that,” Parcells says from his summer home in Saratoga, N.Y. “If Sean doesn’t know by now, then he’s not going to know. I feel pretty sure he knows.”
When Parcells says he’s “pretty sure” about something, it’s because he knows.
Maybe that’s because Payton uses Parcells, his former boss with the Dallas Cowboys, as something of an advisor on all matters football.
It’s clear Parcells is all in on the idea of starting Winston, despite the fact the quarterback threw 30 interceptions in Tampa Bay two seasons ago. Parcells doesn’t see that woeful statistic as the player’s failing exclusively.
“Listen to me, that was on the coaching,” Parcells says. “If I was his coach, when he got to 15 interceptions, he needed to either have his throat cut or I would have cut mine. We’re not getting to 30, trust me.
“So much of that is if you’re playing from behind all the time and you’re trying to catch up, situations evolve that are very difficult for some players.”
Parcells was the head coach for the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys during a career that spanned five decades. He was also the general manager of the Jets and the final authority for the Miami Dolphins on all football matters from 2008-10.
Coaches to this day call him for advice. Players, too.
And much of that advice is about what to do with quarterbacks.
So ask Parcells about the uncertain quarterback situations in Jacksonville, Chicago, Denver, perhaps Carolina and even New England, and Parcells shares his thoughts.
Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater are locked in a duel for the starting job.
Parcells, who’s never met with Denver coach Vic Fangio but has gotten close to Bridgewater, believes the job should and will go to his guy.
“I know that kid out there can win games,” Parcells says. “I know because I saw him do it with the Saints. And I saw him do it at Minnesota. They’re one field goal away from being in the (NFC) Championship (during the 2016 playoffs). If Blair Walsh makes a 27-yarder, they’re in the Championship.
“So I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen him fight back from a terrible injury. Terrible. He’s one of those guys that you can’t just put it all on him. You have to have other mechanisms. But the Broncos, I believe, have some of those. I’m interested to see what they do.”
The Panthers had Bridgewater as their starter last year and got rid of him in favor of Sam Darnold, who had been traded by the Jets. Parcells isn’t a fan of how first-year Carolina coach Matt Rhule handled Bridgewater and wonders whether Darnold can resurrect his career under him.
“You got a rookie coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Parcells says of the Carolina situation last season. “It’s not Baylor. And you’re not playing TCU. Listen, I’m not blaming the coach. But I’ve seen Teddy, under the right circumstances, have success.
“Now Sam Darnold is down there. I like him. I’d like to be coaching the (guy). But that’s just me, I’m egotistical enough to think that would be good. I think he’s a big, strong, physical guy who’s smart. I think he likes football. He’s not a crybaby. He can throw the ball. He just needs a little guidance counselor. That’s all.”
The Jaguars now have Trevor Lawrence and the Bears have Justin Fields, two prized rookies who will be the face of their franchises in the years to come. But Parcells isn’t thinking about the years to come, but rather, this season.
“I can just tell you if you put them in and they’re not ready or the situation won’t let them succeed, you can destroy them — quick,” Parcells says.
Parcells says he’d pick Lawrence to start in Jacksonville, but the decision isn’t as simple as putting him in because he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
“I think (Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer) is going to pick him,” Parcells says. “It’s just a question of how he’s going to do it. Can they play within what he’s able to do now? That’s very important in coaching. You got to figure out, well, what exactly can this guy here do? Like right now?
“Six months or a year from now, it might be better or more expansive, but right now they’re not canceling the game, so we have to play now. What can he do?
“You’ve got to play him. But you have to approach it in a way that allows him to build his confidence slowly. You just have to play the game a certain way. Because you can do more harm than good.”
Parcells made Bill Belichick his defensive coordinator in 1985 with the Giants and later hired him with the Patriots and Jets. The two still speak about football more often than either would admit publicly.
And while Parcells won’t pick between Cam Newton and Mac Jones, he’s confident in the guy who will.
“You have to decide who’s best right now,” Parcells says. “It’s tough. But a guy like Bill, he’s got enough experience. If that Mac Jones isn’t ready, then he won’t play him. If you see him go in there, you know Bill thinks he’s ready to play.”