|You gotta believe in geniuses|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
Especially on Gandhi."
-- R-Dub's NFL Proverb No. 86
Amazing, that a man who so resembles Gandhi would be the lead character in this week's NFL high-drama game, Jints vs. Colts. All Tony Dungy needs is the little round glasses and a depth chart in the 200 million range. Defensively, Dungy is the Maestro.
"Players make schemes, and so-called geniuses," says Dungy, Quiet Man as coach of the Indy Colts, schemer of the Defense Formerly Known As Colitis, whose team has run off five of six to go from 4-4 to 9-5, and last week beat the Cleveland Hail Marys by stopping them from getting a last-second Hail Mary -- from the Colts' 5-yard line! Dungy's latest protege, D-coordinator Ron Meeks (Dungy gave you Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith), went to the quick-grip Cover 2 with the Hold-Tight shifting front. Meeks knows what Dungy likes. His preferred scheme looks like Foosball played by two MIT lunatics. Remember Foosball?
Before the weekend is over, the Jints may want to forget it.
How is Dungy managing this with no guns, other than Peyt, Marvin and (watch out, Jints) TE Pollard, and a Funhouse Hall Of Mirrors on D, talent-wise? It's not all scheme, it's also belief.
The other day we noticed that one of the more astute members of the Indy press corps asked Dungy if he felt personal satisfaction because at the time the Tampa Bay Bucs defense was rated No. 1 and the Colts No. 2. Gandhi wanted none. Humble, religious, self-effacing, quiet, but with a humble, religious, self-effacing, quiet desire to kick your O's ... "I'd rather us be No. 1 ... the rankings are based on yards allowed. Points allowed are most important," Dungy said quietly. The guy says everything quietly. He is not a screamer. He is not a shouter. Not that screaming and shouting don't work when coaching in the League. In fact, often they seem to work better. Which serves to make Dungy's accomplishments all the more remarkable. Not only did he build the Tampa defense brick by fast hard brick -- including Sapp, Brooks, Rice, Ronde and Lynch -- he helped construct Tampa's league-best 24-7 December record since 1999, and the one game the Colts have dropped in December slipped through Marvin Harrison's golden hands.
Dungy's also right about the yards. The 2000 Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens, who had one of the top three defensive teams in the entire history of Man, finished second to the Tites defense, this only according to statistical rankings, based on yards allowed. Really, you can throw the statistics out anyway, except -- as another Hidden Genius, Chucky Gruden, says -- for performance on third down. One 79-yard pass play, like the one the Colts' gave up on the first play of the game against the Cleveland Hail Marys last week, can drop you from third to 23rd on any given weekly rating that's based on yards allowed. There's usually only 90 yards difference, top to near the bottom in the weekly rankings.
So how can a man who acts like Gandhi on Prozac be the architect of not one but two of the NFL's best defenses? Midwestern work ethic, long apprenticeship -- I remember when he was the Vikings' D-coordinator and couldn't get a sniff of an interview, he had to calm me down about the perceived unfairness of it all -- belief in team speed on D, and most of all an ability, a gentle generalship that makes D guys (Warren Sapp and certain others of the Pakistani partition excluded) play like, "I don't want to let this guy down." There are some coaches that guys don't mind letting down, you know.
The candidates to join Dungy as 2002-03 NFL Hidden Geniuses:
Jim Johnson, D-coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles -- Reckless abandon fear-mongering full-bird colonel who knows how to creatively front a super secondary with Banzai! blitzes. Should not be a head coach, but some owner will probably pull a Norv on us.
Jon Gruden, coach, offensive play-caller, Tampa Bay Bucs -- The Bucs can actually drive the ball; painfully, true, without much of an O-line, run game and no deep threat, which makes it all the more impressive that Gruden can even score with this dreck, and, almost equally important, keep the ball for long periods to give his (and Dungy's) Sudden Death D what little bit of an edge they need.
Norv Turner, O coordinator, Miami Dolphins -- Ricky, Ricky, he so fine, he so fine, he blows Norv's mind, hey, Ricky ...
Bill Callahan, coach, Oakland Raiders -- Think about this: The Raiders have been playing most of the year without their No. 1 and No. 2 corners, Wood and Buchanon. Where would the Dolphins be, for example, without Madison and Surtain?
John Butler, GM, San Diego Chargers -- He traded Michael Vick, and with Brees, Dwight and Tonka Toy Tomlinson, came out smelling like a rose.
