ESPN Takes Risks with The Two Bills

Mark Angelo, CEO,  Yorkville Advisors

One of the most highly-anticipated episodes of ESPN’s hit documentary series, “30 For 30,” is coming out with some of the best possible timing. “The Two Bills” will focus on the lives and careers of legendary NFL coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, the latter of whom just led his team to yet another Super Bowl.

The Hoodie (Belichick) and The Big Tuna (Parcells) have a long and storied history, both as coaching teammates and as competitors. In the documentary, the men are complementary as they wax nostalgic, but there’s also a thornier side to the friendship that ESPN pokes at.

ESPN Takes Risks with The Two BillsBelichick was an assistant coach on the Parcells-coached Giants teams that won Super Bowls, so he definitely considers Parcells both a mentor and a friend. But it was not always so. Parcells eventually left the Giants for stints with the Patriots and the Jets. And, at one point, Parcells tried to keep Belichick from getting the job in New England that would eventually make him a legend, as well as one of the most winningest head coaches in NFL playoff history.

Looking back, the Two Bills seem to remember that incident as more of a rift between Parcells and Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft than a slight against Belichick. Parcells didn’t appreciate Kraft’s interference in personnel decisions, once famously quipping, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries…”

The documentary weaves these stories in and out of discussions of both Parcells’ and Belichick’s incredible success in one of the toughest jobs in sports. Then, as many others have done for 30 For 30, director Ken Rodgers puts the Two Bills in a room together, hoping to see sparks fly.

There is some tension, but it’s less directed at each other and more about the location of their conversation. Then The Two Bills goes for broke, digging into the respect and admiration the two legendary coaches share for each other. It’s an endearing sequence that should please everyone but the most ardent Belichick haters.

The guys talk about what it means to be members of one of the most exclusive fraternities in sports: Super Bowl winning coaches. They talk about the brotherhood of head coaches in general, but with these guys, it’s impossible to separate that conversation from their tremendous on-field success.

And, do they get around to discussing their respective coaching trees, the successful men that once worked on their staffs? You know they do, and it’s interesting to wonder, does Belichick’s tree branch, or is it just another offshoot of Parcells’. Like many topics covered when these two titans sit down together, that question is still up for debate. The Two Bills should certainly be a treat for fans, no matter how they feel about New England.