NFL coaching legend Bill “The Big Tuna” Parcells has retired three times. He never settled for obscurity. He’s always popping up to talk about righting the New York Giants’ sinking ship during the ’80s, or how Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones convinced him to come back out for one last rodeo in the NFL.
He spent a lifetime in football, and another one consulting, analyzing, peeling apart the game as an outsider. The Big Tuna can back up his words, not as some retired crank, but a two-time Super Bowl winner. Which begs the question: How much money did he make in the process?
Bill Parcells’ legendary career
Parcells started, as so many coaches do, as a player who hit his limit at the college level. Unlike most of his peers, though, he fielded real offers to play professional sports. The Philadelphia Phillies tried to poach him before he finished school, but he decided to stick with his law degree, according to the New York Times.
Then he was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions. He didn’t play a single game. But the draft contextualizes his prowess in the game even if his athletic ability wasn’t quite to up to par for the NFL.
After spending the ’60s and most of the ’70s working up the coaching ranks at the college level, Parcells became the linebackers coach for the Giants in 1979.
He filled the same role with the New England Patriots the following season. The Giants had him back as a defensive coordinator, then bumped him up to head coach in 1983.
This is the era where Parcells essentially made his case for the Hall of Fame. By 1986, he led the Giants to his first Super Bowl win, destroying the Denver Broncos 39-20 according to Pro Football Reference.
He got back to the big game with the Giants in 1991, with a narrow 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills. He decided to retire on top, becoming an NBC analyst for a time. It didn’t last. The Patriots head coaching job was his for the taking, so he took it.
How Bill Parcells came to be known as the ‘Big Tuna’
Parcells’ second act didn’t lead to any more Super Bowl wins. But he did take on a huge honor — his memorable nickname. Patriots players tried to prank him by having him sign up for a free turkey.
There was, of course, no such turkey coming, and Parcells sensed he’d been had. Referring to a canned tuna commercial starring a particularly dumb fish, according his interview with Dan Patrick, Parcells said, “what do you think I am, Charlie the Tuna?”
Maybe he wasn’t Charlie, but from then on, he was “The Big Tuna.” The catchy name followed him to his next two head coaching jobs. He left the Patriots after ’96 for the New York Jets.
He retired for a second time, but again found himself restless. He tried for a 2003-2006 post-retirement comeback with the Cowboys, turning the team around from a years-long post-Super Bowl hangover. However, a lack of postseason success sent Parcells to retirement once more, this time for good.
What is Parcells worth today — and does he stand to make more?
In between head coaching stints, Parcells drifted to broadcasting. Unsurprisingly, that’s what he’s still up to today, alongside his NFL consulting work.
He appears weekly on the ESPN radio program The Michael Kay Show. He thought about giving coaching another shot as recently as 2012, but decided against it.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, the Big Tuna has big money: an estimated $25 million. His best years were in the ’80s, when head coaching salaries for Super Bowl winners aren’t quite on the mammoth scale seen today. Broadcasting work bolstered his earnings greatly and continues to provide a consistent source of revenue.