Back in 1977, Tony Dungy was the quarterback of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers when the Gophers still played outside at old Memorial Stadium. The next year, he was playing defensive back in the NFL with the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now that the Indianapolis Colts are 13-0, they have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the rugged AFC. That means they will not have to play a playoff game outside in the elements, because whoever they are matched up with in January must come to Indianapolis, Indiana, and the RCA Dome.
And remember, the Super Bowl in 2006 will be played in Detroit, which is also inside. Only one other dome team has won the Super Bowl, the St. Louis Rams with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.
The Indianapolis Colts are loaded as well with the dynamic talents of triple offensive threats and the NFL’s number-one offense. They are led by record-setting two-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL’s top rated passer; the NFL’s all-purpose yardage leader in running back Edgerin James; and the talented wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
The Colts have scored more points, 392, than any team in the NFL and have the second-rated defense in the league, 180 points.
Only one team in the 86-year history of the league has gone through the regular season and the playoffs undefeated: the 1972 Miami Dolphins, coached by Don Shula, finishing 17-0.
The Colts are in a great position, but do they rest their regulars for the playoffs or do they shoot for an undefeated season? I (LF) had the opportunity of talking with former Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator (1992-93) Tony Dungy (TD) about his great accomplishments.
LF: Tony, since 1999 you have the best record of any coach in the NFL. Talk about what it takes to achieve that.
TD: We really have tried to be consistent; that’s really what our coaching staff has been all about. We try to do things the right way, and so when you do that and really stress the fundamentals, and when you get some good players and they are playing as well as they can week in and week out, that’s when you have the good results. And that’s one thing I’m really proud of. I think our staff does a great job of remaining even keel and being consistent and putting together those 10, 11, 12-win seasons. That’s not easy to do.
LF: Last week you won your 100th career game as an NFL head coach. Talk about reaching that plateau that only a rare few have attained.
TD: That’s a fantastic honor. It just means you’ve been around a lot of good players and great assistant coaching staff and two real fine organizations. I really feel like I’ve been blessed, and you are right, it’s unusual now in the league to be able to coach 10 years. But to be able to get to 100 wins was really, really special.
LF: Talk about the difference in taking a program like Tampa Bay that was at the bottom and the one you have now in Indianapolis, and to take both programs where you’ve gotten them near the top.
TD: Two really different situations. Going to Tampa there was no history, nothing to fall back on, a lot of losing year after year after year. You really had to work on the mental state of the players as well as the city. Because no one expected good things to happen, anytime something negative would happen that’s what everyone would dwell on. So it was really changing the attitude there.
When we got to Indianapolis, they had had some good teams. They had been in the playoffs, had just started a little bit of a downward spiral but still had a lot of tremendous players here. So, it was just a matter of getting that confidence back, and we’ve been able to do that. And set out a course where we kept the same offensive system, put our defensive system in, and got the guys believing in that. And that’s where we’ve kinda taken off to today.
LF: On going undefeated and a perfect season, becoming the first team to go 19-0?
TD: It could be a great story for the NFL if we can keep it going.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio, 89.9 FM, at 8:20 am, and Monday evenings 6-7 pm. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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