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The graceful genius (cont.)

Posted: Monday January 29, 2007 7:20PM; Updated: Wednesday January 31, 2007 1:27AM
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There's no denying the coaching genius of Bill Belichick, who won three Super Bowls in four years with the Patriots.
There's no denying the coaching genius of Bill Belichick, who won three Super Bowls in four years with the Patriots.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

Part of Dungy's genius is in his flexibility. The Colts' injury-riddled defense entered the playoffs putrid against the run. So Dungy all but abandoned the Tampa Two and placed a safety in the box.

Certainly, Belichick deserves to be dubbed a savant after winning three Super Bowls in a four-year period. But in just one year, even Nick Saban's brainpower was praised more than Dungy's -- before Saban turned out to be Dave Wannstedt sans moustache. And if Eric Mangini -- with 10 wins on his NFL resume -- is dubbed Mangenius, what does that make Dungy?

When I Googled "Dungy is a genius," the search brought only eight results. If that phrasing seems too limiting, check out the results when used with Dungy's contemporaries: Rookie coach Sean Payton - who didn't look so smart giving Deuce McAllister only six carries in the NFC Championship -- brought 28 results. Even Mangini (11) and Brian Billick (10) had more. The leader was Belichick, of course, with 451 followed by Bill Parcells (124). Dungy fared substantially better with "mastermind" preceding his name: 28 hits. However, Dungy was dwarfed by Billick (70) who was behind Belichick (242) and Mike Shanahan (287).

How is Dungy's acumen less than that of Shanahan, who has mustered one playoff victory since John Elway's departure; or Billick, whose offense has been pedestrian despite being considered an offense savant?

"Tony is really, really smart," McKay said. "He's extremely analytical. He's not an emotional thinker." No surprise. By Dungy's senior year in high school, he was a star quarterback whose coach allowed him to call virtually all the plays because he was so cerebral.

Dungy became the youngest assistant in NFL history at age 28, when Pittsburgh hired him. Tony Dungy is definitely graceful.

But at this point, we shouldn't hesitate to call him a genius.


Now that Parcells has retired, I guess it ends the weird dynamic with Pats personnel exec Scott Pioli. Was I the only one who found it fascinating that Pioli is married to Parcells' daughter, whose name is Dallas? A couple weeks ago, I half-jokingly asked Pioli whether his wife -- in the wedding vows -- swore never to share a football secret with her dad. Pioli claimed he didn't discuss football with Parcells, who confirmed it when I emailed him later. But will they talk football now?

...I don't know much about new Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, who the Raiders were hot for before hiring Art Shell. But I know a bit about new Falcons offensive coordinator Hue Jackson from covering the Redskins in 2002. Jackson was a tailbacks coach then, but Redskins coach Steve Spurrier was so impressed with him that he promoted Jackson to offensive coordinator by 2003. And Jackson became the first person ever to call plays for Spurrier, who was known for being inflexible with his offense

...Probably one of the most overlooked dismissals in the NFL was Carolina offensive coordinator Dan Henning. In five seasons, Henning's Panthers reached the NFC Championship twice and made one Super Bowl. Henning was a scapegoat in Carolina's bust of a season. At 65, I hope it isn't the end of the line.

...I'm glad Marty will get at least one more Schott in San Diego. I thought the irony of the criticism toward him losing to New England is that he stopped being conservative for once.

...Interesting statistic: With just six, the NFL has one fewer the number of black coaches as are among 119 Division I-A schools. Colleges are institutes of higher learning, huh?

...Non-NFL note: Sportswriting giant Ira Berkow recently retired from The New York Times after 25 years. Among numerous achievements -- including books -- his Times article "The Minority Quarterback" was a part a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on race. And I was fortunate to consider him a mentor in my early journalism years.

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