Upon closer inspection, it sure seems like the Tuna was given the hook. And though he's nothing short of a football legend -- and it might sound almost sacrilegious to suggest it -- but Parcells may have deserved the demotion.
The Dolphins made the announcement Tuesday afternoon with nothing more than a short, ambiguous note stating that Parcells will now be a consultant and that this was the plan all along. No news conference. No public thanks to Parcells. No explanation at all.
Then came the public remarks about the regime shift. Tony Sparano, a Parcells protégé, would not answer questions about how he learned of the change. Linebacker Karlos Dansby told reporters, "There must have been a big-time reason." Safety Yeremiah Bell said, "It is unsettling."
There have long been reports and rumors that Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross never got along with Parcells, who was brought in by Wayne Huizenga after the franchise's low point: going 1-15 in 2007.
Parcells immediately installed Sparano has head coach, made Jeff Ireland general manager, and took Jake Long with the number-one pick in the 2008 draft. And the Dolphins had the biggest single-season turnaround in NFL history.
But a lot of that was a result of very fortuitous circumstances: After finishing at the bottom of the league, the Dolphins had the easiest schedule in the NFL. Then the rival Jets handed the Dolphins a gift when they traded for Brett Favre and waived veteran Chad Pennington. Then division foe New England had its all-world quarterback, Tom Brady, get hurt in the first game of the year.
Reality struck in 2009, and the Fins fell back to 7-9. Still, Parcells was hailed as a franchise-resurrecting genius.
Since Parcells arrived in South Florida, he's lodged himself in a virtual ivory tower, separate from most of the people in the organization. He rarely shows his face at practice or speaks to the media. And when he does, he's generally aloof and dismissive.
Sporano hinted that he doesn't speak with Parcells much.
"I'm obviously right down the end of the hall," Sparano told reporters. "I can't miss him. But sitting there talking to him, I don't have time for that right now. I'm getting a team ready to play. If Bill has something to say to me, he knows where to find me."
Sounds like it might just be time for the Tuna and the Dolphins to go their separate ways.
Parcells' strength lies in turning around teams early. As a head coach, he took the Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys from losing records to the playoffs in three years or less. He got to the Super Bowl with both the Giants (he won two) and Patriots in the fourth year of each of his respective tenures.
But his track record shows that once his teams get the initial bump, they either plateau or begin to head downhill again quickly. And not long after that, Parcells tends to leave town.
Essentially, right now his value doesn't match his cost.
It's not that he hasn't done a lot of good things as head of football operations. Drafting Jake Long with the first pick -- and getting him to take less money than he would have otherwise -- was a great move. Vontae Davis, the Dolphins' first pick in the 2009 draft, is already a star. Parcells signed Ricky Williams to an extension without issue (or a sports agent involved) and wisely got rid of Joey Porter. And of course, bringing in a receiver like Brandon Marshall looks pretty good too.
But for a draft specialist, he's had some really big misses too. The most notable is Pat White, the West Virginia quarterbackish character the Tuna took in the second round of last year's draft with the hopes of making him a "Wildcat quarterback." White was cut this week after just one year on the team.
Those second-round picks are supposed to be gold, where a franchise's future is made. And White wasn't Parcells' only bust. Phillip Merling, another second-rounder under Parcells, will miss this entire season with a torn Achilles and oh-by-the-way is facing felony charges for allegedly beating his pregnant girlfriend. Then there's Chad Henne, another second-round pick in 2008, who is, if anything, still unproven.
In all, the Dolphins have made 26 draft picks since Parcells took over. Thirteen of those picks are no longer on the active roster. In the pile of castoffs are two second-rounders and one third-round selection in just three years.
The world may never know what happened in the executive offices this summer or what exactly led to Parcells' leaving two days before the season started. With the unpredictable and uncommunicative characters involved, it really could be anything. Or it could be nothing at all.
Either way, it was time to throw the Tuna back.