Don’t Forget Tony

As sports fans, we have short memories.  There’s always another season and yesterday’s hero is tomorrow’s goat.

When training camp started, our expectations were high for this year’s team.  The defense was restocked.  Players were coming back from injury.  The O-line was coming together.  The 2009 Colts looked like they might be a sleeper juggernaut.  Since then, reality has set in.

Charlie Johnson was named starting LT.  Bob Sanders might not be ready on time.  The rookie DTs haven’t risen up to become instant starters.

The Colts still figure to be a strong team, but perhaps not the force of nature that we dreamed of.

That reality tempers the need for this post, but doesn’t erase it entirely.  There is a strong possibility the 2009 Colts will be dramatically better than the 2008 Colts.  I think it likely they win a playoff game or more.  When that happens, people will begin to whisper about whether or not Tony Dungy was really that great a coach.  They’ll point to a bounce from the Colts that mirrors perhaps the bounce Tampa received when Tony left the Bucs.  If the defense improves, they’ll praise Coyer’s innovation and rail against Dungy for being too conservative.  For whatever reason, they’ll chose to view any future success by the Colts as a check mark against Dungy.

Don’t be fooled or sucked in when it happens.  Tony Dungy was the finest coach the Colts will likely ever have.  I wish Jim Caldwell the best and support him fully.  I expect great things from him.  I will not hold his success against Dungy however.

A few weeks ago, BBS made a great point that people will overlook:

It’s important to note that tweaks, like Coyer’s, were not uncommon during Tony Dungy’s tenure as coach. Recall last year’s final game against the Jacksonville Jaguars: Dungy deployed DT Raheem Brock as a stand-up rusher coming from the interior of the defensive line. Brock would start outside and, prior to the snap of the ball, he’d swing inside. This way, when the ball was snapped, he already had a running start, and was pushing through the interior of the Jags’ offensive line. The “tweak” worked. Brock was in David Garrard‘s face all night.

Dungy also deployed the famous (well, famous for us) Bob Sanders Beatdown Defense, which was a Cover-2 look that shifted to Cover-3 at the snap of the ball.

It will be easy to forget the tweaks and changes that Dungy made and turn 2002-2008 into a whitewash of vanilla Cover-2.  It will be easy to remember the few coaching blunders he made.  We all know what they were:

  • The kickoff in 2003 vs NE that he didn’t squib
  • not going for fourth and 1 in NE in 2005 in the playoffs
  • Fisher snookering him into a 60 yard FG in 2006
  • Not going for it on fourth and 1 in Green Bay in 2008

What we’ll forget is that those are so memorable because he so rarely made those kinds of mistakes.  Tony was a great in game coach.  The Colts almost never botched end of half and end of game scenarios.  We remember the mistakes because there were so few of them.

Revisionist history will tell us that the 2009 Colts exceeded the 2008 Colts because of a ‘fresh start’ or ‘new vision’ or because Dungy secretly stunk but was such a nice guy that no one wanted to say it out loud.

Don’t believe it.  The 2009 Indianapolis Colts will surpass the 2008 club because the 2008 team was a season long shell game operated by a master.  Dungy hid how bad the club by coaching the hell out of his players.

So when the Colts get off to a fast start, and the articles start flowing and the talk radio nonsense starts building, just remember what really happened.

Tony Dungy was an incredible coach.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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