Ozzie Newsome, GM, Baltimore Ravens -- The Ravens stripped their roster bare and still can win the division. Ed Reed, Heap, keeping Ray-Ray and Boulware as spine. Best talent guy.
Bill Polian, GM, Indy Colts -- Watch the next Colts' draft.
The fact that two Iggles made the list are Reason One Philly is the NFC chalk bet here to not only go to, but win the Super Bowl.
If you want to vote for your 2002 NFL Hidden Genius, you know the drill, as well as the address: Ralpwiley@aol.com
In R-Dub's NFL Eletronic Maven e-mail survey, joining Steve McNair and Jon Runyan as 2002 Hidden MVPs:
Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks: Joe Supervielle of Tallahassee wrote, "I'd also start him at tight end if I could." Alex Golden of New York hit SEND to say, "Brooks is Ray Lewis without the hype."
Green Bay's Mike Flanagan -- Groundswell of support from the upper middle reaches of the continguous 48, nearly all noting that Flannie was a center who moved to blindside left tackle for a team that has a shot to go all the way. Cheese it, it's the Pack.
Pittsburgh's Hines Ward
The Philadelphia Eagles
Another Hidden MVP may be the Iggles' entire sicko fan base. They're sick, but they ain't stupid. Iggle fans checked in big-time with their e-mail votes. No less than 11 Iggles got Hidden MVP votes (!) including Brians Dawkins and Mitchell, David Akers, corners Taylor and Vincent, etc. What does this tells us? Well, it tells us that, along with Dungy, Andy Reid is the Hidden Genius among the head coaches, and it tells us that instead of McNabb carrying the Iggles, the Iggles carried McNabb, which makes them pretty damned strong. McNabb is not a little guy.
"Entire Eagles team is the Hidden MVP," wrote Marc Brindisi of Pa. No argument here. Table for 60 at the Super Bowl, please?
Now, as an aside, the Week 15 Uncensored Thought Balloons:
Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns -- "Durn, how'd Marvin Harrison stick that jet up his butt -- and where can I get a few for my guys? Alas, poor Northcutt, I was getting to know you well."
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts -- "I do so like my video game spot. All except the Dork part. Wait a minute. I am a Dork. No, I'm a Dork who can hurl. I'll sell anything, except coach Dungy. Somebody wrap him in cotton. How you like me now, Mora. Playoffs?! Playoffs! You durn right playoffs, you freak robot. (hums) I Dream of Marvin with the Light Brown Burst."
Bill Belichick, coach, New England Patriots -- "Here comes Ricky Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. Hmm, let's see if we can fix up something special for Ricky Williams. I know! Nine in the box. Wait a minute. That game is next week. Somebody open a shade. It's light outside? I'm not like a monk. I am a monk ..."
Tim Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders -- "I ask for the burst, and it's not there any more ... I look at Marvin Harrison and want to kill him. I cover my eyes watching the film of last week's game. How can I redeem myself with no burst? I look at Dante Hall and realize, 'That used to be me.' Gotta find a way out of slow way."
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins -- "I've only seen snow once before. It had me giggling ... tee-hee ... and singing 'Jingle Bells.' 'Dashing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh, o'er the Bills we go, laughing all the way.' These ain't the Bills. These are the Patriots. Think they might want to go sledding, too? No, no, not on me, you slimes. I'm not the sled. Get off me! Get off me!"
Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons -- "Bum kicker, bum ticker."
Mike Holmgren, coach, Seattle Seahawks -- "Is it over yet?"
Doug Flutie, QB, San Diego Chargers -- "Yeah. Pretty much over."
Travis Henry, RB, Buffalo Bills -- "Score, I live. Don't, I die. Simple when you break it down like that. Scoring is living. No matter how you look at it. Scoring is living. Hey. Think about it. No, don't think, Trav. Coach says you get in trouble when you think. Well, he should know, ain't much doubt about that."
Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears -- "I don't know about the rest of these guys, but I'm spoiling something for somebody around here. No, Boobie, you don't want to play the Bears in the last weeks. What's our record? Is it? That bad? On second thought, maybe you do want to play the Bears in the last two weeks."
Mark Brunell, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars -- "Well, well, well, Colts and Titans and us. Oh my. Not much tread left on this old tire. Man, what if the Eagles had gotten me, long ago, pre-McNabb, back when they had wanted me soooo bad. I'd be sitting behind Runyan, in a rocking chair, collecting 20 percent ..."
