‘The Two Bills’ Is An Honest Effort At Telling A Remarkable NFL Story

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The latest 30 for 30, titled The Two Bills, premiered last night on ESPN.

Presented by Ken Rodgers and NFL Films, the documentary takes a look at the complicated relationship between NFL coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. The film itself does not delve too deeply into their relationship or deliver groundbreaking discoveries. However, it’s a great look into the story of the unique situations surrounding these two storied coaches.

The film spends a decent amount of time on a dual interview between the two Bills at Metlife Stadium. Upon entering and seeing the already-sitting Parcells, Belichick says hi and calls him “coach.” The admiration Belichick has for Parcells is instantly apparent. There is a clear mentor-peer relationship between the two, with Belichick openly stating how much Parcells contributed to his growth and development as a coach.

A number of people who either worked with or played under the pair are interviewed, including: Lawrence Taylor, Pepper Johnson, Harry Carson, Curtis Martin, Bryan Cox, Robert Kraft, Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, Scott Pioli and Charlie Weis. It is interesting seeing a number of their titles changing throughout the film as they followed one or two of the Bills from team to team. It is their words — along with what’s said by the two Bills — that make up the entirety of the film’s dialogue.

Over the course of the first 30 or so minutes, the focus is on the pair’s success with the Giants, culminating in two championships. Both Bills were hailed as excellent coaches during this time and both ironically enough coached their last game in Giants’ blue in their Super Bowl XXV victory. Parcells stepped down for health reasons, but didn’t do so until roughly four months after Belichick had taken the Cleveland Browns job, leading many to question the timing of it all.

Over the course of the ’90s, the two faced each other on opposing sidelines. But in 1997, both with the Jets, the agreement was that once Parcells was ready to step down, Belichick would assume the title of head coach and take over.

Their biggest issue came when Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, faxed the Jets a request to interview Belichick for the head coaching job in 2000. Parcells never responded to the fax because of the agreement in place and because of past issues with Kraft and the Patriots. The younger Bill did not take kindly to this and also was not happy with the change in ownership for the Jets. So, a day into his tenure as Jets head coach in 2000, he stepped down.

Belichick, as we all know, would soon take the Patriots job and go on to become arguably the greatest head coach of all time. The rest, as they say, is history.

The film does a great job of getting the two to speak candidly on a number of incidents — both good and bad. Between talking over defensive strategies during both Super Bowl runs with the Giants, to discussing some choice words Parcells said during games, it’s great to have these two legendary coaches sitting side by side chatting it up (to an extent). However, it is apparent that both coaches are a bit reserved during this interview, Parcells even more so.

The various interviews are expertly supplemented by game film, sideline action, and live media reports. NFL Films certainly does its role to perfection, providing footage that truly brings the story of these two men to life. For those not alive (or too young) during much of the drama, it’s a treat to see snippets of old SportsCenter episodes featuring hosts such as Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen.

The story also presents a number of ‘what ifs’ for the viewers. What if Belichick had the chance to take the Giants job in 1991? What if both Bills didn’t step down from the Jets in 2000? Robert Kraft notes that he was about to hire Dom Capers as head coach in 2000, but a snowstorm postponed his second interview, giving Belichick an opening.

In the end, The Two Bills is not a groundbreaking film loaded with new details. However, it is a great piece of filmmaking, one that weaves together a story of the interesting relationship between two of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. The wealth of interviewees, archived footage, and actual time spent on the two Bills make this a 30 for 30 well worth watching.

Giants fans will love it. Patriots fans will love it. Jets fans will…well, Jets fans will most likely still enjoy it. Fans of football in general will love it. It’s filled with great quotes, such as “sensitivity wasn’t in play very much” from Parcells. People will also especially love the humanizing effect it has on Belichick. Known mostly as a stern coach of few words, Belichick is often smiling while reminiscing on his times with Parcells, showing off a not-often-seen softer side.