By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tony Dungy is a treasure.
Despite the once-great rivalry between the Patriots and Colts being dead for several years now (the Patriots have won seven straight against the Colts, by an average score of 41-19), Dungy is doing what he can to remind the world just how bitter that New England-Indianapolis relationship once was.
The latest effort came in a story by ESPN’s Mike Sando, in which he interviewed 10 past and current NFL coaches and executives and asked them to rank the best quarterbacks since 1978. (That year was selected because of the rule changes that opened up the passing game in 1978.)
Of the 10 men polled, nine of them listed Tom Brady as either the No. 1 or No. 2 best quarterback. Considering Brady is a five-time Super Bowl champion and is widely considered to be the Greatest Of All Time, this was to be expected. Maybe someone might prefer Joe Montana, or even Peyton Manning, but for the most part, the general consensus is that Brady is one of the two best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Yet the lone ballot to leave Brady out of the top two — and even the top three … and the top five — was, you guessed it, Dungy’s.
Sando explained that Dungy listed John Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers as his top three, and Sando also wrote that Brady’s lowest rank was sixth.
So if Dungy is the only person on the panel who didn’t include Brady in the top two, then it stands to reason that Tony Dungy believes that Tom Brady is the sixth-best quarterback to play in the NFL since 1978.
Bravo, Mr. Dungy. Stand up and take a bow. That is an impressive level of spite.
Dungy seemed to indicate that Bill Belichick had as much to do with Brady’s success as did Brady’s own abilities and qualities.
“It can be tough to separate the great quarterback from the great coach,” Dungy said. “I don’t think Bill Belichick would be Bill Belichick without Tom Brady, and Brady would not have the same success without Belichick and the way they have put that team together. But the one common thread through 15 years was Brady. When they had him, they won big — won championships. The quarterback has so much to do with it.”
A bit circular, perhaps, but it doesn’t really matter. Brady is the sixth-best quarterback since 1978. That’s fantastic.
What’s arguably more interesting is that Dungy didn’t have Peyton Manning ranked in his top-three. However, Dungy’s loophole in explaining that one was that he never had to coach against Manning, so he was perhaps unable to properly rank the QB.
Dungy said he put Dan Marino and Manning as the best “nonscramblers,” and Sando explained that Dungy listed Elway-Young-Rodgers so high because of their scrambling ability. Using some deductive reasoning, we can see what Dungy’s top-five looked like. Manning made it in, but Brady did not.
Overall, the cumulative rankings ended up as follows:
In the interest of fairness, Dungy does have some reason to believe in his ranking. He said that he based his rankings on how difficult it was or would be to game-plan against the specific quarterbacks. And Brady’s career statistics against Dungy’s Colts weren’t outstanding: 63.3 percent passing, 228 yards/game, 17 TDs, 11 INTs. And when you think back of those dynasty-defining wins against the Colts, you likely think more of Ty Law’s interceptions or Willie McGinest’s goal-line stuffs than you do Brady’s performances.
The Patriots may have won seven of those 10 games, but Dungy didn’t quite get burned by Brady the way many, many other coaches have.
Still, for Dungy to say Brady is the sixth-best quarterback since 1978 is to try way, way too hard.
Compare Dungy’s ranking for Brady (sixth!) and reasoning (it’s harder to defend QBs who can run, and Manning and Marino didn’t have dominant defenses!) to what some of the other men on the panel said about Brady.
Wade Phillips: “I just think he’s the hardest to defend against. It doesn’t matter who their receivers are. … Tom Brady is just the best our teams have ever played against.”
Mike Holmgren: “All these guys are very professional and work hard and are disciplined. Brady has taken those things to a new level.”
Norv Turner: “Brady’s record speaks for itself. He just finds a way to get it done over and over and over again. I don’t think there is any situation that he has not mastered.”
Al Saunders: “The thing that I asked myself is, ‘Who do I fear the most? Who did you not want to have the ball in their hands at the end of the game, regardless of the personnel that they played with?’ I think of Brady that way.”
In the middle of the heated rivalry, perhaps Dungy’s ranking would not look quite so out of place. But looking at it now, after Brady at age 39 just threw for 466 yards in the most stunning comeback in Super Bowl history, you can’t help but enjoy a nice hearty chuckle and yearn for the days when the Patriots-Colts rivalry used to mean something.