How much does Bill Parcells value quarterbacks coach David Lee?
When Parcells was assembling his first Miami Dolphins coaching staff in 2008, he hired Lee before he hired the head coach.
Parcells has known Lee for 38 years and will continue to follow his work with Buffalo. The Bills hired Lee to coach quarterbacks after George Cortez's departure to the Canadian Football League.
"He's a bright guy," Parcells said of Lee, who played quarterback at Vanderbilt when Parcells was defensive coordinator there in the 1970s. "A good, solid guy. A good person. He and Chan Gailey will work well together."
Lee's work with Ryan Fitzpatrick has been an early offseason storyline. Lee is trying to hone Fitzpatrick's mechanics -- particularly his footwork -- after a season in which Fitzpatrick's completion percentages and passer ratings regularly suffered in November and December.
I decided to check in with Parcells to get his thoughts on Lee's potential influence.
Parcells was Dallas Cowboys head coach when Lee worked with Tony Romo, an undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois. Romo has made three Pro Bowls, own a .610 regular-season win percentage and has thrown twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions.
"David did help Tony very much with his mechanics and throwing the ball," Parcells said. "Then, too, he helped Tony with his judgment because Tony was kind of a gunslinger. He needed some direction."
Fitzpatrick also has been known for his occasional recklessness.
But Romo was a lump of young clay. Fitzpatrick will turn 30 years old in November.
Parcells is a believer that players can readjust themselves at any career stage.
"It's not about 'change;' that's not the right word," Parcells said. "The word I'd use is 'alter.' You can help a quarterback become more efficient in what he's doing.
"I think all of us in coaching or playing, there's always time -- no matter how long you've been doing it -- to improve."
Bad tendencies haven't been coached out of Fitzpatrick yet, despite working with several assistant coaches. He's in his eighth NFL season and on his third team. Lee will be Fitzpatrick's third QB coach with Buffalo alone.
That's why Fitzpatrick took many people by surprise when he said his throwing instruction has been nil.
"No one's really ever taught me how to do it," Fitzpatrick said last week. "Now, for a guy to come in and say 'This is why you're missing that throw low,' for him to actually have evidence for me to look at and say, 'OK. It looks like that's something I really need to work on,' and for a guy to be as respected as he is, to be as knowledgeable as he is, that's somebody that I'm going to listen to every time."
Erik Frenz, the AFC East blogger for BleacherReport.com, called Lee the "Bills' most important positional coach," which is saying something when you consider the concept that Fitzpatrick has an established identity and the Bills have several young players who require substantial molding.
The late Tom Martinez, personal throwing guru for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, often would bemoan the lack of passing-mechanics instruction at the NFL level.
"Mechanics should be coached on a daily basis," Martinez once told me, "and I don't know that it is."
Fitzpatrick's comments back up that notion, but Parcells was stumped to hear Fitzpatrick had been left to his own devices for so long. Even the all-time greats need revision.
"I would have a hard time believing that Bill Walsh wasn't paying attention to Joe Montana or Steve Young from a passing standpoint throughout their time with him," Parcells said. "To say you just put somebody out there and let them go, boy, I don't know. That's hard to imagine.
"But I do know this: David will do his best to improve that offense. He'll work hard with the quarterback and the team."
(Photo: David Duprey/Associated Press)