Sunday, January 13, 2008

Time for Dungy to go

Do I have to say it again?
Yes, PCS, I'm afraid you're going to have to say it again.

Because I really don't want to have to say it again.
Oh, come on, man, just say it.


No coach in the National Football League mismanages the end of the regular season as consistently and as predictably as Tony Dungy. It cost him dearly year after year in Tampa. It cost him dearly year after year in Indianapolis up through 2005. And it cost him dearly again this year.

The most important event in Sunday's Chargers-Colts game was Marvin Harrison's fumble deep in San Diego territory. At that point, the Colts were up 7-0, and another touchdown would have put them in position to dictate the pace of the rest of the game. Then Harrison fumbled. Replays showed clearly that no Charger actually laid a hand or helmet on either the ball or the arm in which Harrison was carrying it. So who slapped the ball out?

Dungy, you could say.

Harrison hadn't played in a real game in two and a half months, having injured a knee against the Broncos in the fourth game of the year. By Week 16 of the regular season, however, he was said to be healthy enough to play, even though he wasn't the mythical "100%." But rather than give Harrison some action either in that game or in the season finale against the Titans, Dungy elected to hold him out to allow him to "heal fully." When questioned about whether his No. 1 receiver would be able to play effectively after such a long layoff, Dungy said he didn't think Harrison's timing would be a problem at all.

Well, it's not about timing, dummy. You can work on timing in practice. It's about contact, and Harrison hadn't had any contact in 11 weeks. Then, Sunday, the very first time an opposing player touched him (lightly), he dropped the ball.

The rest of the Colts were ugly in stretches, too. Both of Peyton Manning's interceptions came on passes that bounced off his receivers' hands. Why would a team that's as dependent on precision as the Colts play as sloppily and as unevenly as they did Sunday? Perhaps because they hadn't played a game to win in three weeks, since they wrapped up a first-round bye. Funny enough, that's exactly what happened in 2005. And yet, in 2006, when they had no choice but to play hard every week of the regular season, they came into the playoffs on a hot streak and took it all the way to the Super Bowl.

The better the Colts play in the regular season, the worse they perform in the playoffs -- because the better they play in the regular season, the earlier Dungy decides to start mailing it in. Sometimes -- or usually, if you're the Colts -- when you switch off the engine, you can't get it started again. For years, people have laid the Colts' postseason collapses on Manning. But it's not on him to get the entire team up for the game. That's the coach's job, and once again Dungy failed.

Heading into the offseason, there's uncertainty about whether Dungy will return. He says he hasn't even thought about it, which, if true, is a fairly selfish thing to do. Because every day he delays a decision is another day the Colts will fall behind everybody else in finding a successor, should he choose to leave. Nevertheless, Colts fans, if they ever want another shot at a Super Bowl, should hope he moves on.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Exactly, I have always said this about Dungy since he took over the Colts. The Colts would have won at least 3 SB's if they would have fought straight through from regular to playoffs... I just don't know why he himself doesn't see this...