Wayne Chrebet remembers the New York Jets’ incredible 1997 turnaround under Bill Parcells, a man with many motivational tactics.
In New York, the Tuna grills you.
Wayne Chrebet found that out the hard way upon Bill Parcells‘ return to the metropolitan area in 1997. Chrebet was set to embark on his third NFL season with the New York Jets when the team, fresh off the garish one-win times of 1996, brought in Parcells to replace fired head coach Rich Kotite. Parcells was coming off a Super Bowl appearance with the New England Patriots and previously won two titles with New York’s blue squad.
Speaking with Jets X-Factor co-founder Robby Sabo on the fourth episode of The Underdog Jets Podcast, Chrebet detailed the fateful first year of the Parcells term, one that saw the Jets execute an eight-win turnaround.
The road to a winning record, Chrebet’s first taste of victory at the professional level, was paved with Parcells’ notorious attitude, which made itself well known from the earliest stages of his time back in New Jersey.
“When he came in, things changed quickly. Everybody got in line,” Chrebet noted. “If you’re walking around, you’re smiling, he’d be like ‘What the hell are you so happy about?’ And it’s like, you don’t know how to act around him. Are you happy or sad? You just kind of got to be even keel with him and avoid him as much as possible. But he’s a great coach.”
Chrebet also noted that once Parcells took over, no one was safe. Even though he was one of the Jets’ rare spots of optimism during their most dire hours, Chrebet knew that Parcells could pull the plug on his New York career at any time.
“He would just cut a player, a veteran,” Chrebet said of how Parcells kept the team motivated. “Something like that just wakes you up. There’s nobody safe, and it was a mental warfare that went on. But for some reason, you didn’t get (angry). You know you wanted to win more, you wanted to run through a brick wall for him. He just had that effect on people not many coaches do.”
Parcells’ skills were on full display in remolding the mid-1990s Jets. Chrebet played a big role in the immediate aftermath of the Big Tuna’s hiring, scoring two touchdowns on three receptions from Neil O’Donnell in the Jets’ 41-3 dismantling of Seattle in their first game under Parcells’ watch. O’Donnell, in midst of his second New York season, threw five total touchdown passes as he found Jeff Graham twice and Kyle Brady for the other scores.
For Chrebet, whose professional endeavors netted a 4-28 record prior to that game, it was pure gridiron bliss.
“You can see right away things were different on all levels,” Chrebet said. “We knew we played well in the preseason, but, to come out like that and lay it on them, (Seattle was) a pretty decent team. Neil came out firing and it was crazy.”
The destruction of the Seahawks was the first of nine wins for Parcells’ Jets in 1997, creating their first winning season in a decade (going 8-7-1 in 1988). Though the Jets missed out on the last AFC wild card thanks to a Week 17 loss in Detroit, the seeds for division title were planted for the following season.
In addition to his 1997 endeavors, Chrebet also discussed Jets matters old and new during his latest conversation with Sabo. In commemoration of Gang Green legend Joe Namath’s 78th birthday, Chrebet issued dire warnings for anyone who dared question the Super Bowl MVP’s legitimacy.
“You got to understand those days were different. There were a lot more interceptions back in those days. Look at the numbers. That’s just the way it was passing hadn’t evolved yet to what it is today,” Chrebet said of Namath’s pedestrian passing statistics. “No one will ever be able to replace him you know on that in that franchise. He’s one of the best ever in the NFL.”
As for the modern New York affairs, Chrebet looked over those succeeding him on the receivers’ depth chart, expressing excitement through a fan question on Twitter.
“(Denzel) Mims is a young kid and I love the addition of Corey Davis and Keelan Cole. I think they could do a lot of special things,” he said. “I want to see how this kid (Elijah) Moore’s game translates to the pros. I’m excited by all the young guys and obviously (Jamison) Crowder.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags