NFL Nation: Tony Dungy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Caldwell's NFL résumé has success written all over it, from the very top all the way down to very end.

He was assistant coach and quarterback coach with the Indianapolis from 2002-08, winning a Super Bowl with them in 2006. Caldwell took over for Tony Dungy and led the Indianapolis Colts to a 14-0 start and another Super Bowl appearance in his first season in 2009.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Caldwell was fired after a 2-14 season -- and the end of Peyton Manning’s career in Indianapolis -- but rebounded nicely by being the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl in 2012.

But Caldwell admits he wasn’t sure he would end up being a head coach in the NFL again.

Those thoughts ended when the Detroit Lions (7-9 last season) named him their head coach last month.

So Manning, Joe Flacco, and now Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.

That’s not a bad group of players to coach for Caldwell.

“Fact of the matter is, very rare do you get a second opportunity,” Caldwell said. “Not only a second, but this is actually the third (time) for me if you include my stint in college as well. I was hoping, but I was also very, very satisfied working extremely hard at what I was doing in terms of coaching the position or being an offensive coordinator, whatever helped a team win. I’m not able to forecast the future. But I certainly indeed hoped that I did get another opportunity. I’m glad it happened.”

Caldwell, who was rather reserved as head coach of the Colts, noted how he’s grown as a coach from what he learned with the Colts and during his two seasons with the Ravens.

“One of things about our business is the fact that if you don’t feel like you’ve grown or developed each and every day, you’re in the wrong business," he said. "I learned something different each and every day. I had a great 10 years (in Indianapolis). We obviously had a lot of success and certainly learned a lot about what to do in terms of offensive football, learning how to develop was important in terms of how we went about doing things, but also winning consistently has a certain sound to it.”

Robert Mathis finishes 2nd in DPOY

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What could have been an incredible day for the Indianapolis Colts didn't end the way they hoped.

Mathis
Shortly after receiver Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy found out they will not be heading to the Hall of Fame this year, linebacker Robert Mathis learned he wasn’t this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Mathis finished second behind Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly for the award.

Kuechly led the NFC in tackles with 156, including 24 against New Orleans in Week 16.

Mathis didn’t win Defensive Player of the Year, but he still had a successful season.

He also proved the naysayers wrong who doubted that he could dominate without Dwight Freeney on the other side.

The best part about Mathis playing with the chip on his shoulder?

He had no problem saying the doubters motivated him.

Mathis led the league in sacks with 19.5 and forced fumbles with eight. He had 46.4 percent of the Colts’ sacks this season, because they only had 42 as a team. The eight forced fumbles led to 35 Colts points.
Both have strong résumés.

Tony Dungy led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs in 11 of his 13 seasons coaching the teams. The Colts won Super Bowl XLI under Dungy.

Receiver Marvin Harrison is in the top seven in receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns.

None of those accolades mattered Saturday because Harrison and Dungy will have to wait at least another year. The two were not named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.

Harrison, who was in his first year of eligibility, made the cut from 15 modern-era finalists to 10, but did not make the cut to the five players to be voted on for the class. Dungy didn't make the cut from 15 to 10 in the selection meeting.

Reed’s selection over Harrison is confusing. Reed is headed to the Hall of Fame after being an eight-time finalist.

The numbers prove that Harrison was a better receiver. There's no other way to look at it.

Harrison had at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in eight straight seasons. Reed had at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season only once in his career. He topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season only four times in his 16-year career.

Harrison was an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro selection. Reed played in seven Pro Bowls.

Harrison's and Dungy's time will come.

Just not now.
TAMPA, Fla. -- When I voted (as an alternate) for Warren Sapp as a candidate for the Professional Football Hall of Fame, I did so unenthusiastically.

Don't get me wrong -- I thought Sapp was a Hall of Fame football player. I just didn't think of him as a Hall of Fame person. I had covered Sapp in his early years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when I worked for The Tampa Tribune and had seen plenty of boorish behavior out of him. But the Hall of Fame rules state that the only thing that matters is what a player did on the field.

Sapp made the Hall of Fame and he deserved it, but I didn't feel any joy when he was elected. It's completely different this year with Derrick Brooks getting selected the first time he was on the ballot.

Brooks and Sapp were the cornerstones of Tampa Bay's turnaround from a doormat to a regular playoff contender. They were best friends. But they're as different as two people can be.

Brooks is a Hall of Fame person. Through his lengthy career and since then, Brooks always has carried himself with class and dignity. I'm genuinely happy for Brooks.

I would have been even happier if former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy and safety John Lynch, two other guys who were great on and off the field, were selected along with Brooks. But Dungy and Lynch came up short in the balloting this year. I think both have a good shot to get in at some point.

But this is about Brooks. Following Sapp and the late Lee Roy Selmon, Brooks is only the third player who spend the majority of his career with the Bucs to make the Hall of Fame. He'll also join them in the team's Ring of Honor, and probably have his jersey (No. 55) retired.

For years, Selmon was the standard when it came to talking about the best player in franchise history. Plus, Selmon was as great off the field as he was on it. Sapp entered the argument for best player in franchise history when he went into the Hall of Fame last year. But even die-hard Tampa Bay fans were lukewarm with their feelings about Sapp -- the person -- because they'd seen or heard about his moodiness.

There are countless stories about Sapp blasting fans who had the nerve to approach him in public. There are almost as many stories about Brooks stepping in and preventing what could have been uglier scenes.

When Brooks and Sapp were in their heyday, they often went out to dinner together. Brooks knew how to read his friend's mood, which often was far from welcoming. On those occasions, Brooks would politely intercept fans and tell them, "This isn't a good time."

But Saturday's selection of Brooks to the Hall of Fame marks a great time for Tampa Bay and fans of the Bucs. There are no bittersweet feelings about Brooks in Tampa Bay. There's only adoration for a guy who firmly proved good things can happen to good people.
Embattled Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin did an interview with former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy of NBC Sports. This is Martin’s first interview since leaving Miami in October. In case you missed it, here is the full transcript from the “TODAY” show.

But I thought Martin’s interview was underwhelming. Martin failed to provide specifics or details of what he experienced in Miami’s locker room that forced him to leave the team.

Here are some questions Martin left unanswered:
  • Who were the other teammates? Martin said it wasn’t just Richie Incognito who harassed and bullied him. So who else added to Martin’s strife? Martin would only say it was “more than one” without naming the other people or person. I thought Dungy could have pressed Martin on this issue, which would have provided new insight and potentially another layer to this story. Was Martin harassed by two teammates? Five? Seven? We still do not know.
  • What was the response after informing the Dolphins? Martin explains he told “my coaches immediately above me” that he was struggling. I assume that includes offensive line coach Jim Turner. What was the nature of those conversations? What was Turner’s response? Did Turner ignore Martin and look the other way or inform other coaches and members of the front office? Martin had a chance to detail who in the Dolphins organization knew he was having issues but failed to elaborate.
  • Where is Martin mentally? There were various reports that Martin sought out emotional counseling the past few months. Martin was never asked to confirmed those reports. But moving forward, other NFL teams will be very interested to know where Martin is mentally before thinking of making a future investment. Martin didn’t do enough to convince teams he’s ready other than to say he wants to play again.
  • Detail the “malicious” attack: Martin’s camp said in November there was a “malicious physical attack” on Martin by Dolphins teammates. This interview would have been a good opportunity to explain that alleged event.

These are just a few important issues Martin failed to address. This was Martin’s chance to tell his side of the bullying scandal to the entire country on Super Bowl week, and he could have done a better job.

The NFL will release the full Ted Wells report after the Super Bowl. Hopefully, we will get more clarity on these aforementioned issues that Martin failed to provide.
Tony DungyMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCoach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison combined for some very memorable Indianapolis Colts teams.

INDIANAPOLIS – The joke about Marvin Harrison during his 13-year career with the Indianapolis Colts is that he would be in plain sight but he was still hidden because he was so quiet. You didn’t know he was around unless he was embarrassing defenses while catching passes from quarterback Peyton Manning.

Harrison didn't worry about the extra thing. His focus was getting better on a daily basis and helping the Colts win games.

“He was very quiet away from the field,” former Colts general manager Bill Polian said. “Marvin wasn’t one of those guys that thrived to be the center of attention. When it was time to play -- practice time or games -- it didn’t matter, he was business 100 percent of time. He is one of the all-time best.”

Harrison, and former Colts coach Tony Dungy, could be thrust to the forefront Saturday if things go as planned for them.

The Colts receiver and coach are two of the 15 Hall-of-Fame finalist. A finalist must receive 80 percent of the votes.

The statistics scream first-ballot Hall of Famer for Harrison. He’s third in NFL history in receptions, fifth in touchdown receptions and seventh in receiving years to go with eight straight 1,000-yard seasons.

“Marvin Harrison had a tremendous impact on my career,” Manning said. “My very first football game in the preseason, on the third play of the game, I threw my first pass. I threw him about a 4-yard pass, and he ran 48 yards for a touchdown. I said, ‘Boy, this NFL is pretty easy. All you do is throw it to Marvin Harrison and he runs for touchdowns.’ That’s pretty much what he did throughout the time we played together. He is just an outstanding football player. A great teammate, and he truly helped me out a lot.”

Harrison was a perfectionist of his craft. His footwork had to be precise, he tried to catch anything thrown in his direction. He wanted the team’s best defensive backs defending him in practice, not a practice squad player who could be released at any moment.

“That was Marvin for you,” Polian said. “His unique ability at his size to get open and continue to play for as long as he played is witness to his phenominal athletic ability, great hands and work habit. He’s extremely, extremely gifted athlete. Far more than people realize because he’s made it look so easy. He was a clutch performer.”

Harrison’s career, which included going to the playoffs 10 times and winning a Super Bowl, ended in February 2009 when the Colts terminated the final three years of his contract because he didn’t want to take a pay cut.

"It was time," Harrison said told the Indianapolis Star in a recent interview. "I had the perfect owner (Jim Irsay), the perfect team, one team my whole career, Dungy leaving, I played my one year in the new stadium (Lucas Oil).''

Dungy wasn’t far behind Harrison in leaving the Colts. He stepped down as coach almost two months later.

Dungy, who coached in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, is in the top seven in wins amongst coaches with at least 100 victories. The Colts won at least 10 games in all seven seasons under Dungy. They won five division titles during that same time span, and Dungy is the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.

“Everybody who makes the finals deserves to be in, but Tony is in a class by himself,” Polian said. “His record speaks for itself. He has replaced Wellington Mara as the public conscience of the NFL. “

Manning added, “Coach Dungy’s influence on me and our entire team was very strong…I’m indebted to him for his help for me in my career, and of course, our teams there in Indianapolis. I was very honored to play for him for a number of years.”

Dungy turned the Buccaneers around

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When I first encountered Tony Dungy, I didn’t think he was going to make it as an NFL head coach. Now, he’s a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So what changed about Dungy? Absolutely nothing. He stuck to his philosophy, no matter what. At times, he bordered on being stubborn, but that turned out to be part of the key to his success.

Let’s flash back to when Dungy first became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the 1996 season and I was covering the Bucs for The Tampa Tribune.

The season started badly for Dungy and the Bucs. They went 0-5 and I remember thinking that Dungy was a very nice guy, but didn’t know what he was doing. His defense wasn’t clicking and his offense was terrible.

But Dungy stuck to his core beliefs and, all of the sudden, everything changed. The Bucs got a win against the Minnesota Vikings, the team Dungy previously had worked for as the defensive coordinator. You started to see signs of hope as the Bucs finished the season on an upswing.

The next season, Dungy had the Bucs in the playoffs for the first time in a generation. The rest is history. Dungy made the Bucs into a regular playoff contender and won a lot of games. Those were good days in Tampa Bay, but they didn’t last forever.

Largely due to a stagnant offense, Dungy was fired after the 2001 season and Jon Gruden came in and won the Super Bowl. Dungy landed quickly on his feet with the Indianapolis Colts and eventually led that franchise to one Super Bowl.

As the Hall of Fame voters debate Dungy’s candidacy, some detractors will point to the fact he won only one Super Bowl despite having a great defense in Tampa Bay and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Those are valid points.

I don’t know if Dungy will get in during his first year of eligibility. But I still think he belongs in the Hall of Fame at some point. His record in Indianapolis speaks for itself. His time in Tampa Bay was long ago, but people should remember how Dungy turned around a franchise that had been having hard times for a long time.

NFLN survey/popular coach: Redskins

January, 28, 2014
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It’s easy to see why Pete Carroll was the runaway choice by players as the coach they’d like to play for the most with 22.5 percent of the 320 votes. He’s vibrant; the players seem to have fun so the season isn’t as much of a grind. He’s also winning.

Trust me on this: If the Seahawks weren’t winning, Carroll would not be so high on this list. Of course, they might be winning in part because of how he coaches. But it’s clear that, for now, Carroll has found a way to win in a game that too often features coaches who feel you must be serious all the time. It’s too tough to survive that way; just ask former Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.

I’ve always liked Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, who is No. 2 on the list. I’m surprised Rex Ryan is so high on the list (fourth) considering that the Jets haven’t done a whole lot lately; he also earned one more vote than Bill Belichick. Just shows you that winning isn’t everything. But if I want to win? It's tough to go against Belichick. He clearly won't win every year, but the Patriots are always in contention.

But it also seems like the coaches who perhaps fared better than anticipated did so because they give the players room to breathe. You can’t be a successful NFL head coach and not know how to work or just be buddy-buddy all the time. However, you can make it a good environment and when you do that, talent knows it can shine. Andy Reid (sixth) is another I like; though he comes across as dry in interviews, his humor occasionally pokes through and his players have always seemed to respect and like playing for him.

Redskins angle: Redskins players were all over the place on this one with seven different coaches named, though no one said Carroll. Three coaches received two votes: Jeff Fisher, Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin. Of course, Dungy is no longer an active coach. One player did say Mike Shanahan and the former Redskins coach did pick up two other votes from this survey. He had his issues, but players liked the way he ran practices and how he kept them fresh for late in the season.

TAMPA, Fla. -- In his office at the Tampa Bay Storm's headquarters last week, Derrick Brooks looked the part of a successful president of an Arena Football League team. He also looked as though he could still go out and play linebacker in the National Football League.

But something was different about the Brooks of past week and the one I've known since he entered the NFL in 1995. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I asked Brooks if he was nervous about being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2014 will be selected Saturday and Brooks, who played 14 seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is on the ballot for the first time.

"I must admit I think about it every day," Brooks said. "There's a nervous energy about it. It's kind of like the feeling you get before you play a game. But here's the difference: If I'm playing a game, I know I can do something about it and I have a say in it. This situation here, you don't have any say in it.

"The résumé has been written. My career is what it is. If I could write the next chapter, I'd be going in with this class. But the nervousness about it is you just don't know. It's human beings making a vote and there's no guarantee of anything."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Brooks
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Brooks will find out on Saturday if he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
That's a stunning admission from a guy who always seemed to have supreme confidence. Brooks was ice to Warren Sapp's fire during the Buccaneers' glory years, which included a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Brooks, now 40, always seemed calm as he was earning 11 Pro Bowl berths, nine All-Pro honors, the 2002 Defensive Player of the Year award and the 2000 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

But now Brooks is nervous?

