People Who Grind My Gears: Tony Dungy

I’m just going to come out and say it…Tony Dungy irritates the shit out of me. Dungy is a guy who, except for one accidentally successful moment, really should be relegated to the backwater of NFL history.  But because we live in a society that believes anybody who won a Super Bowl automatically has opinions worth anything, I now am forced to hear the shit this sanctimonious butt-loaf spews.

First, let’s talk about Tony Dungy, the coach. I’m not saying he was a bad coach, but he sure as hell wasn’t the great coach people want me to believe he was. Dungy had an outstanding regular season record (139-69 in 13 seasons) but so did lots of other coaches. Go look at the list of guys who have better winning percentages than Dungy, and the first thing you will notice is that you never heard of at least half of them. Why? Because it is the post-season that matters, and this is where Dungy couldn’t get it done; he’s a sub-.500 playoff coach.

I know, this is the part where you’re going to tell me Dungy won a Super Bowl – which means this is the part where I define “accidentally successful.”

  • Dungy was matched up against Lovie Smith; unless the earth opened up and swallowed the stadium, one of those two had to win.
  • Lovie Smith thought it was a good idea to keep Rex “3 turnovers, but fuck it, I’m going deep anyway” Grossman on the field.
  • Tony Dungy has the lowest playoff winning percentage of any Super Bowl winning coach.

I rest my case…accidentally successful. It’s important because that one Super Bowl ring seems to be a license for him to say some things  I find infuriating from their self-righteous and condescending nature.  Since Dungy has appointed himself as America’s moral compass, he has carved out a nice niche for himself based strictly on being publicly better than you.  Granted, his sanctimony means he doesn’t sound like the carbon-copy blow-dries with which the sports media overflows, but it also makes him a pontificating douchebag everywhere else. Look at some of the crap he gets away with saying…

“If I’m Reggie Bush I give back the trophy and say you know what, I was the best player in college football. You know that. And I know that regardless of what may or may not have happened off the field, I was the best player. So here, you take the trophy but you won’t take the memories.”

“I’m disappointed with all the profanity. I think Rex can make his points without all that.”

“As a Christian, I follow the Biblical model of how a community should be structured-wisdom should be passed down from elders to juniors, and when that doesn’t happen the results won’t be good.”

There’s a couple of problems here. First of all, everything Dungy says is completely inoffensive on its face. It is always later when I realize that I just got another dose of this asshole’s self-serving, “holier-than-thou” pseudo-ministry. It is later when I realize “Wait a minute…who the fuck does this guy think he is?” Look at the three examples I mentioned. Re-read them a couple of time and you will see what I mean. Notice that everything is about his way of doing things is better than anybody else’s. This isn’t the first time I’ve called Dungy out on shit like this, and it probably won’t the last; if you follow that link, you see an exercise comparing Rex Ryan’s leadership style to Dungy’s.

That is an important comparison because Dungy believes his approach to be superior. The trouble is that true leadership doesn’t come from an approach, it comes from the leader themselves. We’ve done an excellent job in this country of creating at least two successive generations which contain an astonishingly high number of complete pussies. The business world is dripping with them; walk into any conference room in America and you will see ten people whose entire goal for the day is to not have to make a decision for fear of pissing somebody off. You will see ten people who believe leadership skills come from a book. You will also see ten people who won’t criticize Dungy because a) his kid killed himself and/or b) he hides behind religion.

And there it is, gang…the turd in the Dungy punchbowl. I used to really like Tony Dungy until he became righteous for profit. He took a great personal tragedy, the Super Bowl ring Lovie Smith handed him, and and created a nice little empire for himself being a corporate snake-oil salesman. If you doubt that, go to his website, strip off all the God stuff and tell me what you see…a guy selling you another leadership book.

Make no mistake, Dungy’s halo is clearly for sale. Once I realized that, all the other bullshit he says makes sense. He got some publicity out of Reggie Bush, he got a whole boatload from Rex Ryan, but nobody’s done more for Dungy’s bank account than Michael Vick. I’m not linking any more stuff for Dungy, but suffice it to say that if you were to do a Google  search of  “tony dungy michael vick,” you would get a ton of results, all of which will contain some varying flavor of a story about how Dungy’s mentorship allowed the rehabilitation of Vick.

This is how Dungy became the patron saint of football. The problem is all that flowery crap about leadership, mentoring, and God hides the damage Dungy does. For example, Dungy is pretty much the entire reason Michael Vick had to serve a two-game suspension upon his release from prison. Never mind how patently ridiculous it was to suspend a guy who just served the better part of two years in a federal prison, Commissioner Roger Goodell felt it neccesary to show America how big his dick was by forcing Vick to supplicate himself for reinstatement. He would have not likely needed to do that had Dungy not shot his mouth off questioning the completion of Vick’s rehabilitation.  Dungy milked that for all it was worth; and it was worth his next saved penitent.

In what may be the best evidence yet that Dungy’s work is more about being an image consultant, take the case of Mike Locksley.

But perhaps the best place to observe Dungy’s motives—and their consequences, intended and not—is Albuquerque, New Mexico. {In September of 2009}, the University of New Mexico football program found itself embroiled in a sports PR nightmare. The Lobos’ head coach, Mike Locksley, had allegedly choked and punched one of his assistant coaches, J.B. Gerald, during a staff meeting. The incident was a made-for-ESPN melodrama: The school was embarrassed, and Locksley, a first-year coach, looked completely out of his depth. He was suspended by the university for 10 days.

