Let me start by saying Bill has proven himself to be a very capable defensive coordinator while with the Giants prior to coming to Cleveland and afterwards with the Jets. No question he is a talented defensive coordinator.
Looking back to 1991, I think Bill thought he had some people standing in the way of what kind of team he wanted. Whatever kind of team that was, he was head coach and had the right to make those decisions as he saw fit. Even though I disagreed personally with those decisions, he was the head coach and I was a player. What I did not agree with was how he went about carrying out those decisions. They could have been done in a more professional manner.
Unfortunately for some of the guys in New England, I see the same situation happening there. Terry Glenn and the Bledsoe-Brady situation are like deja vu to my situation in 1991 and Bernie's exit from Cleveland in 1993.
I had been in the league for six years when I ran into problems with Bill.
Maybe I wasn't the kind of guy or leader he wanted in the locker room or maybe it was the type of offense he had us run and I just did not fit into the kind of scheme that Bill had in mind. One thing for sure is that I was not alone. Both Webster Slaughter and I were gone after Bill's first year and Bernie followed shortly thereafter. If we could fast forward into the future six months from now I would bet there are going to be some significant personnel changes in New England involving both the quarterback and wide receiver position.
That's the way the ball bounces for guys sometimes in professional sports.
Coaches have their own way of doing things. They have to go out and find people who fit their system and are willing to get the job done the coach's way. There are different ways of doing things and ending up at the same point. Coaches have the final say and players have to move on when it doesn't work out, as with me in 1991.
I hated Bill's system and didn't have a lot of love for him as a person. We never were close because neither believed in the other person's way of doing things. One of us had to go and it was me.
Luckily I went to Indianapolis and had some success. I was at the top of the league in receptions the two years I spent there. It didn't work out that well for Bill here but he landed on his feet in New York and did well as defensive coordinator there and his current Patriot team team seems to be faring well in New England this season, personnel issues aside. They aren't one of the premiere teams in the league but he's put together a scrappy team that I imagine the players there are proud of.
As I look back now I am happy with how things turned out for me. A player only gets so many years to play and it's important for a player to find a system where you can excel and are comfortable. Sometimes that means taking a little less money, but I am here to tell you I got a lot more pleasure playing in a good system that fit my skills than any pleasure I ever could have gotten from the extra cash. I was free as a bird in Indy and really enjoyed playing for Ted Marchibroda. He brought out the best in me.
These experiences taught me football is a business like any other, except on Sunday's. I always went out and played the game like I was kid. I enjoyed all my time out on the field and remembered how lucky I was to be doing what I loved. During the week it was back to business. We did the things we had to in order to get ready to play. Even though we didn't win many games in Indianapolis, I trained and prepared just as hard as though we were in first place.
The one thing I did miss was the fans in Cleveland. Cleveland is such a unique place to play. The fans respect you if you gave it your all and worked hard and, as was evident when Bernie did a recent signing at Discount Drug Mart in North Royalton, they definitely still love their ex-ball players.
Even though I see history repeating itself in New England, I have a feeling that Terry Glenn, Drew Bledsoe and Bill will all end up on their feet somewhere and have success. I just don't think the three of them will last very long in New England.
This article was originally published in Bernies Insiders magazine on December 10, 2001.