Celebrity Retirement Scorecard: Bill Parcells

Who is making it? Who is not? We've concocted retirement scorecards for some showcase retirees in entertainment, politics and sports. See the full list here.

Bill ParcellsLoser: Bill Parcells
Former occupation/notable position held: Coach & executive, multiple NFL Teams (Current: Miami Dolphins, EVP)
Activities during retirement: TV analyst; un-retiring
Retirement Report Card Grade: D

Two of the subheads in Bill Parcells' Wikipedia entry give away his retirement story: "First Retirement" and "Second Retirement."

This two-time Super Bowl-winning gridiron guru didn't invent the concept of returning to the sidelines. The difference is that the likes of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson (and others of their ilk) don't serially leave jobs under the pretense of "retiring." They tend not to use the word, biding their time as TV analysts, waiting for the next good gig to come along. Not so Parcells, who famously and publicly vowed not to coach again after leaving the Jets' sidelines in 1999.

Parcells chooses to call his leavings "retirements," because retiring is probably what he really wants to do -- if only he could. Said Parcells to The Dallas Morning News, upon agreeing to un-retire a second time and coach the Cowboys in 2003: "How can you resist this? Going into this, I knew that this could be it for me. My last stop. You can either do this or pass this by and know that it's over."

Turns out, it wasn't his last stop. For Parcells and football, it may never be over. Until it's really over.

Parcells stands as a prime example of what sometimes binds talented professionals of all stripes: a singular focus on an all-consuming passion, at the unhealthy exclusion of other worthwhile pursuits, interests, and often, people. It's a personality-fueled straight jacket that makes retirement all but moot.

Parcells thrives on the mental challenges of sideline X's and O's, and in returning formerly celebrated franchises to glory. That's his new quest as top executive of the Miami Dolphins. He's looking to repeat his successes with the New York Giants and New York Jets. The problem is, that kind of thing doesn't happen very often.

The same kind of consumption that precludes serious thought about other life and career options takes a serious and sad toll on relationships. Parcells has openly admitted to his gridiron obsession's role in severing his 39-year marriage in 2002. On the professional side, Parcells left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and just last year, the Atlanta Falcons -- standing at the altar, opting for sexier gigs in a less-than-above-board manner.

Parcells gets a retirement "D" with the hope that his eventual third retirement will be a charm. He'll need some good help to get there.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).


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