Then, out of the desert, Dungy appeared. Just as he had Michael Vick, the coach took on Locksley as a mentee. The story quickly morphed from one of violence and scandal into one of redemption—another lost soul taken under Dungy’s wing. Locksley later said, “I see Coach Dungy being a guy with a wealth of experience and knowledge, not just in football, but in life.”

How had Dungy found his new disciple? Well, that’s where the story becomes a parable about the difference between rehabilitating a person and rehabilitating a reputation. Six weeks after the Locksley incident, the Albuquerque Journal unearthed an email that said Dungy had been called to mentor duty by a communications firm, Sports Media Challenge. According to its Web site, Sports Media Challenge has worked with athletes like Peyton Manning, Dungy’s former quarterback, to teach them to “maximize public exposure while minimizing its risks.” Here the PR risk-reward factor seemed clear: Who better to vouch for a fallen coach than football’s resident saint?

But, then there’s the downside:

For instance, Dungy often says he likes to work within the system…Problem is, Dungy’s insistence on working within the system often lets the system off the hook. Michael Vick is a great example. What Vick needed after leaving federal prison wasn’t just an advocate with the press; it was an advocate in the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell made Vick come on bended knee to apply for reinstatement. The quarterback was humiliated and forced to personally apologize. Even with that, and no evidence Vick would hurt a poodle, Goodell suspended Vick for two more games before he could play for the Philadelphia Eagles. This is the kind of sniggering authority figure that should not be worked with but laughed at. By negotiating with Goodell, Dungy merely dignified his punishment regime.

The second problem is that Dungy’s saintliness often obscures the facts of the case. The Mike Locksley fiasco at New Mexico was actually quite haunting. The assistant coach, J.B. Gerald, told ESPN that on September 20, Locksley jumped into his lap and “put his hands around my collar and neck and was choking me. He’s pulling me up out of the chair, and I grabbed his hands so I could get them off my neck.”

As other coaches tried to intervene, Gerald said that Locksley “was throwing punches and hit me right in the mouth. I could taste the blood in my mouth.” (Locksley admitted there was pushing and shoving but denied punching or choking Gerald.) The upshot was that without such a high-profile mentor, J.B. Gerald, another young, African-American coach, was finished at New Mexico. (Gerald reportedly asked for a $500,000 settlement.) The question is whether Dungy had saved Locksley’s soul or merely saved his job.

For the University of New Mexico, though, Dungy’s mere presence produced nothing but a mountain of good publicity. Kathleen Hessert, of Sports Media Challenge, said she has a proprietary Internet search engine that measures buzz (how much a sports figure is being talked about) and the sentiment (how positive or negative the talk is). And once Dungy reached out to Locksley, both scores were off the charts.

“The buzz was a 10 and the sentiment was highly positive,” Hessert said. “People were saying, ‘Obviously, [Locksley is] getting the help he needs to be a positive coach here and obviously he’s serious about it, getting somebody like Tony Dungy to mentor him.’”

Perhaps that’s unfair; maybe Dungy really is America’s moral compass, and maybe he is only as good at that as he is at winning in the playoffs.

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9 responses

  1. Great points man. Definitely agree. It’s amazing how people view him this perfect man but all he is without feeling. He knows what the morally right thing to do is but nothing more. People forget that this is a guy who’s son committed suicide and I bet a big reason for that was because his father was pushing 18 hour days coaching a football team. He wasn’t around as a father figure for his son (like so many coaches aren’t) yet the media treats him like the Mother Theresa of professional sports.

    1. I’ve lived in Indiana for just short of a year now, and I simply have had my fill of this guy getting pumped down my throat as a great human being and best coach since Lombardi.

      Plus, I lived in Minnesota when Dungy was the Vikings defensive coordinator, and I got a belly full of his bullshit then as well.

  2. Very nice, sir.

    I love when your Bears bitterness comes out in full force.

    I’ve been working on a post where I list the least criticizable, most untouchable people in sports.

    Dungy makes that list. Well at least he did til now.

    Although I’m sure, Dub, like Tim Tebow, after sitting down to lunch with Dungy, he’d have your change your tune 180 degrees. Assuming you didn’t beat him to a bloody pulp first.

  3. I’ve never been a big fan of Dungy. I think I liked him more with the Bucs than the Colts. I think since we live in one nation under god, Dungy gets a lot of cred that is undeserved. He’s as over rated as a coach as Peyton is in big games…

  4. I don’t intend to sound racist but I believe so much was made of him because he won as a black coach and he continues to live off that “fame”

    1. That is a tremendous point, and a very true one. As far as being a foot ball coach the equation is as follows:

      Tony Dungy – Being a “Black Coach” = Barry Switzer.

  5. […] of an Amazonian tribesman, sprinkle in some slavish idolatry for Tony “Bat-Boy” Dungy, and cover it all with a 6XL Peyton Manning Denver Broncos jersey hiding at least three sets of […]

  6. […] want to believe that? Let’s run down some facts that point to Doc Rivers being the Tony Dungy (meaning over-rated and nowhere being a “great” coach) of the NBA.  In 15 seasons as […]

  7. […] In last week’s episode of the Blast-Cast, J-Dub had an epic rant on Dungy, and he’s written about him more than once…lots of times, […]

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