Commentary

Dungy and staff have done best coaching job of '07

Thanks to Tony Dungy's steady approach, the Colts have been able to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and withstand a string of key injuries, writes Michael Smith.

Originally Published: December 19, 2007
By Michael Smith | ESPN.com

Tony Dungy is taken for granted. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he coaches one of the best quarterbacks of all time, kind of like the way some don't give Phil Jackson much credit for winning nine NBA titles with Jordan and Pippen, then Shaq and Kobe.

Dungy brought respectability to the Tampa Bay Bucs franchise and a title to Indianapolis. With their Week 15 win at Oakland, the Colts became -- get this -- the first franchise in league history to win at least 12 games in five consecutive seasons. So he's accomplished a lot in a short time. And yet in 12 seasons (10 of which his teams have been in the playoffs) Dungy never has been selected as the Associated Press' coach of the year. He been the Maxwell Football Club's and Sporting News' coach of the year, but never the AP's.

[+] EnlargeTony Dungy
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe pressure to repeat and a slew of injuries haven't altered Tony Dungy's approach.

Dungy probably won't get the award this year, but no coaching staff has done a better job. The Colts didn't experience a hint of a Super Bowl hangover, and that starts with the consistent approach of the head coach.

The Colts lost defensive tackle Anthony McFarland before the season started. Defensive end Dwight Freeney's season ended after nine games. Linebacker Rob Morris' season ended after four games. Receiver Marvin Harrison has missed nine of the past 10 games. Rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh and weakside linebacker Freddie Keiaho have missed five games each. Right tackle Ryan Diem has missed the past five contests. In Week 15, the Colts started only two players on defense who started in the Super Bowl.

The front seven has been ravaged with injuries, and yet Indy has the league's second-ranked defense and has allowed the second-fewest points. So why don't more people mention defensive coordinator Ron Meeks as a potential head-coaching candidate?

Give Manning plenty of props for having the remarkable season he's had despite injuries to his line and having to play without Harrison for the first time in his career. But save some praise for Tom Moore, who coordinates an offense that's still managed to score almost 29 points a game.

Another Colts staffer who doesn't get enough attention nationally is assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. All that information Manning processes so well? He gets it from Caldwell, who deserves to be one of the next off the Dungy coaching tree to get a head-coaching opportunity. He even has seven years' head-coaching experience at the college level (Wake Forest, 1993-2000).

Bill Belichick's Patriots will likely make history by posting a perfect regular-season record (at least). And Brad Childress, Romeo Crennel, Jack Del Rio and Mike McCarthy have done "the most with the least." But no head coach has done a better job through adverse circumstances than Dungy, whose Colts were 10 minutes against New England and a last-second missed field goal against San Diego from being 14-0 themselves.

McNabb, Eagles divorce?

As you may have heard, there's a big to-do in Philadelphia over Donovan McNabb -- what else is new, right? -- and what he supposedly did or didn't say Sunday to Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver regarding his future with the Eagles.

Oliver reported at halftime of the Cowboys' loss to the Eagles that in speaking with McNabb off camera during warm-ups she got the impression that he thinks his days in Philly are numbered, and that he's hurt by what he believes is the organization's effort to distance itself from him. McNabb denied making those comments to Oliver, who stands by her story.

Donovan McNabb

McNabb

Quarterback
Philadelphia Eagles

Profile

2007 Season Stats
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
397 238 2524 15 6 86.8

Now I wasn't present so I'm not qualified to speak on what he said or she heard. But I can tell you what I believe: McNabb's days in Philly are numbered. And he doesn't feel as though the Eagles have his back.

Which is why when McNabb and the Eagles file for NFL divorce after this season I believe it will be as much the player's decision as the team's, if not more.

Put yourself in his shoes: You're 31. Your replacement already is in house. Your employer has a history of cutting ties with aging players sooner rather than later. There's always media speculation surrounding you and your status as the "franchise" quarterback. It seems as if the city has never truly appreciated what you've accomplished over the years without a great receiving corps.

On the airwaves and in the papers they're always ready to give your job to Jeff Garcia, or A.J. Feeley, or Kevin Kolb (and those were just in the past year).

If you were McNabb, would you want to subject yourself to that kind of drama for another year?

Even if the Eagles don't try to trade or release him, it won't surprise me if McNabb tries to force his way out of town. He has a mega contract that runs through 2013, but he knows he won't see the big bucks at the end of it.

Why would the Eagles update his deal to his liking -- as they were discussing with McNabb's agent before McNabb was injured last season -- when they've got Kolb waiting in the wings? Surely McNabb would prefer his inevitable departure happen now rather than when he's two or three years older and won't command as much from another club.

Regardless of what any of the parties involved have said publicly to the contrary, McNabb will play for another team next season. At this point I don't think that bothers him one bit.

Michael Smith covers pro football for ESPN.

Michael Smith

NFL Senior Writer
Michael Smith joined ESPN in July 2004 as a National Football League senior writer for ESPN.com, covering league news and major events such as the NFL Draft, NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, and continues to write breaking news stories. He is also a correspondent for E:60, ESPN's first multi-themed prime-time newsmagazine program, which debuted October 2007.

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