Bill Parcells resigned as New England Patriots coach yesterday after four seasons and one trip to the Super Bowl. For Parcells to pursue his apparent, though as yet unspoken, plans to take over the New York Jets, the Jets have several very expensive steps ahead of them.

Parcells had one year remaining on his disputed contract with the Patriots. On Wednesday NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled in favor of the Patriots and said Parcells could coach the Patriots or another team with the Patriots' permission or take a job out of football. Without the Patriots' consent, Parcells cannot coach another NFL team until Feb. 1, 1998.

The Jets and Patriots have already had discussions about what the Patriots will get for freeing Parcells from his contract.

"That's a hypothetical situation and I don't know the answer to that question," Parcells told reporters when asked about what he would do if the teams reach an agreement. "Right now I'm sitting out. I don't know what I'm going to do."

The Jets have the first pick in the draft -- for the second year in a row. Not surprisingly, Patriots owner Bob Kraft wants that and more. The Jets are resisting.

"Please don't trade your number one draft choice because . . . that must be part of the solution," Kraft said, in effect, to the Jets, at a news conference. The Jets finished with a 1-15 record.

"Nothing has changed and we will have no further comment until the process is concluded," Jets President Steve Gutman said in a statement.

The Jets reportedly will pay Parcells $3 million a year to run their football operations and coach their team. Kraft said the discussions with the Jets were only preliminary chats and did not involve a reported offer of two second-round picks and $1 million in cash. Kraft also said that reports of the Jets trading the top pick for a lower first-round pick would not make sense because the Patriots want the top pick -- and then some.

Kraft said that even if Parcells did not coach in 1997 and the Patriots got nothing from the Jets, that might be better than allowing Parcells to coach for the AFC East rivals next season.

"Every year that he's not coaching a competitor in my division is big," Kraft said.

Parcells acquired a 2-14 team and transformed the Patriots into AFC champions. His last game was Super Bowl XXXI, which the Patriots lost to Green Bay, 35-21. "I said when I came here to New England I pledged to the fans that I would not rest until the team could compete for a championship," he said, "and last Sunday we were trying to do that."

As for Parcells's replacement, Kraft mentioned no names, but said, "I hope we will be back here next week to introduce the new coach of the Patriots."

The list of possible successors includes former Jets coach and current San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Pete Carroll, former 49ers coach George Seifert, Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas and Patriots defensive coordinator Bill Belichick.

Parcells and Kraft have been feuding for more than a year over who has control of personnel decisions. Parcells was already the coach when Kraft bought the team in 1994. Kraft wanted to keep some of the control and give some of it to others, notably player personnel director Bobby Grier.

Parcells went to great lengths to say that it was certainly Kraft's right, as owner, to run the team whatever way he wished. But that didn't mean Parcells liked that arrangement. He quoted an unnamed friend, who said: "They want you to cook the dinner. At least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."

Despite all the talk about going to the Jets, who have interviewed no one since Rich Kotite resigned at season's end, Parcells was careful not to mention the team or whether he will end up there. He tried, with only marginal success, to play dumb. "Sergeant Schulz," Parcells said, referring to the Hogan's Heroes character. "I know nothing." CAPTION: Jim Kelly, left, and Bills Coach Mary Levy embrace during news conference. "I also know in my stomach and in my heart, it's time to move on," Kelly said.