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This page shares my best articles to read on topics like creativity, decision making, strategy, and more. The central questions I explore are, “How can we learn the best of what others have mastered? And how can we become the best possible version of ourselves?”

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Daniel Scrivner

Coach Bill Parcells' NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech

This is part of my collection of history's greatest speeches, which includes Ed Catmull's Keep Your Crises Small, General Patton's Speech to the Third Army, and Richard Hamming's You and Your Research. Browse them all →

Bill Parcells served as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for 19 seasons. He came to prominence as the head coach of the New York Giants from 1983 to 1990, where he won two Super Bowl titles. Parcells was later the head coach of the New England Patriots from 1993 to 1996, the New York Jets from 1997 to 2000, and the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to 2006. Nicknamed "The Big Tuna", he is the only NFL coach to lead four different franchises to the playoffs and three to a conference championship game.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At his enshrinement ceremony he delivered this speech, in which he talks about his approach to football and philosophy for coaching. Wherever you see the ✂️ emoji I've edited the speech for brevity and clarity.

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Bill Parcells' Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech

I'm going to talk first a little about my professional life. I worked for four organizations as a coach and one as an administrator in the NFL. This time of year, most organizations try to portray themselves in a manner that gives their fan base an indication that they're trying to compete for the division and a championship and all those kinds of things. But I found out over the years that the commitment has varying degrees in the NFL.

Now I worked for the New York Giants, a flagship franchise, the Mara family,Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, the late Leon Hess, and the great Jerry Jones and his family there in Dallas. More recently, as an administrator, Stephen Ross, and Wayne Huizenga. And I've seen coaches go to these franchises and get fired very quickly because the situation would not allow them to succeed.

Fortunately, for Bill Parcells, I was never in one of those situations. Every organization that I worked for supported me to the fullest, and I'm grateful to the ownership of those places, because that's what allows you and the players to succeed and go forward and become champions. Without that, you've got no shot, but I was lucky to have that all the time.

Now, my coaching staff, history has showed what I had, ladies and gentlemen. Top assistant coaches, sometimes full time assistant coaches their whole career, great position coaches, some retired, some still going, others on to college head coaching jobs and bowl championships. Then others in pro football, division championships, conference championships, and several Super Bowls. I was lucky to have some of the top names currently as head coaches in pro football. I want them to know that I'm grateful for their support of me, very, very grateful. I know I couldn't do it. That is the nuts and bolts of a football operation is your assistant coaches. I just want to say I take pride in their individual accomplishments, and I'm looking for a couple more championships out of some of them, so let's go.

Players, I've got four or five of them up here on the stage with me, so that ought to tell you all you need to know. But there was a time in my career when this whole thing could have gone either way. After the '83 season and into the '84 season, it was touch and go. Another loss or two in a row probably would have meant the end. I'm not positive, but that's the way I was thinking at the time, and I knew my players knew it.

But coincidentally, there was kind of a confluence of circumstances that just occurred all at once, and the best way to put it is I had the exact right kind of players, understood my personality, bought into the program, at the absolute most critical time in my career. That's that '84 '85 group that had to run that gauntlet, and I know how hard it was, and I love you guys for it. I'm proud that you became champions because of it. ✂️

On a more personal note, I didn't come up the hard way, I didn't come up the easy way. I grew up in an average American family in northern New Jersey. Had a great dad. Had a lot of wisdom imparted to me. Had a mother that was highly confrontational, I probably got a little of that as well. Had two brothers, one of whom is deceased, I know he's looking down, my other brother is here tonight. And I had a sister, I know she's watching tonight. It was all good, I guess that is the phrase now everybody's using. It was all good, and that is the way it was. ✂️

Now I've got to tell you about a special guy. He's here tonight. He's 92 years old. He's my high school basketball coach. His name's Mickey Corcoran. He's pretty famous in North Jersey. He was everything that a 14 year old guy needed. He was a coach, a teacher, a disciplinarian, a butt kicker. And I don't know how to characterize this relationship that we've had for 58 years, but whatever adjective you could use to portray something good, you could use it with this relationship. He's been a great friend to me. He's been like a second father. He's somebody I could always talk to, my guidance counselor. He knows the love I have in my heart for him. As I said, he's 92, and I've got to get 10 or 15 more years out of you, Buster, so let's go.

