Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dungy

Tony Dungy seems like a legitimately good guy. That doesn't alter the fact that he's demonstrated an ability to coach a talented team so that it has a successful regular season, but cannot get through the play-off grind, when keeping the players motivated and consistent becomes less important, relatively, than tactically putting them in position to win. But, as we saw from the New York media during the Herm Edwards era, very similar, there is a certain teflon coating that builds up on a coach like that in the local media. Whether it's just because they're good guys and the beat reporters like dealing with them or because the teams are at least consistently competitive, the assessment of Dungy, like the assessment of Edwards, is soft-balled. The latest example is this sycophantic piece from Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star.
Whatever the Colts accomplish from this time forward, they're going to accomplish those things with the existing cast largely intact. That may not palliate the fans whose anger has, understandably, obscured their vision, but this team will be tinkered with and not overhauled.
Why should it?
The Colts flopped Sunday, and they've flopped rather ignominiously the last few playoff games, but that doesn't doom them to perpetual underachiever status. There will be changes -- Edgerrin James and Mike Vanderjagt are likely gone -- but most of the players who won 13 straight games will be back, and should be back.
History matters here. Dungy's old Bucs kept bumping their heads against the glass ceiling before breaking through with a Super Bowl title. The Philadelphia Eagles lost three straight NFC title games before reaching last year's Super Bowl. And the 1996 Denver Broncos were 13-3, No. 1 seeds and double-digit favorites to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoff, then lost and listened to calls for dramatic change. After some minor tinkering, they came back and won the first of two straight Super Bowls.

That's a fabulous example of how to string truthful sentences together to form a lie.

  • Dungy's old Bucs kept bumping their heads against the glass ceiling before breaking through with a Super Bowl title

    How did they do that? They replaced the coach. It sounds like Dungy won a Super Bowl, and if you didn't know better, that's how you'd read it. But he didn't. Tampa Bay only advanced to the Super Bowl when they replaced him.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles lost three straight NFC title games before reaching last year's Super Bowl.

    Which they lost. And then, this year, they cratered. They may be able to come back next year without a significant restructuring, but it's by no means certain. And even over their run, they've won some play-off games. Andy Reid's winning percentage as a head coach is almost the same in the play-offs as in the regular season. He's 70-42 in the regular season and 7-5 in the post-season. His Eagles have won at least one game in each of their play-off appearances. Contrast that to Dungy, who's 102-58 in the regular season, and only 5-7 in the post-season, with 3 consecutive 1 and outs (his last two years in Tampa and his first year in Indianapolis.)

  • the 1996 Denver Broncos were 13-3, No. 1 seeds and double-digit favorites to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoff, then lost and listened to calls for dramatic change. After some minor tinkering, they came back and won the first of two straight Super Bowls

    The 1996 Denver Broncos hadn't spent several years getting into the play-offs and losing. It was Shanahan's second year in Denver, and the team's first play-off appearance in 3 years. The 1997 team didn't overcome a long history of QB/Coach reaching the post-season and losing.

Again, Dungy seems like a great human being. But play-off football is different than regular season football. You've got to be able to play physical football, you've got to make the right call, which is more often than not NOT the conservative call. Dungy's teams have been great at beating up on inferior competition during the regular season, but have demonstrated no ability to play in a close game. They're great when in front, but not otherwise. I strongly suspect that Manning never wins a Super Bowl, or even gets to one, with Dungy in charge.

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