Sure he is and it's understandable. That's largely because he always has been a student of the game and knows plenty about its history.

"You talk about the founders of football," Brooks said. "You talk about the history of the game. You talk about the first African-American players. You talk about greatness for centuries. You get a chance to have your bust sit in that room and share that history."

That's where the nervousness kicks in.

"I always watched the process," Brooks said. "But now I watch it with a different intent, like, 'Am I worthy of being in that company?' I guess it presented more questions for me about my career. 'Am I worthy of a bust?'"

Absolutely. Brooks deserves to be a first-ballot selection. He's the best player I've ever covered and that includes Sapp, who went in on the first ballot last year.

More than anyone -- with the possible exception of coach Tony Dungy, who also is a Hall of Fame finalist -- Brooks was responsible for one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history. Prior to Brooks' arrival in Tampa Bay, the Bucs had been a laughingstock for a generation. That point was driven home in 1996 when Brooks and Sapp were sitting in a San Diego hotel room, getting ready to play the Chargers.

"Playing a late game, we got a chance to see the pregame shows," Brooks said. "Those guys were making jokes about the Yucks, the Yuckaneers, the quarterback rating for Trent [Dilfer]. They were making fun of us. It kind of resonated with us and Warren and I just looked at each other. I was upset. But he was pissed. He went to a new level with his anger.

"I internalized and said, 'I'm going to do something about this.' But he externalized it. We went to pregame and he just went off on how we were being so disrespected by everybody. We went out there and went down 14-0 before you could sneeze. But then we fought back and won that game. I think the confidence that we built on the road that day was the turning point. I don't think it's ironic or a coincidence that we came back a few years later and won a Super Bowl in that same stadium."

In 1997, the Bucs turned the corner and made the playoffs for the first time in a generation. It also was around that time that two wise men got in Brooks' ear and planted the first ideas that he could have a Hall of Fame career.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Brooks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesBrooks returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown in the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII victory.
Early in his tenure, Dungy, who had played for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their 1970s heyday, sat down Brooks and Sapp for a chat.

"He had a conversation with Warren and myself and said, 'You can be Joe Greene, Jack Ham or Jack Lambert,'" Brooks said. "It was intimidating. He laid it on the table what his expectations were for us."

Then, there was the late Tom McEwen. He was the legendary sports editor for the Tampa Tribune. McEwen was a grandfatherly figure who cared deeply about Tampa Bay sports. At the time, he also was Tampa Bay's voter for the Hall of Fame and he always was on the lookout for someone to join Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs' first Hall of Famer.

"I had a ton of respect for Tom," Brooks said. "After the 1997 season, we started to have some pretty serious conversations. Tom kept telling me, 'Hey, you've started this turnaround. Keep it going and you can have a Hall of Fame career.'"

McEwen was a sage because Brooks only continued to become a greater player. He was a do-it-all linebacker, a leader and a model citizen. He also led the Bucs to their only Super Bowl championship and made the All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

Brooks played through 2008 and the Hall of Fame credentials are there. Still, the guy who seemed unflappable for so many years is nervous.

On Saturday, Brooks will make some appearances in New York and do a radio show. He knows the nerves will continue to grow as afternoon turns into evening.

"I'll just be sitting and waiting," Brooks said. "What's a couple hours more when you put up years of work to get to this position?"

Not much I guess. But Brooks shouldn't have to be nervous. He did his work. Now, it's time for the Hall of Fame voters to confirm him as what he made himself into -- a first-ballot Hall of Famer. With no reason to be nervous.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The hiring of Lovie Smith as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has drawn positive reviews just about everywhere.

