Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AFC Playoff coach’s corner: Tony Dungy

Instead of flooding the market with “previews,” or rambling on incessantly about “facts,” I’ve decided instead to delve into the NFL Playoffs by fake interviewing a few of the big-name coaches who will be prominently involved. Coaches, after all, are very important, because they make a lot of money, and are crucial to the success of their respective football team. Without coaches, armies of helmeted men would all be aimlessly wandering the streets, wondering what time it was, and how they got there. In that respect, we’re going to sit down with a very important coach to discuss the upcoming weekend of the NFL Playoffs. This week’s imaginary participant: Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy.

Me: Coach Dungy, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. I know you’re very busy these days.

Dungy: No problem. And I’m not really that busy. This bye week is driving me crazy – I’m not into drinking or prostitutes, so it was good to get out of the hotel for a while, and let the players do their thing.

Me: Alrighty then. Has it sunk in yet that you’re headed to your first Super Bowl, or are you simply waiting to wake up from this dream, only to grab the newspaper with a headline that reads, “Dungy, Colts fall to Pats; Lohan back in rehab?”

Dungy: It had to sink in real quick. After all, this wasn’t what we dreamed about – winning the Super Bowl is our ultimate goal.

Me: But you have to admit, finally beating the New England Patriots in the playoffs had to feel pretty darn good. I always marveled at how the Patriots played the Yankees to your Red Sox, when for 86 years, the New England fan base made a living – even forged an identity – out of being someone’s bitch. As a Yankee fan, the New England Patriots helped me appreciate why everyone hates me.

Dungy: I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel like we got a monkey off our backs by beating the Pats.

Me: Are you calling Bill Belichick a monkey?

Dungy: No.

Me: I think that monkeys dress better than Bill Belichick, and monkeys, in general, don’t wear clothes.

Dungy: I didn’t call him a monkey.

Me: Coach, how many idiots in Miami have confused you for Herm Edwards? Are people really that stupid?

Dungy: Nobody yet, but it does happen pretty often.

Me: I’ve always said that you look like Herm Edwards if Herm Edwards didn’t eat for seven months, and had a moderate idea about how to coach a football team.

Dungy: Herm is my friend. I think he is a great coach.

Me: People love Tony Dungy. Every writer, announcer, player, and opposing coach consistently goes out of his way to mention what a great guy you are. Tell me something naughty about yourself; something that would make the general public completely reevaluate their opinion of you.

Dungy: I’m not sure if that’s the best PR move, but…what the heck. Let’s see…something naughty…okay, okay! One time, when I was in Tampa, I told a beat guy to “get out of my face” or “I’d fix his wagon!” I never did follow through on that threat though, and I sent him a fruit basket the next day.

Me:…

Dungy: Alright, alright, let me think. Oh! This one time, at band camp, I stuck my flute in my friend’s locker, and told the composer that I lost it. I hated the flute. I was more of a trumpet kind of guy.

Me: Wow, that reeks of “E! True Hollywood Story” material. But what about the time you called Bill Belichick a monkey?

Dungy: I never said that. Geez, I didn’t want to have to say this, but do you need your wagon fixed?

Me: This is going nowhere - let’s move on. Coach Dungy, the person you’ve been most closely associated with throughout this most recent stage of your career – besides Herm Edwards – is Peyton Manning, your quarterback. Talk about your relationship, without any man-tears, please.

Dungy: Peyton and I have a great working relationship. It’s give-and-take, really. Peyton and [offensive coordinator] Tom [Moore] go over all the plays, Peyton executes those plays on the field, and I stand and watch.

Me: I was reminded of the special bond between you and your quarterback during last year’s divisional playoff loss to the Steelers, when you sent out the punting unit on a fourth down play, and Peyton actually called you off, and decided to go for it instead. Is your give-and-take relationship defined as, you give up control, and Peyton Manning takes it?

Dungy: No, no, it’s not like that at all. In fact, I have a lot of say in what goes on offensively. For example, if Peyton doesn’t like a particular defensive formation, and is forced to call a timeout, he’ll come over to the sidelines, and we’ll openly discuss what to do. I’ll say something like, “Maybe we should run it to the outside here,” and he’ll be like, “You’re right coach – we should throw it deep to Marvin.” Like I said, give-and-take.

Me: During your tenure in Tampa Bay, you acquired a reputation as a defensive-minded coach. Then you came to Indianapolis and the defense was always your Achilles heel. Then last year the defense was pretty good, but not good enough to shut down Pittsburgh. Then this year the defense regressed into an abyss of horrendousness, only to rebound in time to get you where you are right now, which is in the back booth of a Ruby Tuesdays, waiting to play in the Super Bowl. Please explain. Or at least draw me a graph or something.

Dungy: It’s been tough, ya’ know? Coming here, with guys like Peyton and Marvin [Harrison] and Edgerrin [James], the offense was always going to outshine the defense. But even though we’ve been inconsistent at times, I think our defense has improved leaps and bounds from when I first got here.

Me: Isn’t saying “inconsistent at times” kind of redundant?

Dungy: Possibly.

Me: You mentioned Edgerrin James. He leaves town for the straight cash homey, and now you guys are in the Super Bowl with a rookie and a perennial backup as your running back tandem. On my scorecard, I have, “Colts: 1 Edgerrin James: 0.” Is that how you scored it?

Dungy: I don’t look at it like that. Not having Edgerrin James is not the reason we’re here today. We’re here despite not having him around, which says a lot about this team.

Me: What about the idiot kicker, Mike Vanderjagt? Is it safe to say that you guys are going to the Super Bowl specifically because he is not around?

Dungy: Again, I don’t look at it like that. But yes.

Me: Coach Dungy, thanks so much for stopping by. And good luck in the big game next weekend! I hear Prince is gonna be there, so you’re not going to want to disappoint.

Dungy: It’s funny you should bring him up. Remember my bad camp story? Well, it was Prince’s locker that I hid my flute in! Prince and I were real close growing up, and remain good friends. In fact, I actually helped him right “Cream.”

Me: Wow, that is a naughty song!

Dungy: It is. It really is.


Tony Dungy: Closer to football heaven than Jeff Fisher, but he's no Steve Mariucci...

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