Parcells' Play

Following arguably the second-most-amazing season in Dolphins history, it's possible that Bill Parcells — the architect of the greatest single-season turnaround ever — could sneak out the back door. But don't count on it.

Despite an ESPN report Sunday, Parcells, the Dolphins' vice president of football operations, didn't sound as if he would use the escape clause in his four-year, $12 million contract when he spoke by phone with general manager Jeff Ireland and outgoing team owner H. Wayne Huizenga.

"Wayne and I both called him together. He was excited for about 30 seconds and said, 'Let's get back to business,'" Ireland recounted in the raucous postgame locker room Sunday.

The clause states that if anyone else other than Huizenga becomes the majority team owner, Parcells could exit stage left and take all his dough with him.

Huizenga has agreed to sell 95 percent of the team to developer Stephen Ross. The deal can't be completed until two days after the Dolphins' season is over. Huizenga is hoping to take advantage of the less stringent capital gains tax before President-elect Barack Obama takes over.

"It's out of my hands," an ecstatic Huizenga said after the game. "I told him to stick around, but I don't know what he's going to do."

Ross and Huizenga gave Parcells much of the credit for the Dolphins going from worst to first, from 1-15 to 11-5 and AFC East champs, simply because he brought in all of the pieces, including rookie coach Tony Sparano.

"He's the greatest, and I would hope he doesn't leave," Ross said. "He's in a great situation, I hope, for him."

Parcells, who is superstitious and afraid to fly, watched the game from his home in Jupiter, Fla. New York reports already have him considering a return to the Big Apple to fix the Jets, now that Eric Mangini was fired Monday.

Other reports have Parcells returning to his role as a commentator for ESPN, or using the escape clause as leverage for more money. Still another report said Parcells leaked the information to ESPN so that the Ross would give him a year's extension to consider another premature retirement.

Parcells has made it clear from the start that this was to be his last stop and the final piece to his legacy, so for him to leave Sparano, Ireland and good friend/offensive coordinator Dan Henning after just one season with plenty of work still to be done doesn't make sense.

"What we did when we came here, we found out guys who loved football, and we really found out about this team really early on is that they love football," Ireland said. "They wanted to take ownership. The cast is a great cast. These guys are football players, and the coaches did a helluva job putting them in position to achieve success. That's why Tony Sparano is the Coach of the Year in my opinion."

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