That’s only going to be enhanced by the weighty words you’re about to hear from Derrick Brooks. As you know, Brooks was one of the best players in franchise history and was a team leader during Tampa Bay’s glory days. Smith was Brooks’ linebackers coach for six years. Brooks said Smith’s hiring is a major step for a franchise that has lost some of its luster in recent years.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Brooks
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaFormer Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks says Tampa Bay made a smart move when it landed Lovie Smith, right, as head coach.
“It’s exciting because, for five years, I’ve just sat back and watched it disappear," Brooks said Tuesday. “The Glazers are not immune to this criticism. But I just sat back and looked from afar and just watched something I felt my teammates and I put a lot of effort into building, watch it just kind of slip away. Now, I think with Lovie coming back here, now you’re starting to build it again. I think the community will start to trust the organization and make an investment into the team again."

Brooks, a finalist for this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, said Smith is the perfect coach for the Buccaneers.

“They got it right this time," Brooks said. “For where this organization is right now, I really believe he’s the right man at the right time. He brings a calming spirit and a consistent spirit that’s going to energize the entire staff. Not just the football side, but the business side and the whole community. With this type of environment, you can create that buzz for the community and they’ll want to spend money with the Bucs again. I’m excited about that. Just since he’s been hired, I’ve had so many people tell me that they’re going to get back on board.

Smith worked as an assistant coach under former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy. The two frequently are compared, and some see Smith as a Dungy clone. Brooks said that perception isn’t accurate.

“Faith, family and football, that’s where they’re alike," Brooks said. “They’re alike in their consistency. But they’re different in how they go about doing it. I think they’re also different because Lovie has a lot more experience than coach Dungy had coming in here in 1996. Lovie’s getting a more talented team than what coach Dungy got in 1996. Lovie brings the experience of how to run a team and all those ancillary things from his time as the head coach in Chicago that Tony didn’t have in 1996. So the expectations on Lovie are a lot higher than what they were in 1996."
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the simplistic terms, the Minnesota Vikings went from a soft-spoken father figure who rarely showed any signs of anger on the sideline to a demonstrative, fiery head coach with a strong command of four-letter vocabulary. Their switch from Leslie Frazier to Mike Zimmer could be viewed in terms of one of the most reliable cliches in coaching -- that when a team fires a coach, it always hires the opposite of what it just had -- but that makes it hard to know what to do with this:

When the Vikings fired Frazier, numerous players talked about what he'd meant to their lives, and running back Adrian Peterson -- who'd campaigned for the Vikings to keep Frazier -- was so upset he wouldn't talk to reporters about it until we caught up with him this week. Zimmer comes to Minnesota with an equally fierce adoration from the players he's coached, and retired linebacker Scott Fujita -- who was one of the game's most perceptive and thoughtful players -- penned this ode to Zimmer for Fox Sports.

[+] EnlargeMike Zimmer
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsMike Zimmer will bring a different coaching style to Minnesota than the one the Vikings had under Leslie Frazier.
That's as impassioned an homage to a coach as I've seen a player write, and in it, Fujita raises a good point: The definition of what constitutes a "players' coach" is probably too simple.

"I honestly don’t even know what a players’ coach is and in the past few days, I’ve read reports that describe Zimmer as such," he writes. "Well if being a players’ coach means that the players have a long leash, and that the coach 'takes care of his guys' and is quick to throw them a bone, then I don’t know if I’d describe Zim that way. I think the more important questions about whether someone is a players’ coach should be this: Do his guys want to play for him? When he stands in front of the room, do they respect him and respond to him? Is he able to reach his players? From personal experience, I can answer yes to each of those questions as it relates to Mike Zimmer."

The funny thing is, I'd say Frazier got the same response out of his locker room. The success of coaches like Tony Dungy -- under whom Frazier worked in Indianapolis -- has done plenty to break down the stereotype of how a football coach has to behave, and from what I've heard players say about Zimmer, he doesn't necessarily fit into the typical hard-headed disciplinarian mode, either. He'll likely be louder, more blunt and more direct with criticism, but he also seems to exude a passion for the game that players love.

