1. Will Tony Dungy be fired if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first-round of the playoffs? Yes, but that's been the NFL's worst kept secret for the past few weeks, as evidenced by this week's Buccaneer Magazine cover proclaiming "Dungy's Last Stand?" But the real question is if the Glazers would fire him if the Bucs beat the Eagles and the St. Louis Rams and advanced to the NFC Championship Game?
What if the Bucs won the NFC Championship Game and advanced to their first Super Bowl? Would Dungy be fired then? How about if Tony Dungy becomes the first Tampa Bay head coach to win the Super Bowl? Do the Glazers still axe him? Could you imagine the media circus at the Super Bowl if Dungy was still on the hot seat? That would be unprecedented.
From what I've heard about Dungy's situation from my sources, here's my take. The Bucs would have to win the NFC Championship for Dungy to have a shot at keeping his job. Anything less than that would not be considered an improvement from the 1999 season.
Remember, right or wrong, the goal of any organization is to win a championship. The Glazers have pumped an awful lot of money into this team and since 1999, the Bucs have taken steps down the ladder rather than up it. After losing at Green Bay last year and missing out on a home playoff game in which the Glazers would have made millions from collecting all of the gate receipts from a home playoff game as opposed to splitting it with the visiting club as they do in the regular season, the Bucs finished with a 10-6 season and were promptly ousted from the playoffs after a heartless 21-3 loss in Philadelphia in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Hardly an improvement over a team which won 12 games and advanced to St. Louis for the 1999 NFC Championship Game the year before.
This year, after a fourth-straight 3-4 start, the Bucs struggled to finish 9-7 and didn't earn a playoff berth until Week 16 by beating Baltimore. But by finishing 9-7, that meant another year without any home playoff games and another trip to Philadelphia for a Wild Card game.
Sure, Dungy accomplished the improbable by turning Tampa Bay into a winner, but it's obvious by the Glazers' silence and the red hot rumors about Dungy's job security that the Bucs ownership wanted better results. The modern day NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league in terms of coaching longevity. If Dungy had coached in the days of Don Shula, Tom Landry or his idol and former coach, Chuck Knoll, a 9-7 season would have been "tolerated" by ownership and as long as the Bucs were winning - over .500 - Dungy would truly have job security. But that's clearly not the case in the NFL in the year 2002.
2. So what if Dungy went to the Super Bowl? Is he an automatic lock to stay in Tampa Bay? Heck no. The way the Glazers have left him swirling in the wind without even a "no comment" to the press about his future has likely rubbed him the wrong way. That's my guess. It would certainly rub me the wrong way.
If Dungy took the team to the Super Bowl I think he and his agent, Ray Anderson, would want to opt out of their contract anyways. He only has a year left on his deal and with Bill Parcells waiting in the wings, Dungy might feel disrespected by the ownership and want to go elsewhere and I'm sure the Glazers wouldn't mind. Dungy's new team could pay for the buyout for the final year of the deal. Let's face it, if Dungy has a Super Bowl ring, he could have any coaching job he wanted.
3. So where would Dungy go if he was fired? He told Buccaneer Magazine that he did not wish to return to the college ranks. My guess is that if Dungy were a free agent coach, Matt Millen would fire Detroit Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg and hire Dungy in a heartbeat. Lions defensive coordinator Vince Tobin has already been fired and it will be interesting to see how long it will take to fill that post. If no replacement is named within a week or two, that would indicate that Millen might be waiting to see if Dungy becomes available.
Millen was privately hoping that the Bucs would fire Dungy after last season so that he would have a shot at luring him to Detroit. Dungy, a Jackson, Michigan native, would be perfect fit in his home state. He would enjoy immense job security from Millen, the general manager, and would be closer to his elderly father, Wilbur, who was widowed with the passing of Dungy's mother, Cleomae, last week. With his extensive knowledge of the teams that would comprise the new NFC North - Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago - and the fact that Detroit has a new stadium going up in downtown Detroit in a few years, this seems like a perfect fit.
