The snow had yet to begin to fall the day before Christmas Eve, but Bill Parcells, the legendary football coach who now has the New York Jets 60 minutes from the Super Bowl, seemed to already be feeling in a festive holiday mood.
"I anticipate us going right to the field from our meetings tomorrow, fellas," he informed the gaggle of reporters sitting before him.
Such a move, in terms of a break from the team's normal weekday schedule, would surely affect the beat writers who rely on mid-afternoon interviews with players and coaches to provide fodder for the next morning's edition of their respective newspapers.
Still, Parcells had his team to think about, and in his universe, the wellbeing of his team always comes first.
"I want the players to have a little more time Christmas Eve," their coach said. "You know, some of them still have a little more shopping to do."
"So I'm going to try and give them an earlier time to leave here, while still getting the same amount of work done."
At the time, the Jets were preparing to square off against the New England Patriots in a season-ending battle against division rivals. The previous Sunday, the team had clinched its division, on the road and in the wind, in Buffalo.
Some reporters wondered whether Parcells would rest such regulars as quarterback Vinny Testaverde, receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet, or center Kevin Mawae, and when the coach said he wouldn't, he was asked to explain.
"I don't see why you would have to explain not resting your regulars for the last game of the season," Parcells said. "It's a 16 game season. You try to win as many games as you can. Why wouldn't you use your regulars? After all, a play or two here or there is what decides a game."
Asked about game preparation at this time of year -- the sudden death, all or nothing at all, shank of the season, Parcells said that in many ways, his primary emphasis is the same.
"One of the things I reiterate to my team weekly is what causes you to lose. Probably the reason we won the game last week [week 15 in Buffalo] is that we didn't make any tactical errors or commit any real stupid penalties. Had we done either of those things, we probably would not have won."
Just look at the game, he continued. "We didn't turn the ball over. We did make a couple of big plays. And we didn't have any stupid penalties at all. So that's probably why we were able to beat Buffalo, because the game could have gone the other way."
The things that cause you to lose, the coach said, never change in football.
But how, it was asked, do you get your players not to make mistakes.
"I don't play those players that do make them," Parcells said. "That's one thing. And if they make too many mistakes, well then, I don't want them on my team at all. Dumb players do dumb things. Smart players very seldom do dumb things.
"What it comes down to is, you've got to have some form of team discipline. You have to have it. And that doesn't mean the tin soldier type. That means the behavioral type. If a team doesn't demonstrate that, reasonably consistently, then some of those things that you do will cause you to lose games."
Discipline, it quickly became apparent, is something this coach - known if not renowned for his lack of awe -- is impressed by.
"If you can demonstrate that [discipline], consistently, and not crack... you can win a lot of games," he said.
"One of the things about my 1990 [New York Giants] team -- and I keep saying it -- is that they never cracked. Never. Whether they were locked in three-point games or seven-point games. They never cracked. The other team always cracked. That's a byproduct of discipline.
"That year we only turned the ball over 14 times -- 14 times in 19 games. That was a league record. We were playing conservatively. We were not having to come from behind. We were defense reliant, running game reliant. My running backs weren't fumbling. We weren't throwing crazy interceptions. We weren't heavily penalized. You can win a lot of games just by not doing those kinds of [bonehead] things."
Leaving history behind for the present, Parcells said of his current team, "What we're trying to do is move the ball the best way that we can. You know, fellas, we're one of the highest scoring teams in the league, so I guess we're doing things right, though I can't tell you what, specifically. It could be our use of the run, the pass, balance between the two... but whatever it is, going into the last game of the season, we're closing in on 400 points scored this season.
"And I'll take 400 points every year, because I know that if I score 400 points, we're going to win a lot of games."
Returning to the notion of resting his regulars prior to the play-offs, Parcells was adamant that there isn't a game -- even a game following a division title-clinching victory -- that doesn't "count."
"The best teams I ever had were all playing well going into the play-offs. I want to win games; it's not about anything else. We play a 16 game schedule. I'm trying to win 16 games."
His players, he said, understand this.
"I don't need to drive my point home anymore. They got it. And they also know that we can play very well, and still get beat. There's no doubt about that either."
Assessing the conclusion of the regular season, Parcells said, "The comeback against Seattle was big for us. Going down and beating Miami was big. Beating Buffalo was bigger. It's just one thing after another.
"Winning in Kansas City was big. Going to Tennessee and winning. after that first half, when we moved the ball up and down, up and down and couldn't get anything out of it... to come back and get three drives for touchdowns, that was big."
The New York media being as over-eager as it sometimes is, Parcells, even in late December, was asked if he had already begun strategizing for the Super Bowl.
"I don't indulge in that kind of thinking," he said. "Honestly. I don't even let myself fantasize. Even when I'm in my car alone, listening to music, I don't even think of things like that. I really don't.
"I'm not trying to be funny. All I think about is what am I doing now. And that's one thing I've learned about this league. You better be thinking about what you're doing today in practice, what you're doing tomorrow in practice, and what you're doing for Sunday.
"People get distracted, coaches included. But I'm not one of those any longer, and my coaching staff isn't either.
"I don't know what's going to happen. Nobody knows what's going to happen," the coach continued. "That's what makes this game so intriguing. That's why there's so much interest in it. That's why it's so competitive. That's why America is enamored with this NFL -- because there are so many variables, and so many things can happen."
Parcells added, "It's a fun time of year, I'll tell you that. It's a lot better than July, when you are trudging out for two-a-day practices. It's better, it really is."
(Note: This story was written prior to the Jets defeat in the American Football Conference Championship game.)