Can both approaches be effective? Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who played for Kirk Ferentz (a Bill Belichick disciple) in college, had Mike Tomlin as his first defensive coordinator and spent the last seven years with Frazier, says yes.

"I think all different styles can work," Greenway said. "You see guys from Tony Dungy to Belichick to (Bill) Parcells all win in different ways. It's more about who can get results. A change was made, and it'll be a different approach. I hope that breeds success. We'll get a new system with a little bit different style, and hopefully it leads to wins."

Both defensive end Brian Robison and fullback Jerome Felton had close friends who'd played for Zimmer and raved about him; Robison talked with Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who had Zimmer as his first defensive coordinator, and Felton spoke with Bengals safety Taylor Mays, who played for Zimmer the past three seasons. Both got the same report on Zimmer: Tough, profane, emotional and direct, both with criticism and praise.

Felton, who loved playing for Frazier, sounded particularly optimistic about that last trait.

"One of the most stressful parts about the NFL is wondering where you stand," Felton said. "If you can get an idea of where you stand, gives you a chance to know what you need to work on. You can just focus on football, rather than wondering, 'What’s going on? Why is this the situation happening?' When everybody asks what you want from a coach, I always talk about being an authentic person."

If there's going to be a major difference between Frazier and Zimmer -- both former Bengals defensive coordinators under Marvin Lewis -- it might be more in the scheme than anything else. The days of Frazier's Tampa-2 scheme are probably gone; Zimmer hasn't blitzed much more than Frazier in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information, but he's been known to play more aggressive man coverage and use a number of different stunts to get his defensive linemen to the quarterback.

He coached in a 3-4 under Parcells, but has largely used a 4-3 scheme over the years, and Greenway expects the Vikings will stay with something similar to the 4-3 defense Zimmer called in Cincinnati.

"It's not that Coach Frazier and his ways can't win. It just wasn't working for us last year," Greenway said. "A new scheme, to a point, will be refreshing, and I hope, successful."

The Frazier-vs.-Zimmer comparison will be done ad nauseam in the coming weeks, but the NFL has a wider scope of coaching personalities today than it probably ever has. If Zimmer succeeds in Minnesota, it won't be because he's the opposite of what the Vikings had before. It will be because he can maximize what they have now.

"It's my first time going through a true coaching change, after Leslie taking over for Brad (Childress in the middle of 2010)," Greenway said. "It will be a lot of new things. That's not bad; it's just new and different."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison are a step away from being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dungy and Harrison are two of the 15 finalists for this year's Hall of Fame class.

The 46-person Hall of Fame panel will vote for the 2014 class on Feb. 1.

Dungy, the winningest coach in Colts history, won five division titles, reached the AFC Championship Game twice and won a Super Bowl while coaching the team from 2002-08.

Harrison was second in league history in receptions when he retired in 2008. He had eight straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He ended his career with 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns.

The Colts have 12 individuals in the Hall of Fame.

Here's a list of the 13 of other finalists for the Hall of Fame: Kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, linebacker Derrick Brooks, receiver Tim Brown, owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr., linebacker Kevin Greene, punter Ray Guy, defensive end Charles Haley, defensive end Claude Humphrey, offensive tackle Walter Jones, safety John Lynch, receiver Andre Reed, guard Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan and cornerback Aeneas Williams.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy and John Lynch were named among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 on Thursday night.

It’s fitting that all three have a chance to go into the Hall of Fame at the same time because the trio played a very big role in turning the Bucs from a laughingstock into a consistent winner in the 1990s.

Brooks, an outside linebacker, probably has the best chance of the three to get in this year. This is the first time Brooks has been eligible. Dungy coached the Bucs, but won his only Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

The one potential knock on Dungy is that he won only one Super Bowl, despite having a great defense in Tampa and quarterback Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

Lynch was known as one of the hardest hitters of his era. But it’s difficult for safeties to get into the Hall of Fame, and Lynch might have to wait until there is a class that’s not as deep as this one.