Jon Kitna, QB, Cincinnati Bengals -- "Carson Palmer? (stars laughing uproariously, continuously, can't stop) No, don't tell him. Let him find out for himself. Carson Palmer (wild laughter)."
Marty Mornhinweg, coach, Detroit Lions -- "Joey's going to the hospital? Can I go with him. It's not like anybody will miss me."
David Carr, QB, Houston Texans -- "One more sack, I'm applying for political asylum in Dallas ... zzzz ... touchdowns, playoffs (sings to the tune of Brazilian soccer fight song): Yao Ming, Yao Ming (groans), oh no, it was all a dream. I'm still in Houston, lining up behind the 7 Blocks of Jell-O ... Dom says I'll learn from all this one day. Yeah, if there's any little bit of me left."
Brian Billick, coach, Baltimore Ravens -- "C'mon, Tampa. Tighten some Steeler sphincter for me. One time, baby. One freakin' time. Jeff Blake isn't my first choice for my extension on the field, but what the hell. Beats the hell out of Elvis. That Ed Reed, that's a man, all right ... strange man, but a man ... I love Ozzie. I love Art Modell. Most of all, I love me. It's healthy. I'm sure it's healthy. You can't operate on self-hate. No danger of that with me. I love everything right now because people are recognizing that I am AFC coach of the year, and possibly TIME man of the year, depending on how December goes for my only real competition, Georgie Porgie Bushie. I love press conferences. It makes a man imperious to smugly orchestrate them. It's like stealing, really ..."
Mice Tice, coach, Minnesota Vikings -- "Told you I was awake. Next year it's Culpepper Ratio. Then you'll, uh ... oh yeah. See."
Andy Reid, coach, Philadelphia Eagles -- "No rush getting back in there, Donnie. We're fine. Stop looking at me like that. I said you can't have the keys for another two weeks ... (to himself) kids."
Steve Spurrier, coach, Washington Redskins -- "Thought I could win out the gate with mah Gator alumni. Thought I could win with Wuerffel. I'da had a better chance with a waffle iron. Guess I's wrong. Humbled? Gajillionaires don't do humble. They do Big Bite, Bite Off More Than You Can Chew. Not me. I can chew this. Just give me a few minutes here. Ow! My jawbone's a-achin' ..."
Jerome Bettis, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "Cowher says he needs me against Tampa. No way Tommy holds up. Well. Looking at the foaming maw of D. Brooks, I figure, we can drop this one and still beat the Ravens. Lack of Ray-Ray makes a running back brave ..."
Rodney Peete, QB, Carolina Panthers -- "I ain't going out like that! ... sacked, pillaged, mutilated ... well, I guess I am."
Eric Crouch, semi-retired, St. Louis Rams -- "I'm still getting play on ESPN. I must be worth something? Right? I can play QB in the NFL. I can. I swear I can. I can get Britney Spears to fall for me like ton of bricks. I can. I swear I can. I'm not a spoiled little skirt, like the guys said in training camp. I never liked those guys. I could be another Steve Young if somebody would give me a chance. Oh well. Nebraska needs a new coach. Here I am."
Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona Cardinals -- "My season tickets to the Suns games are calling me home. McGinnis: doomed. Camelback mountain is going somewhere before I do ... Holmgren call yet?"
Jim Fassel, coach, New York Giants -- "When I try to look tough and stern, I wonder if it works. It feels like it works, but the press corps looks at me with disdain. This is a challenge. It's me against Dungy. Tiki don't fail me now. Ernie Accorsi is back there sharpening his sling blade, Kaiser blade, whatever he calls it. If he tries to evaluate me badly, he's a newspaper guy. I get extended, he's a genius. I'm a hidden genius too. Say, where's my pants?"
Jeff Garcia, QB, San Francisco 49ers -- "Pom-poms, T.O.? What's next? Cross-dressing? What a star-struck twit. What are my options here? Hmmm ... attaway, T.O. Shake them thangs."
Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers -- "Donald (Screw) Driver! Keeper. That other rookie receivin' boy done disappeared on me. Dived in a rabbit hole. Florida State receivers leave me cold. I like our chances. I'd like 'em better with Owens. Wouldn't care if he used a Sharpie to write love sonnets on my hip pads. Although I don't want to give him any ideas. We will see him again. Wonder if Cammy Diaz saw the game? ... she never calls ... unrequited love and desire and a vicious blitz will make a man do foolish things."
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."