That of Bill Parcells began Monday afternoon in New York when NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue brokered a settlement that will allow Parcells to take over the Jets immediately and will net the New England Patriots some draft choices as compensation for losing their coach.
But not the draft choice they wanted.
The Jets get Parcells and give New England their first-round draft choice in 1999, second round in 1998 and third- and fourth-round picks in the April draft, plus $300,000 to the Patriots' charitable foundation.
New York keeps its first-round pick for this year's draft, a bone of contention between the two sides since it became apparent that Parcells would be leaving the Patriots, whom he coached to a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.
"Ultimately, there were wide differences on how this would have to be resolved," Tagliabue said. "But ultimately, we got it resolved."
The differences remain.
"We were looking for a much higher settlement," said Bob Kraft, the Patriots' owner who was at the Monday meeting in New York, along with Jets' owner Leon Hess and others.
"We felt we had great plans for the No. 1 pick, but we wanted to get a deal done."
Said Hess: "We're very happy and the commissioner did a helluva job."
The situation was thrown Tagliabue's way last Tuesday when the Jets signed Belichick, Parcells' longtime sidekick, as their coach for one season and named Parcells a consultant, with the proviso that he become their coach in 1998.
The Patriots screamed foul because they had contracted for Parcells to continue as their coach through '97, and Tagliabue had ruled that contract binding, adding a suggestion that the two sides reach some sort of agreement to free Parcells.
That agreement, Kraft said, would have to begin with the Jets' first-round pick in 1997, the first pick in the draft because New York had the NFL's worst record, 1-15.
No way, the Jets said.
The Monday meeting was actually a hearing held by Tagliabue to review the consultant's contract and determine whether it had been an attempt to circumvent his earlier ruling that Parcells' rights as a coach belonged to the Patriots for one more season.
After four hours, the two sides agreed to try to work out a settlement, with Tagliabue excused. Each side made an offering, and Tagliabue came back into the meeting to mediate.
"I tried to force them to the middle," he said.
"I looked at a young team with talented players like the Patriots and gave them choices that would ensure their future as they begin to lose veterans to the salary cap."
The Jets have scheduled a news conference for today for Parcells.