The Class of 2014 will be selected Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl.
TAMPA, Fla. -- I like just about everything the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done in the last week. But there's one notable exception.

I think they're making a mistake in giving coach Lovie Smith final say over the 53-man roster. That's kind of like walking a tightrope without a net. I'm not saying a coach shouldn't have a lot of say in personnel matters. But I think a general manager should have a voice that's at least equal.

The Bucs don't have a general manager yet. Kansas City Chiefs executive Chris Ballard reportedly is the favorite. Ballard and Smith worked together in Chicago, and Smith said all the right things when asked about the coach-general manager dynamic Monday.

"First off, I look at it as a marriage and as a big group making the decision," Smith said. "Of course, as a head football coach, most things stop at your doorstep. As you know, we don't have a general manager in place yet. Once our owners decide who, exactly, will be in that role, I look forward to getting with them and making decisions together that are going to lead us to a championship."

That sounds good, but Smith's contract reportedly has a clause that gives him final say. I think you need a system that includes checks and balances.

I've covered a variety of setups through the years. But the two most successful were coach Tony Dungy and general manager Rich McKay in Tampa Bay, and coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney in Carolina. In both situations, there was an equal partnership.

Dungy and McKay used to like to say their choices never came down to a final say because they always reached a consensus that included input from other members of the coaching staff and front office. Hurney and Fox used to say that they disagreed on a fair amount of things. When they didn't see eye to eye on an option, they didn't take it. Instead, they would go with another option that both were content with.

We'll see what happens when the Bucs name a general manager. But the best thing Smith can do with that general manager is to look at him as a teammate, not an underling.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:07
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 25-3 victory over the Houston Texans:

What it means: The Colts didn't wait until the second half to get going offensively. They started on their first offensive series of the game. The Colts mixed up the run with the pass to go 80 yards on 11 plays on their opening drive. The drive ended with quarterback Andrew Luck finding receiver Griff Whalen for a 14-yard touchdown. That was the first time the Colts scored a touchdown in the first quarter since doing it against Denver on Oct. 20. Slow starts have been a problem the past seven weeks for the Colts, but they went into the half with a 20-3 lead. They were 5-of-8 on third down in the first half after going 0-for-6 in the first half against Cincinnati on Dec. 8. The one downside about the Colts on offense is that they started the game 5-for-5 on third down but failed to convert on their final 10 attempts.

Whalen steps up: Whalen has been an afterthought this season after having a strong training camp. He was elevated from the practice squad Saturday because of the injury to fellow receiver LaVon Brazill (foot). He took advantage of the opportunity. Whalen, a college teammate of Luck's at Stanford, caught four passes for 45 yards, returned three punts for 67 yards and a kickoff for 22 yards.

Being honored: Former Colts running backs Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk were inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime. Dickerson rushed for 5,194 yards and 32 touchdowns during his five seasons with the Colts. He won the league's rushing title in 1988, when he gained 1,659 yards to go with 14 touchdowns. The Colts traded Dickerson to the Los Angeles Raiders following the 1991 season. Faulk rushed for 5,320 yards and 42 touchdowns to go with 297 receptions and 2,804 yards in his five seasons with the Colts. He was traded to the St. Louis Rams after the 1998 season because he thought he deserved a raise. Dickerson and Faulk join Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Chris Hinton, Ted Marchibroda, Jim Harbaugh, the 12th Man, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James in the team's Ring of Honor.

Injuries: Colts guard Joe Reitz left the game in first half after being tested for a concussion. Starting running back Donald Brown sat out the second half with a stinger. He ran for 38 yards on five carries. Linebacker Daniel Adongo (hamstring) and safety Sergio Brown (groin) also left the game.

What's next: The Colts go on the road to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Colts and Chiefs have a chance to face each other in the playoffs in Indianapolis.

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