Friday, Oct. 5
Tampa feeling conflict of Dungy-Gruden meeting
Tampa Jesuit swimmer Vinny Donnelly is a perfect example of the conflicted emotions in Tampa Bay this weekend.
The lifelong Buccaneers fan, the kid with the parents who have season-ticket holders for years, wore a Colts cap to practice on Monday.
The Colts and Buccaneers play on Sunday and Donnelly still isn't sure who he's going to root for. His family's relationship with Colts head coach — and former Bucs coach — Tony Dungy makes it difficult to decide.
He's not alone.
Throughout Tampa this week the emotions are hard to ignore. Both Dungy and Bucs head coach Jon Gruden are polarizing figures in this city — one for his class and dignity, the other for bringing a championship to Tampa Bay.
At least the chatter is a bit muted, since their last meeting was in 2003 and Dungy now has a Lombardi Trophy of his own. Plus, the Bucs, at 3-1, are playing well, keeping critics from comparing Gruden's regime to Dungy's. Imagine if the Bucs were 0-4 entering this game. Gruden's brow would be in full furrow.
"This game will be decided by the Colts and the Buccaneers players, and coach Dungy and I will do our best to have them ready," Gruden said.
Thanks to his team's start, Gruden no longer has to answer questions about his job security. Not that his job is secure, necessarily. But fans and media are paying more attention to the win-loss record and Carnell Williams' knee than Gruden's contract.
"I've been lucky to drive down the freeway and not have my hat sideways," Gruden said.
I don't know what he means either.
Dungy is still a powerful force in Tampa Bay. He still has a home here. The people still love him here. His son died here, and his grace and quiet strength during that tragedy caused an outpouring locally more significant than a Super Bowl celebration.
He admitted Wednesday that games like this are more emotional. He still has ties to this Buccaneers team, to this community and Dungy doesn't run from that. He still keeps his eye on Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whom Dungy played against when Kiffin was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska.
"To see the impact they've had on the team and the city, it makes you proud," Dungy said.
Linebacker Cato June is getting a taste of Gruden's world after playing for Dungy in Indianapolis for five years. Like many former Bucs and Colts that played under Dungy, it's the coach's quiet confidence that draws players to him.
"His devotion to life has been great," June said. "Especially in this business, it is hard to see a man of his character stand up and live his life the way he does. As a man, you have to look at that and say, man I want to someday be like that."
Gruden called Dungy a "legend" on Monday, though Gruden's accomplishments are quite similar to Dungy's. So does that make Gruden a legend, too?
By Gruden's definition, yes. The difference? Gruden may never be as fully connected to the Tampa community as Dungy.
And there's the conflict.
Links to the best Bucs stories
Get ready for Sunday's game with the Colts by reading the first part of our premium series, "Behind Enemy Lines." In this edition, ColtPower.com's Ed Thompson's answers my questions about the Colts. You can also read about tackle Donald Penn, who will replace left tackle starter Luke Petitgout on Sunday, in this premium feature.
The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings writes that the real test for these resurgent Buccaneers begins this weekend in Indy. And Kenneth Darby talks about waiting for his opportunity after his promotion from the practice squad.
Over at the St. Pete Times, Joanne Korth writes about the simplicity — and the complexity — of the slant, a route the Buccaneers have used to great success so far this season. And while Tony Dungy will always be linked to the Tampa area, his ties to this Buccaneers team are diminishing.