Dungy, who would have never considered the Minnesota job, contrary to some rumors that he might succeed his friend and mentor Dennis Green, has also been linked to openings at Indianapolis and Carolina. Both would be good fits although rebuilding the Colts defense and the entire Carolina organization would be tough. If Steve Spurrier goes to Washington, Dungy would be a great fit with the Panthers, a franchise which needs a lot of help.
The 2-14 Lions aren't nearly as bad as their record indicates. After all, the team was 8-8 in 2000 and might have made the playoffs with a 9-7 record if they hadn't lost their season finale at home to Chicago on a last-minute field goal.
4. Who would replace Dungy? Parcells or Spurrier? Sure, the sudden resignation of Spurrier from Florida caught everyone off guard, and perhaps the Glazers. But keep in mind, that when the Glazers were considering Spurrier for the head coaching job because they wanted to sell tickets to fill up the Big Sombrero and then a new stadium. They also knew that they had to bring in an exciting coach to help create fan support in favor of a half-penny sales tax voter referendum which would use taxpayer money to help build the new stadium.
But if the Glazers are going to replace the Bucs' all-time winningest coach they need to look for someone with a better resume`. Spurrier has won a national cshampionship on the college level and has coached in the defunct United States Football League (USFL), but not in the NFL. Would the Glazers go with a coach who is unproven in the NFL at this stage? Doubtful.
Take a look at Bill Parcells. He's turned three teams - the Giants, Patriots and Jets - from losers to winners. He took the Giants to the Super Bowl twice and came away with two Super Bowl rings. He also took the Patriots to the Super Bowl and became one of the few coaches to take two different teams to the Super Bowl.
5. Let's look at a "what if" scenario. What if Parcells does take over as the head coach? Who would be his assistants? With Belichick coaching in New England and Al Groh serving as Virginia's head coach, Parcells might consider keeping Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and the Bucs' defensive coaching staff, but that's unlikely. If Parcells comes to Tampa Bay, everybody goes from general manager Rich McKay on down.
Parcells has plenty of cronies around the league from his days with the Giants, Patriots and Jets. Some of those people have even followed Parcells from one job to another.
Mike Tannenbaum would likley be in charge of player contracts. He worked with Parcells with the Jets and is highly regarded as a capologist.
Dan Henning was an offensive coordinator under Parcells with the Jets. He did not coach this year and is reported to be living in Jacksonville, Fla.
Maurice Carthon, a former running back and running backs coach under Parcells with the Giants, is currently with the Detroit Lions, but could hold a similar position under Parcells in Tampa Bay along with an assistant head coach title. Parcells has always thought highly of Carthon.
Corwin Brown, a former defensive back under Parcells with the Patriots, is a defensive coach under Groh at Virginia. He could be a candidate for defensive backs coach under Parcells. The defensive coordinator position might be a stretch.
Mike Sweatman is the Chicago Bears special teams coach, but he has ties to Parcells' coaching days with the Patriots and with the Jets. If his contract comes up next year, the Tuna could make a run at him.
A source close to the Jets told me that Parcells favorite Jumbo Elliott could be tabbed as the offensive line coach or at least find a job on Parcells' staff. Elliott, who played for Parcells for eight years with the Giants and five with the Jets, was hired by the Jets on November 27 to work with offensive line coach Bill Muir.
Depending on his contract status with the Jets, current New York strength and conditioning coach John Lott worked well with Parcells during their time together and could follow the Tuna to Tampa Bay and work in the same capacity.
BONUS: Are the Bucs sold? Highly doubtful. Changing coaches is one thing, but changing ownership is another. I have heard a lot about the Dungy-Parcells situation from my sources, but very little credible info about any ownership change.
The big rumors swirling around are that Eddie DeBartolo and the owners of the Outback Steakhouse chain would buy the team from the Glazers. Somehow I just can't see this happening right now. I think the Glazers are pulling the trigger on the Parcells - Dungy swap if it goes down after the Bucs' first loss in the playoffs.
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