Sports 101

A soap opera starring two Bills and two rival National Football League teams has been playing out this week.

The drama began when Bill Parcells stepped down as head coach of the New York Jets on Monday. His assistant and longtime coaching colleague, Bill Belichick, was then promoted to fill his shoes. Faster than you can say "resignation," Belichick resigned one day after the Jets named him head coach.

The plot thickens.

The New England Patriots, whom Belichick left in 1997 to follow Parcells to New York, faxed the Jets on Monday, seeking permission to talk to Belichick about their head-coaching position. (The Patriots fired coach Pete Carroll on Monday.) But Jets team owner Steve Gutman stated that Belichick's contract is still binding. The NFL has barred any other team from contacting Belichick while it looks into his contract.

Q: Why are sports fans so intrigued by this story?

A: Drama and politics are mingled. It's a game of X's and O's off the field. Some have speculated that Parcells stepped down just so the Patriots couldn't nab Belichick. Belichick's contract states that if Parcells steps down, Belichick takes his place as head coach and can't go to another team. The Jets would be owed compensation if Belichick went elsewhere, which he could do only with their permission.

Q: Why didn't Belichick accept the head coach position with the Jets?

A: He said at a Tuesday press conference that he felt he couldn't "lead the Jets with 100 percent conviction into the year 2000." He was also concerned about the pending sale of the team by the Hess family (owner Leon Hess died in May) and how new owners would treat him. He also would be following a tough act in Parcells, who turned around the New York Giants, Patriots, and Jets with Belichick as his assistant.

Q: What is Belichick's background?

A: He is one of the league's top defensive coordinators and helped Parcell's teams reach three Super Bowls in 12 years as his assistant. He also served as head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 1991 to 1995 and guided them to a 37-45 record and one playoff appearance.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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