NEW ORLEANS — Bill Parcells was a winner everywhere he coached. Time and time again, he took over struggling franchises and showed them what it takes to be a success, including a pair of Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.
Parcells pulled off another victory on Saturday - election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Getting in on his fourth try, Parcells led an induction class that also included mouthy defensive lineman Warren Sapp, prolific receiver Cris Carter and a pair of stalwarts from the trenches, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen.
The class of 2013 also included a pair of senior selections, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. The announcement was made in New Orleans, site of Sunday's Super Bowl.
Almost as noteworthy were the finalists who didn't get in, including running back Jerome Bettis and owners Art Modell and Edward DeBartolo Jr. Players and coaches from the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, spent all week lobbying for Modell, their former owner who died last year, to claim a place in the hall.
It didn't work out, no doubt pleasing fans in Cleveland who remain bitter about Modell moving the original Browns to Baltimore.
Parcells had to wait a while, earning a bust in Canton on his fourth try. He thought he might get in the previous year in tandem with one of his former players, Curtis Martin.
"It was a little less stressful than last year," Parcells said in a telephone interview from Florida. "I was kind of hoping we could do it together, but as fate would have it, it didn't work out."
Giants president and CEO John Mara said Parcells' selection for the hall was "long overdue," but his candidacy stirred plenty of debate - a one-hour discussion among the selection committee members, by far the longest amount of time dedicated to any finalist.
"He's one of the best coaches in NFL history," Mara said. "He turned our franchise around. We went through a long period in the 1960's and 70's when we were a laughingstock. When Bill took over in 1983, he survived a very difficult first year, but then turned us into a perennial playoff contender and won two Super Bowls for us. He coached three other teams and everywhere he went, he had great success."
No one was more emotional than Carter, who took six years to get in despite putting up some of the best receiving numbers in NFL history. He broke down in tears but quickly pointed out "it's not because I'm sad."
"This is the happiest day of my life," he said. "When people said, 'Aw, you know, it really doesn't matter, you're a Hall of Famer in my eyes,'
I said, 'It's more important that I'm a Hall of Famer in the Hall's eyes.' And I really, really wanted this. "
Sapp said his stomach was churning all day.
He doesn't have to fret anymore. Next stop, Canton.
"My feet haven't touched the ground in about 30 minutes," Sapp said. "This is unbelievable."
In addition to Bettis, four other players failed to get in on the final vote: Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. Earlier in the day, the selection committee eliminated DeBartolo and Modell, as well as ex-players Tim Brown, Kevin Greene and Will Shields.
Parcells reversed the fortunes of four teams, also coaching the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, during 19 years as a head coach. He finished with a record of 172-130-1, most notably leading the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991.
Sapp got in on his first year of eligibility after playing 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. He amassed 96½ career sacks despite playing on the interior of the defensive line, including double-digit sack totals in four seasons. He was the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after helping Tampa Bay claim its first division title in 18 years.
Carter played 16 seasons, becoming only the second player in NFL history to reach 1,000 receptions in a career. He caught at least 70 passes in 10 seasons, and totaled 130 touchdown receptions from 13 passers.
Allen played 203 games over 14 seasons, spending the bulk of his career with the Cowboys. He played every position on the offensive line except center and was a first-team All-Pro seven straight seasons.
Ogden played a dozen seasons with the Ravens, a lineman who led the way for Jamal Lewis to become just the fifth running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Ogden was a six-time All-Pro and was voted to 11 Pro Bowls.
Like Sapp, Allen and Ogden were first-year selections.
Ogden shared the moment with his family. He called his mother "first thing," and also told his 7-year-old son.
"He's real proud of his dad," Ogden said.
He watched nervously as the announcement was made on the Class of 2013.
"It's like going to the hospital with your wife to have a baby. You can't do anything about it," Ogden said. "You hear everybody say you're a first ballot for sure, but you never really know. A lot of good well deserving guys didn't get in on the first ballot."
"When I got drafted (by Dallas), they'd just won a Super Bowl," Allen said. "When they threw me in, I just didn't want to be the one to mess it up."
His philosophy never changed over his long career: make the guy across from him "quit ... tap out." He joins three other players from that great Cowboys offense of the 1990s in the hall, following Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
"All those guys - Troy and Mike, Emmitt - they were kind of like big brothers," Allen said. "I looked up to them. They came to work every day and showed me how to do it. They all wanted to be the best."
Culp was a defensive stalwart for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1960s and '70s, and also played for the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions.
He started at tackle in Kansas City's Super Bowl win over Vikings in 1970 and was selected to six Pro Bowls.
"Curley was a dominating force on the defensive line for the Super Bowl IV championship team and one of many great players that helped build the tradition and foundation of the Kansas City Chiefs," the team's chairman and CEO, Clark Hunt, said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing him take his rightful place in Canton."
Robinson played on the powerhouse Green Bay teams of the 1960s, starting at outside linebacker on coach Vince Lombardi's two Super Bowl champions. He closed his 12-year career with the Washington Redskins.
"He was such a vital part of those great defenses in the 1960s," said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. "Dave's contributions to the Packers have not been limited to the field, as he has also been a great ambassador for the organization over the years. We are thrilled that he received this honor."
Robinson was the 22nd member of the Packers to be election to the Hall of Fame.