Another man, first guy to ever give me a head coaching job, Hastings College in the mid '60s, Dean Pryor, he's here tonight, thank God. And I want to tell you something, he taught me one vital, vital piece of information that I took with me and preached to every organization, to every university, to my coaching staff, to my individual coaches, and I remind myself every day. That vital piece of information was, Bill, the players deserve a chance to win, and you as an organization or university and a coaching staff and an individual coach and a head coach, have an obligatory responsibility to give it to them. I thank Dean for that piece of advice, because I carried it with me and I preached it all my life. So thank you.

One other guy I would be remiss if I didn't mention, I know he's down in Mississippi tonight. He's still coaching. He's a sick puppy like I was. His name's Ray Perkins. He's the one that got me involved in pro football along with the late Ron Erhardt, and I just wanted to mention, Ray, and tell him how much I appreciate him taking a chance on me when he didn't really know what he was getting. So I say thanks, Ray, I know you're watching.

Now, I want to just say something about my experience in pro football, and there is a guy up on this stage that kind of got me thinking about something. His name is Steve Young. I heard him say this I don't mean to put you on the spot, Steve. I heard him say this several years ago. He said that the locker room is a great laboratory for human behavior. When he said that, it just kind of hit me. I said, you know what? This guy's right. This guy is absolutely right.

Now, talent aside, we know it's the football business, but the only prerequisite for acceptance into that locker room is you've got to be willing to contribute to the greater good, and if you are willing to do that, you are readily accepted. If you're not, you're pretty much quickly rejected.

Now we've got all kinds in this place. We've got white, we've got black, we've got Latin, we've got Asian, we've got Samoans, we've got Tongans, we've got Native Americans. Ladies and gentlemen, I played and coached with them all, and the only thing that made any difference is are you willing to help? And if you are, come on in. If you're not, get the heck out of here.

Now, there are a lot of exit doors in pro football, and by exit doors, I mean vehicles that organizations or players or coaches could use to incite to the public that it wasn't their fault that the team performed poorly. But Monday, about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon after we've all watched those films, very seldom are any of those exit doors taken, because accountability is at a premium in guys like this. It's at a premium.

So we've got the greater good and we've got accountability. Now we've got some rules and regulations in the locker room. But they're not written down. But after you've been there just a couple of days, you know what they are. If someone should deviate and violate those rules, you find out that there is a judge and jury in that room and they act decisively. Their decisions are final, because we don't have any appellate courts in there. Okay.

So, we've got the greater good, we've got accountability, and now we've got law and order. Now we've got a wide range of emotions in this place, ladies and gentlemen. We've got happiness, we've got humor, practical jokes, hilarity, success, achievement. Then we've got that momentary time of exhilaration where you hoist that championship trophy over your head, and I don't know what happens, but some mystical blood kinship is formed, and although it's a fleeting moment, that kinship lasts for the rest of your life.

And the thing I'm most proud of with my teams is they have it, and I know, because I lived it. Because when something goes wrong with one, all the others run to help, and I know, because they've run to help me.

Now, on the other side of that locker room there's darkness. There's defeat. There's despondency, there's pain. You see those players carrying those IVs on to the aircraft after a mid-summer or early season game in a hot weather city, and they're carrying their own IVs on to the plane and the trainers are rushing to pack them in ice, and they can't sit in their seats because they'll cramp up, so they've got to lay in the aisle. Ladies and gentlemen, they don't put that on television, but I was there to see it. There is pain. There is injury. There is tragedy, and even death.

I wish all of American society could have experienced what I experienced in this place, because, ladies and gentlemen, it is a priceless, priceless education.

In closing, about ten minutes after I was named head coach of the Giants and my first press conference was over, the patriarch owner of the New York Giants, the late Wellington Mara was at my office door, and he said, Bill, let's take a walk. And he took me down the stairs, of course, to that same place that I was just talking about.

In the old Giants Stadium, the Giants players will remember that as you walk through the players' entrance, there was a little room to the left that was like a little alcove room and had a couple chairs in it. Wellington took me over to the wall in that place, and on the wall was a little plaque and it had an inscription on it. Coincidentally, that inscription was attributed to the first black player ever inducted into this Hall of Fame, his name was Emlen Tunnell, and he was inducted in the class of 1967. That inscription said, “Losers assemble in little groups and complain about the coaches and the players in other little groups, but winners assemble as a team.”

Well, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I get to do just that. I'm honored, I'm grateful, and I'm thankful to every single one of you out there that had something to do with this.

Thank you very much.

Transcript courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer and angel investor. He's led design work at Apple, Square, and now ClassDojo. He's an early investor in Notion,, and Anduril. He founded Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Apr 30, 2024

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