Indianapolis or Tampa??

By Bob Kravitz
Updated: January 16, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS – If Tony Dungy wants to walk, if he wants to leave this sultry Central Indiana weather and move back to his real home in Tampa, Fla., to start the next chapter in his life, let him.

Seriously, we all appreciate and respect Dungy, as a football coach and as a man of faith and principle, someone who has represented the Indianapolis Colts and this city in the most favorable fashion imaginable.

And if he decides before the week is out that he will come back for next season and beyond, that’s wonderful because there is, in fact, some unfinished business here.

But let’s not be reduced to begging. Let’s not be reduced, as was owner Jim Irsay, to creating ways to keep Dungy happy by creating some Roger Clemens-esque plan that would allow Dungy to play coach up here and father/husband down there.

Because that can’t work. You’re all in or you’re all out. That simple.
Yes, Dungy brought Indianapolis a world championship, a big, shiny ring and a collection of moments that will never, ever be forgotten. And for that — and for hundreds of smaller personal gestures, most of which have never become public knowledge — Dungy will always have a special place in this region’s heart.

That said, it must to acknowledged that his teams routinely underachieved in the postseason, both in Tampa and again here. If you’re good enough to win 12 or more games in five straight seasons, as were the Colts, you’re good enough to reach more than two conference championship games, good enough to reach, and win, more than one Super Bowl.

Let’s be clear about this: Just about any coach could win double-digit games year in and year out with this collection of talent. If Jim Caldwell comes in next to lead this team, the Colts will win 10 to 13 games. If Bill Cowher or some mystery candidate takes over, the Colts will win 10 to 13 games.

It would be one thing if the Colts were victims of history, a team that happened to come along the same time the Patriots’ dynasty was flattening everyone in their path — like the Utah Jazz, who made the mistake of getting good while Michael Jordan was cementing his legend.

But the Colts only lost two of those playoff seasons to the Patriots. During Dungy’s time, the Colts also have blown two home games after bye weeks, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers (2005) and the San Diego Chargers Sunday.

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.

In the end, my sense is that with Dungy’s entire family having moved to Tampa, he’s poised to join them. He is a family man first, in word and in deed. He’s taking his time, at least a week, because that’s the smart thing to do, because he saw how the late Bill Walsh always regretted quitting the 49ers in a decision he made rashly and emotionally.

Beyond the issue of Dungy’s future, there were other questions in the wake of Sunday’s missed opportunity:
Did the Colts lose their mojo by resting their starters the second half of the Tennessee game?

Answer: No. This wasn’t like the Pittsburgh loss, where the Colts looked like they’d forgotten how the game was played until the second half. They came out on fire Sunday, and were ready to take a two-score lead when Harrison fumbled.

“If we go out and play a great game, we were rested and refreshed,” linebacker Gary Brackett said Monday. “Instead, we went out and laid an egg, so now of course we should have kept playing and kept our rhythm. You never know what would have happened, or who might have been injured (if Dungy played his starters throughout the Tennessee game).”
Did Dungy blow it by going for it on fourth-and-goal at the 7 instead of kicking the field goal?

Answer: That’s not what got them beat, but a field goal there would have been the smarter play. Thought so at the time, and still think so.
So what got them beat?

Answer: To a certain extent, they beat themselves, blowing up in the red zone, taking uncharacteristic penalties, giving up big plays on third downs. But again, give the Chargers credit.

They didn’t have their fullback (Lorenzo Neal), lost their quarterback (Philip Rivers) and their running back (LaDainian Tomlinson) during the game, and utilized a tight end, Antonio Gates, who was playing on one leg. Plus the Colts got a friendly official’s call on the nullified Antonio Cromartie interception return.

The simple answer to all of this is, they blew it, just the way they blew it in 2005.

“I’m going to get up at 7:30 Wednesday, and I’ll have nowhere to go,” Brackett said. “I hadn’t planned for this. I have no itinerary, no plans. I’d cleared my schedule for the next few weeks.”
Then he shrugged.

“Maybe I’ll go to Cabo (San Lucas),” he said. “Maybe run into (Tony) Romo and Jessica Simpson down there.”