Defending Dungy

October 3 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy has been criticized as of late, but Sandy Penner has elected to defend him in his column this week.

It's the right of every football fan to criticize their team. Not only is it their right, but if they're not doing it, then they're not likely a very passionate fan. Everyone is an open target, but more often than not the coach will be the fall guy. It's part of the landscape that coaches grudgingly accept. Often you will hear fans and talk show hosts say they want the coach fired. Often their reasoning is presented in a way which may seem logical to them, but when analyzed is usually very faulty. Since the Bucs loss to Minnesota last Sunday, fans to my show and others have vented their spleen and the consensus is that Tony Dungy is no longer fit to coach this football team. The reasons given are anything from, "he doesn't have the fire," to "he just needs to go." Harsh words that were usually reserved for the Rich Kotites and Ray Handleys of the world are now being heaped upon Tony Dungy.

So, how did we get here? Was it just the loss to Minnesota which unfathomably has now been deemed unacceptable by the public? Was it the ugly way last season ended? Are fans bored by the grind it out style of the Bucs? Whatever the reason, the idea that Tony Dungy needs to go is laughable. There are three simple ways you judge whether a football coach should remain with his team. 1) Do the players respect and like playing for the coach? 2) Is the team prepared each week for the opponent? 3) Does the squad play with a high level of emotion each week? As you noticed, I didn't put does the team win, because if the answer is yes to those three items, and there's sufficient talent, the team WILL win. The obvious answer to the 3 question Tony Dungy quiz is yes, yes and yes.

Tony Dungy is a defensive minded coach. No one will dispute that. Fans perceive defensive minded coaches to be "conservative," while offensive minded coaches are "geniuses." It's one of those weird football stereotypes that fans have trained themselves to believe. The Bucs just got finished losing a game to a quality team on the road in which a few plays simply didn't go their way. If the problem with Dungy is style than people are never going to like the guy. Coaches don't change their philosophies, that's why their called philosophies. Adjusting, yes. Changing never.

One of the other things that makes me pull my nose hair out is when Buc fans say that Dungy isn't screaming and yelling enough. How stupid is that. Ranting and raving may be the way some coaches operate, but if it doesn't fit your personality, then doing it is a waste of time. The reason Dungy is so well respected is because he treats the players like men. Not only that but he reflects a calm, professional demeanor which reeks of leadership. Please spare me the Tony's a nice guy but speech. The guy is a solid coach whose teams are known leaguewide for being well drilled. If Dungy were fired at the end of the season, there would be tons of teams who would fire their under contract coach to hire him.

Let's be sane here and not complain just because we think it sounds good. I've often been told by my listeners that I'm an outsider and I haven't been here long enough to understand the frustration surrounding this franchise. Well, I think watching this franchise from afar up until last season, was the perfect vantage point to know what's going on. Before I got to Tampa, I always thought Tony Dungy's teams were physical, tough minded and difficult to beat. I still feel that way now after a season and two games of being here. Fans have the right to be fickle and even skeptical, but they don't have the right to be nonsensical. The message to Bucs fans is clear, Watch what you wish for because you just might get it.

By the way, I'm not sure who first used that time honored saying, but given his age and wisdom, it very well may have been Leo Haggerty.


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