This week, I’ve been doing my best to keep my head down and eyes on my proverbial paper because I don’t want to think too much about the game between the Chargers and Patriots on Sunday. If I do, I’ll get too anxious because I hate the Patriots. They’re unlikeable and representative of all that’s wrong with the NFL, starting with idiotic trades like the Randy Moss deal. And they don’t care if the hometown paper posts bulletin board material like this.
The problem is, I can’t help but think football, but not because my mind has been overwhelmed by the opportunity to end the Patriots’ shot at perfection. I live in Indianapolis, so naturally I got to hear all about the Colts and their fans’ reactions to their 28-24 loss to the Chargers. You can imagine my surprise when I heard caller after caller on the local sports hack’s radio show saying they didn’t care if Tony Dungy left the organization after this year. You can also imagine my surprise when Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz said, “just about any coach could win double-digit games year in and year out with this collection of talent.”
How could Colts fan have become so jaded and myopic? Indy is such a likeable town and their fans are unusually friendly and yet still able to make a lot of noise while cheering their team on. I watched the game in a bar, wearing my number 21 powder-blue Chargers throwback and I barely got a dirty look from the other 100 Colts fans in the bar. It’s a good town, personified by Tony Dungy, a charitable, respectable, and intelligent head football coach who also happens to be an excellent motivator. There’s no better fit in the NFL between city and head coach than Indianapolis and Dungy. Why are they running this guy out of town?
Kravitz actually summed up the insanity of his and the fans’ own argument and while making my point in the same paragraph:
They’ve done some amazing things this last decade, reaching the playoffs eight of the last nine years, and all six years of Dungy’s stewardship. But one Super Bowl isn’t enough. Not when you have two future first-ballot Hall of Famers in Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, and a host of younger stars who have Hall of Fame-worthy talent.
To restate: one Super Bowl is not enough. If you recall, Dungy was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mostly because he couldn’t win a Super Bowl with the talented roster there. Well, he won the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and yet I’ve heard more about the 2005 loss to the Steelers than their Super Bowl XLI win. It’s out of control. Since when is ONLY one Super Bowl a problem? The press and the fans should still be thanking Jesus, Buddha, and Mario Andretti for their title last season. That’s the beauty of the NFL, any podunk market can pretend to be big-time.
Brett Favre has only one Super Bowl title. He also lost another Super Bowl to a John Elway-led Broncos club that was wondering if their legendary quarterback would retire without a ring. Will anyone say Favre only won the one title and look at it as a negative? Of course not, he’ll forever be Super Bowl Champion quarterback Brett Favre, who also happens to hold nearly every major passing record. Since when is being a Super Bowl Champion not good enough?
Yes, there are plenty of talented players on the Colts, but the roster they fielded for last Sunday’s game doesn’t reflect that. Marvin Harrison clearly wasn’t himself (they had to play Devin Aromashodu in crunch time). And all that talent Bob Kravitz was speaking of is mostly on the offensive side of the ball, with a couple of exceptions.
Tony Dungy is nothing less than a miracle-worker with this team. Under any less of a coach, that defense melts down all season like it did in the second half of Sunday’s game. Was it inevitable? Maybe. Injuries and a lack of depth and talent tend to catch up with teams. The point is the playoffs are a crap-shoot. A team can win 12 games for several years in a row and still ONLY win the one title because, in the actual games, crazy things – like Billy Volek leading the opposing team down the field to victory – happen. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Shit happens.
If Dungy leaves town and Indy fan pushes him out the door, it’ll be one of the biggest mistakes in the organization’s history. Streaks of success like the Colts’ don’t happen very often in the NFL. It takes essentially a perfect melding of coach, front office, players, and fans for this amount of victories to happen. It’s the reason every team doesn’t go 12-4 every season. It’s time to come to terms with that fact and get ready for next season. As Crash Davis said: You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.