Friday, May 22, 2009

Parcells sees something in Patrick White

Published: May 22, 2009 12:19 am

Parcells sees something in Patrick White

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — A combination of factors that stretch back nearly 50 years converged around Patrick White this year, landing him in Miami with a chance to run the oldest newfangled offense in the history of the National Football League.

At the center of it all stands Bill Parcells, who used another former West Virginia University quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, to earn his first of two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants.

Parcells today calls himself “a guidance counselor” to the coaching and personnel departments of the Miami Dolphins, downplaying any role he may have had in developing the Wildcat formation or in drafting White to run what they now are calling the “WildPat” formation in South Florida.

“I’m not the head coach, and I’m not the personnel director,” Parcells said early Thursday morning, before going out onto the field to do some counseling at a 9:30 a.m. practice.

“I do have something to say, however,” he would admit.

The forces that brought White into view for Parcells and the Dolphins are fragmented coincidences, at best, yet we all are what we are because of such seemingly unconnected events in our lives.

With Parcells it begins back during his high school days at River Dell High in northern New Jersey.

Parcells came along in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was a high school star in basketball, baseball and football, playing football for Tom Cahill, who went on to become head coach at Army. Parcells turned down a contract offer from the Philadelphia Phillies, which put him on the same athletic path White would follow, White having turned down an offer from the California Angels.

Parcells was a fullback in the single-wing offense they ran at River Dell, which gave him a background in this adaptation called the Wildcat that his coaches came to him with a year ago.

“You have to credit our coaches for having the mental flexibility to try to implement something that unorthodox,” Parcells said.

While it was being praised as this great offensive innovation, Parcells knew better.

“The similarities go back to the original single wing (which was perfected by Knute Rockne), while elements of it evolved from the old Delaware Wing-T of Davey Nelson,” Parcells said.

Oh, yes, there was one more thing that Parcells had to offer on this offense that he credits his coaches with devising.

“We practiced it a little when I was coaching with the New York Jets. We had player named Leon Johnson, who was a high school quarterback, and we liked the idea you could get another blocker on the field.

We were looking at it as a goal-line offense, but never used it in a game,” he said.

Having used Ronnie Brown as the tailback in the Wildcat last year with some success, the coaches wanted to expand on the offense and maybe get a more dangerous passer into the mix. One of the players who caught their eye, obviously, was White.

Why, though, did they settle on White, who many NFL people felt could not play quarterback in the NFL?

Enter blind luck.

“I was at a spring training baseball game and was seated next to Dan Jennings (the Marlins’ vice-president of player personnel and assistant general manager). We got to talking, and he told me he was from Daphne, Ala., and he asked if we had any interest in the kid from West Virginia,” Parcells recalled.

He told Jennings that they were thinking about Pat White, although at the time White wasn’t a large blip on their radar.

“He spoke really highly of him,” Parcells said. “His father was a football coach there. We talked at length about him. Funny, isn’t it? I was just taking in a baseball game. You never know.”

Parcells put that information into his onboard computer and, of course, along with what he had seen of White in the Senior Bowl. When White was still there with the 44th pick in the second round of the NFL draft, the Dolphins snatched him up.

“We don’t know where it’s going,” Parcells said of White and the “WildPat.” “He demonstrated qualities that are rare in a collegiate player. I don’t know what it was, but at the end of the day it seemed his team wound up winning.

“Physically, he is not a prototypical NFL quarterback. His height is not prototypical of an NFL quarterback. His weight is not prototypical of an NFL quarterback. But his athletic abilities are superior.”

Parcells knows it won’t come easily for White. He’s watching him struggle early.

“The first steps are difficult,” he said. “He’s swimming in information a little now.”

But the Dolphins plan to be patient, and, as Parcells says, White has something extra going for him.

“He is very fortunate to come here,” Parcells said. “We have another quarterback from West Virginia – (Marshall’s) Chad Pennington. You can’t get a better role model. He’s an astute, bright, professional guy who is very demanding upon himself. Just watching how he goes about things will help Pat.”