By Mike From Woburn, 98.5 The Sports Hub Contributor
BOSTON (CBS) – When the “finalists” for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced this week there were some obvious issues, most notably, Ty Law’s omission was obviously disappointing.
But for me the biggest problem is the repeated inclusion of Tony Dungy as a Hall of Fame caliber coach. Immediately after Dungy’s retirement I heard Hall of Fame chatter regarding his career. At first I thought Jim Irsay must be getting generous with his goodie bags. There is no way a guy with as many good teams as Dungy and so many disappointing losses could be considered a Hall of Fame caliber coach.
But this is the Pro Football Hall of Fame we are talking about.
It’s an entity that allows up to eight new Hall of Famers every year and enshrines at LEAST four candidates annually. Delta House’s pledge class was more exclusive.
Its membership is determined by a Selection Committee which consists of an enclave of 46 members of the NFL media. With the exception of one “At Large” member, these are all lifetime appointments. The process is deliberately shrouded in mystery. There are no official ballots, or tallies. No public percentages. Just a meeting and it’s results. I’m sure it’s rife with cronyism and quid pro quo vote swapping. Current scuttlebutt has the ESPN’s representatives exchanging their backing for a medium Dominos pepperoni pizza.
I’m sure they will regale us with stories of deep introspection and deliberation, but basically it’s a group that can do whatever they want with complete anonymity and zero accountability. So when you give them a candidate like Dungy, an approachable, quote friendly coach who many of them turned into an apostle with a headset, he’s going to be elected. It’s just a matter of time.
And that to me is a shame. Because he is not an elite, all-time great coach. And it’s not a subjective opinion. It’s a demonstrable fact.
Take Dungy’s tenure in Tampa. Dungy inherited a perennial loser and transformed them into a contender. That’s a fact that isn’t up to debate. But once they established themselves as a threat in the NFC they went nowhere under Dungy’s leadership. Trent Dilfer was scapegoated for the lack of offensive success and replaced with Brad Johnson.
When even the Johnson-led Bucs went nowhere in the playoffs, Dungy was given his walking papers. Dungy’s tenure ended in Tampa with a 54-42 regular season record and a 2-4 playoff record. Dungy’s last two losses were of the one and done variety. Blow out losses in fact, 21-3 and 31-9 in 2000 and 2001, both to the Philadelphia Eagles and Andy Reid. Yes that Andy Reid. I’m sorry, but unless you are a cannoli or a belt, Andy Reid shouldn’t represent an insurmountable foe.
So in 2002 out went Dungy, in came Jon Gruden and presto! Tampa Bay wins a Super Bowl. Dilfer also managed to win a Super Bowl, managing the offense on a defensive juggernaut in Baltimore. The obstacle to winning in Tampa was clearly Dungy.
But that didn’t stop Colts GM and Hall of Fame crybaby Bill Polian and amateur pharmacist and Colts owner Jim Irsay from tabbing Dungy to be the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. With the Colts, Dungy inherited an all-time great Quarterback in Peyton Manning and the regular season wins piled up again. But then Dungy and Manning ran into the Patriots.
After two decisive playoff losses in New England it was clear that Manning and Dungy had no answers for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s Patriots. It was Polian, who was forced to use his clout on the competition committee to tighten the defensive contact rules, and not Dungy who was instrumental in getting the Colts over the hump of the Patriots and finally to a Super Bowl win. Let that soak in for a moment. Dungy, a coach who specialized in defense, was forced to watch as his GM cried and whined to make playing defense even harder, so his team could beat their arch rival.
But even with the rules changed to benefit his offensively overpowering Colts teams, Dungy only managed to win a single Super Bowl. He finished in Indy with a very impressive 85-27 regular season record. But it was his 7-6 playoff record, with 4 more one and dones that defined Dungy’s tenure in Indy.
Those teams in Indianapolis were so good, so stacked with talent and positioned so well to take advantage of a newly offensively friendly NFL, the argument could be made that any idiot could have coached Colts to that record.
As luck would have it, just such an idiot was available to coach the Colts next season. To replace Dungy in 2009, the Colts went with professional sock puppet Jim Caldwell. And without blinking one of his button eyes, Caldwell marionetted the Colts to an impressive 14-2 regular season record, better than any in Dungy’s tenure because if the Colts brain trust wasn’t so concerned with Peyton’s bowels going super nova come playoff time, they could have easily gone undefeated, as the Colts deliberately threw the last two games of the season.
Caldwell’s Colts made it all the way to the Super Bowl , where Manning’s intestine did ultimately go full Crab Nebula and they lost to the Saints. If Jim Caldwell ran into a cupcake Super Bowl opponent like the Rex Grossman-led Chicago Bears that Dungy beat in 2006, he could have easily matched Dungy’s biggest career achievement. And if a mindless drone like Caldwell can replicate what Dungy did, anyone with a brain has to reassess what Dungy did in the first place.
To me the thing that defines Tony Dungy’s career is disappointment and under achievement, which includes six one and done playoff appearances. He couldn’t deliver in Tampa, and despite inheriting a dynastic team, he was lucky to win one in Indy. And in both of his head coaching destinations, his performance was immediately equaled or exceeded by his replacement.
If Tony Dungy is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame I would think that an entire wing in Canton would be dedicated in George Seifert’s honor shortly thereafter.
Mike From Woburn, formerly known as Mike From Attleboro, is a regular caller to the Felger & Massarotti Show. You can find him on Twitter @MikeFromWoburn.