FOXBORO - When ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary on Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, "The Two Bills," airs Thursday night, it may provide some insight on what goes on behind the scenes with the Patriots' top three coaches when they aren't planning for their next game.
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One of the piece's most fascinating exchanges came when Belichick and Parcells - being interviewed together for the first time since 1991 - discussed the end of the 1990 season, when it was apparent Belichick would soon be a head coach. Parcells said in the interview that he knew Belichick was ready, and Belichick thanked Parcells for preparing him for what he'd face as he climbed the final rung on the coaching ladder. It was the ultimate sign of mutual respect.
"I felt like Bill was certainly deserving of anything I could do to help him get ready," Parcells said. "We had, I think, a few conversations about several different subjects, and I would explain to him why I was doing things."
Belichick considered those conversations invaluable.
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"It was really important," he said. "And I so appreciated what you did, Bill. I can't tell you...
"It would just be periodically, he'd say, 'Hey come on into my office,' and I'd go in there and Bill would say, 'Here's something that I just want to make you aware of what's going on.'
"Look, you're the defensive coordinator. You're not involved in the draft. Or maybe a player's got a discipline problem or a contract problem. Whatever it is. You're oblivious to that, really, as an assistant coach. But Bill would call me in and say, 'Here's something that's going on.'
"I really appreciate those times that you did that. It was very helpful to open my eyes and open my horizons to some things that I really wasn't paying that much attention to."
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Belichick now finds himself in a position similar to the one Parcells was in at the end of the '90 season, though Belichick has two coordinators who are assumed to be leaving for head coaching positions after the season.
Based on Belichick's appreciation for Parcells' mentorship in the documentary, it would make sense that over the years Belichick has done similar things for Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels in order to prepare them for their next step.
We know that before McDaniels took his first head-coaching job with the Broncos in 2009, Belichick provided McDaniels with a coaching "bible" and the two met periodically in the 2008 season to discuss different aspects of being a head coach. Since 2012, when both McDaniels and Patricia were named to their current posts, both have been interviewed several times for head jobs around the league, which means these tutoring sessions have probably been going on for some time now for both Belichick acolytes.
This particular "30 for 30," directed by Ken Rogers and produced by NFL Films, also may offer a window into why neither Patricia nor McDaniels is looking to stick in New England to eventually replace Belichick. After what happened with the Jets in the late 1990s, with Belichick waiting to take the reins from Parcells and never getting them, which the documentary covers thoroughly, it would stand to reason that Belichick would have no interest in being involved in a succession plan that didn't time out perfectly for all parties involved.