As a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan, I have the utmost respect and admiration for Tony Dungy. Coach Dungy was truly a victim of his own success here in Tampa, helping to raise a franchise from the dead (with able help from GM Rich McKay and the loose purse-strings of the Glazer family), only to hit a wall every year come playoff time. From 2002 through 2005, we saw much of those same collapses by his Colts in the playoffs, adding more and more weight to that proverbial monkey on his back. Nonetheless, all those shortcomings in crunch time never diminshed the respect folks around here had, and continue to have, for the guy we simply call "Tony".
During his six year stint in Tampa Bay, Dungy ingratiated himself into the community like very few professional coaches do, and did so to the extent that he is still revered here and still lives here during the offseason. He sings in the choir here at a local church. His son is buried here. It's a very unique situation, this love-affair a city has with a long departed football coach that never won a championship, and who was let go without much debate.
I write this because I want to leave no doubt that I will be rooting for the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow, almost as if my own Buccaneers were taking the field. That's the kind of grip the mild mannered Dungy has in the Tampa area. It's the kind of grip Jon Gruden has never had, despite winning the Super Bowl in his first year here. On the field, sure, Tony's teams left a lot to be desired in crunch time. Off the field, the man has no peer, no equal, in any professional sport.
All that aside, look for Dungy (and the also previously much-maligned-in-crunch-time Peyton Manning) to stampede over the Chicago Bears on Sunday evening. Dungy, Manning and the Colts are a different team now. They finally got past that hurdle that had always tripped them up in the past, the New England Patriots, and did so in a way that required the ultimate gut-check -- coming back from an enormous deficit on the scoreboard. All that weight that Dungy, Manning and the Colts have carried is gone....and they'll play looser and crisper because of it. And it also helps that they are facing the worst quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl.
Indianapolis 31, Chicago 14
Nice guys really can finish first