Tony Dungy has always been known for his intelligent, rational, thoughtful, stoic, and firmly adult responses to just about everything. It's why he was considered one of the smartest players of his era, why he rose quickly up the coaching ranks to true greatness, why the NFL wanted him to mentor Michael Vick(notes), why the Seattle Seahawks recently offered him carte blanche to run their organization, and why he's now seen as the league's Ambassador-at-Large.
However, it appears that the prospects of the Indianapolis Colts returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since Dungy himself took them there at the end of the 2006 season has turned Mr. Stoneface into a bit of a raving homer -- at this point, all he's missing is the blue face paint.
On Dan Patrick's show earlier this week, Dungy said that he would be "absolutely shocked" if the Colts were to lose to the Saints. "They haven't lost a game yet this year that they were trying to win," Dungy told Patrick. Dungy also said that replacement Jim Caldwell shouldn't reveal everything about Dwight Freeney's(notes) ankle injury, which surely made the NFL's compliance police wince a little bit. "That way New Orleans really has to think about it," Dungy said. Last thing the league wants is the guy associated above all with true integrity endorsing the withholding of injury information.
Now, Dungy has told William C. Rhoden of the New York Times that not only will the Colts win ... the game won't even be close! "Minnesota is playing in New Orleans, they turn the ball over five times, have two or three stupid penalties and still lose in overtime. I don't see how it's going to be close," Dungy said of New Orleans' NFC Championship victory. "The Colts aren't going to turn it over seven times."
Dungy then took a break from bashing the Saints to weigh in on the Peyton Manning(notes) vs. Tom Brady(notes) debate, and took a back-door shot at Bill Belichick for the fourth-and-2 failure that gave the Colts a win over New England this season.
"Nobody in their right mind goes for it on their 28-yard line," Dungy said. "But (Belichick) knew: If I punt this ball, I don't care if it's two minutes, one minute, if I punt this ball, we're going to lose the game. My best shot is to try to make a fourth-and-2 in my own end. That tells me what you need to know about Peyton.
"Rodney (Harrison, who now works with Dungy at NBC) said he thought Peyton was the better quarterback, but with one minute left he would want Brady to have the ball. I said that I've been in all those situations with Peyton and I want him to have the ball. Your coach wouldn't punt the ball to ball to Peyton, I would punt the ball to Tom Brady with one minute left. Your coach is the best coach in the world and wouldn't punt it to him. What does that say?"
What it says overall is that Dungy has taken off the gloves and shown an uncharacteristic side to himself. Fine with me, as I always found the "Mr. Perfect" demeanor a bit restrictive. But as a former coach, Dungy should know one thing above all -- you never, never, EVER provide this kind of bulletin board material to a team before the biggest game they'll ever play. Saints coach Sean Payton is from the Bill Parcells school, so you can bet he'll blow these comments up in any way that will help his team. And what does Dungy say if the Saints win? Though most people favor the Colts, conventional wisdom has the Saints with a very good shot. Drew Brees(notes) had a higher quarterback rating than Manning this season. The Saints are much better running the ball. They have the superior pass defense. They have the better head coach -- in this writer's opinion, Payton is the best coach in the NFL right now. While I like the fact that Dungy loosened his tie a bit, this wasn't really the venue.
Hat Tip: PFT