Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Friday, October 3, 2003
Dungy's mild temperament has attention of Colts


INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy strolls the sideline stoically.

The Indianapolis Colts understand that's his image.

In the locker room, in meetings and at practice, players see a different coach, one determined to get things right.

"We know when he's happy and we know when he's mad," defensive tackle Larry Tripplett said with a laugh Friday. "He's different than most people, but we know."

On the field, Dungy acts like a consummate professional -- calm, relaxed and instructive much like Tom Landry.

But in a game where emotions run high, tempers occasionally flare and cameras increasingly focus on demonstrative coaches, Dungy's easygoing demeanor isn't always embraced.

Some have questioned whether he's too nice to win a Super Bowl, a point that's been exacerbated this week because his Colts (4-0) face his former team, defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay (2-1), on Monday.

Dungy spent six years turning the Buccaneers from one of the league's worst franchises into a perennial contender, but it wasn't until the feistier Jon Gruden replaced him that Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl.

Former players, like Pro Bowl defensive end Warren Sapp, still credit Dungy with laying the foundation for their championship run even though Dungy -- in his usual style -- politely deflects the praise.

The two coaches are polar opposites.

Gruden is one of the game's best offensive minds, Dungy one of the game's best defensive coaches.

Gruden glares when he's upset and doesn't hesitate to scream, while Dungy's gentlemanly style looks like a throwback to a simpler time in the NFL -- something some players seem to appreciate.

"It was something that was different in the sense of no yelling and cursing, but what he asked you to do was the same message," Sapp said. "It's not the communicator, it's how you get it."

The important thing is that Dungy still gets results.

His defenses usually rank among the league's best and in his two head coaching stops, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, he's won consistently.

No, he doesn't say a lot, but Dungy and his players don't believe he needs to.

"I can't stand it when someone starts cussing and yelling," Colts running back Edgerrin James said. "I block it out. Coach Dungy trusts you like a man."

Still, there are times Dungy breaks the mold.

On Sunday at New Orleans, Dungy gave his players a stern reminder about being misaligned on a short touchdown run by the Saints. Dungy laughed about it the next day.

But the players got the message.

"Oh yeah, I remember it," defensive end Chad Bratzke said. "Those are things you remember because he doesn't get mad very often. When he gets mad, you can hear a pin drop."

This year, there has been little for Dungy to fault.

The Colts' defense has been one of the league's stingiest, the offense is rounding into form and the special teams have improved dramatically.

The result is a 4-0 record, and a win Monday on Dungy's 48th birthday would match his best start in eight years as a head coach.

Whatever happens, the Colts know what to expect from Dungy on Monday night -- a calming presence on the sideline with an effective voice in the locker room.

"When you have a dog that barks constantly, pretty soon you don't hear that dog bark anymore," Bratzke said. "When you have a dog that doesn't bark very often, you hear it and you pay attention."