Perhaps Bill Parcells will look back and remember a late-May
conversation with Mo Lewis as the moment when shovel met dirt
and the construction of a new Jets franchise began. Lewis, the
seventh-year linebacker, was in the locker room at the team's
Long Island practice facility after a particularly draining day
of minicamp, and he was feeling lower than pond scum when he
told Parcells, "I'm sick of people running up points on us. I'd
like to have a defense where the other team comes out of a
huddle and knows they're not getting anything."
"We will someday," replied Parcells. "I believe that."
A big boast, especially when you consider that the Jets haven't
had a winning season in eight years. But Parcells' track record
suggests he can live up to his words. He has twice taken over
organizations and transformed them from wooden shanties into
Frank Lloyd Wrights in just a few years. In 1983 he became coach
of the Giants, a team with only one winning season in its
previous 10; in four years they were Super Bowl champions. In
1993 Parcells assumed control of the Patriots, a club that had
gone 9-39 over the previous three seasons. Four years later they
were in Super Bowl XXXI.
The Jets, imbued with a culture of losing, may be Parcells'
greatest challenge. His first moves as coach were designed to
create a new atmosphere. He spent nearly $3 million of owner
Leon Hess's money to renovate the weight room, build two new
practice fields and install a Teflon polymer bubble over one of
them. It is, if nothing else, a start.
"I think Parcells really knows what he's doing," says third-year
defensive end Hugh Douglas. "He brings an aura with him. You
walk into a room he's in and there's this feeling. It's just
Quarterback Neil O'Donnell, in the second year of his five-year,
$25 million contract (which dovetails with Parcells' four-year
plan for the Super Bowl), is the key to the Jets' performance.
He missed the last nine games of '96 with shoulder and calf
injuries, and even when he did play, he was ineffective.
Entering that season, O'Donnell had the lowest career
interception percentage (2.08) in league history, but last year
he was picked off seven times in just 188 attempts (3.72).
When you consider Parcells' often tempestuous relationships with
his quarterbacks (just ask the Patriots' Drew Bledsoe about the
length of Parcells' fuse), and his panting over the prospect of
drafting Peyton Manning (who instead opted to remain at
Tennessee), signs point to possible trouble ahead. So far
everything has been cordial between coach and quarterback. "I
guarantee in the heat of battle we'll have our words," says
O'Donnell, "but that will be just because of what's happening at
The tumult that has surrounded the team obscures the fact that
the Jets have a nice core of talent on offense. Wide receiver
Keyshawn Johnson may lack a certain degree of discretion (in a
tell-all book after his rookie season he ripped O'Donnell and
fan favorite Wayne Chrebet, who caught 21 more passes than
Johnson while making one seventh his salary), but he has the
tools to be a Jerry Rice-style game-breaker. Adrian Murrell, who
last year became only the third running back in league history
to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,249) for a team that won
only one game, may very well end up in the Pro Bowl this season,
thanks to the addition of blocking machine Lorenzo Neal at
fullback. The offensive line, anchored by left tackle Jumbo
Elliott and right guard Matt O'Dwyer, has no discernible weak
The defense is led by All-Pro-to-be Douglas, who had 18 sacks in
his first 25 NFL games--sixth best for any NFL player starting
his career. The rest of the line in defensive coordinator Bill
Belichick's 4-3 unit is nondescript, but the linebacking corps
is peppered with players with bright futures. Lewis, rookie
James Farrior and fifth-year man Marvin Jones will be crucial
ingredients in Parcells' rebuilding recipe. Smallish corners
Aaron Glenn and Ray Mickens excel in man-to-man coverage, but
how they will fare in Belichick's zone-based defense remains a
"I often say to the players that this game can mean an awful lot
of things to you," says Parcells. "It can give you a name and
money. It can provide a solid life for you. But it won't give
you a championship. You have to earn it. That's what I'm hopeful
For the first time in recent memory, hope is something the Jets
can lay claim to.
COLOR PHOTO: AL PEREIRA COVER [REGIONAL] To the Rescue Can Bill Parcells get the Jets off the ground?
