Sunday's contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the first time these two teams have met since that amazing comeback win on Monday Night Football back in 2003. The Bucs have never recovered from that game, and the comeback was the beginning of Indy's ascent into the ranks of the NFL elite. Since that game, Tampa coach Jon Gruden has run the Bucs completely into the ground. He won a championship with Tony Dungy's team, and since then long-established players (many of whom are no longer in Tampa) have taken turns ripping Gruden for his notorious two-faced tactics.
Though I love SB Nation's Buc'Em blog, and the head blogger over there (JScott), I have a special dislike for the Bucs. It's got nothing to do with their players or many of their coaches, per say. Derrick Brooks is one of my favorite NFL players. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is a genius, Jeff Garcia is a good veteran QB, and Ronde Barber is the most under-rated CB in NFL history. Tampa went from some of the worst uniforms in sports (Bucco Bruce?) to one of the best (pewter and blood red, baby!). No, my dislike for the Bucs stems directly from their owners: The Cabbage Patch Kids... er, the Glazers. Sorry, I get the two confused.
I guess it's only appropriate that Gruden (playfully called "Chucky" for his ghoulish resemblance to the evil doll in horror films) should find his home with the Glazers (who look deranged and inbred).
If you check out an excerpt from Tony Dungy's best-selling book, you get some keen insight into just how pissed off Dungy is with the Glazers. This article from the St. Pete Times elaborates:
But when the Times reported Dungy would be fired if he didn't beat the Eagles in a playoff game, he planned to confront Joel Glazer on the team plane to Philadelphia.
"That Friday morning, Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times wrote an article quoting unnamed sources that I would be fired if I didn't win the playoff game against the Eagles," Dungy wrote. "I really didn't worry about it, but I didn't want the players to get distracted. So I brought the paper on the flight so I could talk to the Glazers. I knew I could ask Joel, given our conversation in Atlanta, and his assurance then that I was their coach.
"Throughout the course of my six-year tenure with the Buccaneers, the Glazers always flew with the team to away games.
"...None of the Glazers were on the flight with us that day. As Lauren said, I'm very naive, but that was the first time I felt that something was going on. How could the owners not fly with us to playoff game?"
Within two years, Dungy had built an amazing defense in Tampa and the Bucs were in the playoffs. In 1999, horrible referring denied Dungy his first Super Bowl trip. Yes, the Bucs did win that game, the Rams lost, but the refs fked it up and let the Rams win anyway. Total garbage. The game I'm referring to is the 1999 NFCCG, which was so poorly officiated it brought back instant replay. Two years after that game, despite getting the Bucs back to the playoffs both years, Dungy was fired. He was quickly replaced by Jon Gruden who won a title with Dungy's team.
We Colts fans remember all the crap we had to read and listen to after the Bucs won in 2002. Gruden was a "hard ass" who could motivate people. He was a "winner." He would yell at grown men, which made him "tough." Meanwhile, Dungy was soft spoken, didn't yell at players, treated them with respect, valued rest over over-working his player, etc. This made Dungy "weak" or "spineless," and supposed journalists did everything short of calling Dungy a pussy to his face.
Now, six years later, Tony Dungy is still has the most wins as a coach in Tampa Bay Bucs history. He won a ring with another team, with another defense he built up himself. This time around (unlike Gruden) he didn't have a defensive genius like Monte Kiffin working with him. I guess the analogy most appropriate is the old tortoise and the hair story. For years, Dungy endured demeaning, silly, frivolous comments from nitwits who knew nothing about football while Gruden was proclaimed a "winner." Yet, despite all the bumps in the road, Dungy stayed true to his beliefs, his way of doing things. Now, years later, Jon Gruden is coaching for his job, desperately clinging his future employment on Jeff Garcia and Monte Kiffin. Meanwhile, Tony Dungy is a World Champion. His win percentage the last six years is mind blowing. He's considered by many to be the best coach of his generation. His coaching tree, which includes coaches like Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Herm Edwards, and Rod Marinelli, is fast approaching Bill Walsh status. He's a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Fame coach.
Like the old tale says, take your time and focus on the task at hand, eventually you will succeed, as Dungy did.