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO O'Dwyer and company needed a major face-lift, and Parcells is providing it. [Matt O'Dwyer in game]
BY THE NUMBERS
1996 Yards per Game (NFL rank)
1996 Record: 1-15 (fifth in AFC East)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 98.9 (23) 226.6 (10) 325.5 (11)
DEFENSE 137.5 (29) 210.3 (19) 347.8 (27)
A Rapid Takeoff
Thirty-one wide receivers were selected in the 1995 NFL draft,
but Wayne Chrebet was not among them. The undrafted free agent,
however, set a record for most passes caught in a player's first
two seasons. (New England's Terry Glenn needs just 61 catches
this year to break Chrebet's record, and Keyshawn Johnson needs
88 to pass his teammate.)
Most Catches in First Two Years
Year 1 Year 2 Total
Wayne Chrebet, Jets, 1995-96 66 84 150
Gary Clark, Redskins, 1985-86 72 74 146
Sterling Sharpe, Packers, 1988-89 55 90 145
Keith Jackson, Eagles, 1988-89 81 63 144
Isaac Bruce, Rams, 1994-95 21 119 140
Performance of Alltime Reception Leaders
Year 1 Year 2 Total Career
Jerry Rice,1985-present 49 86 135 1,050
Art Monk, 1980-1995 58 56 114 940
Steve Largent, 1976-1989 54 33 87 819
Henry Ellard, 1983-present 16 34 50 775
Andre Reed, 1985-present 48 53 101 766
PLAYER TO WATCH
"I'm not Reggie White or Bruce Smith," says Ronnie Dixon, a
6'3", 310-pound defensive tackle, "but I'm not going to let
anybody down." That's what new Jets coach Bill Parcells was
banking on when he acquired Dixon, a fourth-year player out of
the University of Cincinnati, from the Eagles in the off-season
for a seventh-round draft pick. Parcells has a history of
transforming no-name defensive tackles--Jim Burt with the
Giants, for example--into successful players. His latest project
has only 41 career tackles and no sacks but excels at the bull
rush. If Parcells works his magic again, Dixon could be the
interior wrecking ball the Jets defense has lacked in recent
PROJECTED LINEUP With 1996 Statistics
Head Coach: Bill Parcells
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Neil O'Donnell 156[*] 188 att. 110 comp. 58.5% 1,147 yds.
4 TDs 7 int. 67.8 rtg.
RB Adrian Murrell 19[*] 301 att. 1,249 yds. 4.1 avg.
17 rec. 81 yds. 4.8 avg. 7 TDs
FB Lorenzo Neal[A] 202[*] 21 att. 58 yds. 2.8 avg. 31 rec.
194 yds. 6.3 avg. 2 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Keyshawn Johnson 44[*] 63 rec. 844 yds. 8 TDs
WR Jeff Graham 205[*] 50 rec. 788 yds. 6 TDs
WR Wayne Chrebet 129[*] 84 rec. 909 yds. 3 TDs
TE Kyle Brady 323[*] 15 rec. 144 yds. 1 TD
PK Don Silvestri 385[*] 0/0 XPs 0/0 FGs 0 pts.
KR Dedrick Ward (R)[A] 359[*] 2 ret. 27.0 avg. 0 TDs
PR Dedrick Ward (R)[A] 359[*] 15 ret. 11.1 avg. 2 TDs
LT Jumbo Elliott 6'7" 308 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
LG Harry Galbreath 6'1" 295 lbs. 15 games 8 starts
C Roger Duffy 6'3" 305 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Matt O'Dwyer 6'5" 294 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT David Williams 6'5" 300 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
LE Marvin Washington 56 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
LT Rick Terry (R)[A] 47 tackles 3 sacks
RT Ronnie Dixon[A] 12 tackles 0 sacks
RE Hugh Douglas 36 tackles 8 sacks
OLB Marvin Jones 103 tackles 1 sack
MLB Pepper Johnson[A] 70 tackles 0 sacks
OLB Mo Lewis 43 tackles 1/2 sack
CB Aaron Glenn 44 tackles 4 int.
SS Victor Green 165 tackles 2 int.
FS Marcus Coleman 31 tackles 1 int.
CB Otis Smith[A] 31 tackles 2 int.
P Brian Hansen 74 punts 44.5 avg.
[A] New Acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 165)