Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tony Dungy has a theory.

I had ESPNews on in the background earlier today and was listening to the various press conferences when Tony Dungy took one of the usual questions about him and Lovie Smith being black coaches in the Super Bowl. With the usual discussions of the Rooney Rule that come each offseason, his response about opening doors was good. He said it helped open doors for different types of coaches, not just black coaches overall.

Dungy said (to paraphrase) that the possible reason that it took a long time for a coach like him to get here was because the image of a coach in the owner's mind for ages (and when you see the coach on NFL Films) is always in the Vince Lombardi mode: old, ornery, loud, and white (again, I'm summarizing). And neither Dungy nor Smith are that type of coach who get after players in a hectoring fashion if they fuck up. The last versions of that kind of coach just retired (Parcells, and to some extent, Cowher), although acolytes (Payton and Belichick, especially) still do that sort of thing every so often (observe Payton after Reggie Bush taunted Urlacher in the NFC championship.) I found folks hinting at this before in the off-season youth hiring movement; moving to more of a "player-friendly" coach style that NBA teams do all the time.


twins15 said...

Very interesting, and probably pretty insightful. As athletes get bigger and bigger contrats and seem to (stereotyping here) be a little more reluctant to listen to the coaches, it just goes to reason that they'll be less receptive to the authoritarian as the player-friendly coach. Interesting stuff.

Vegan Viking said...

This also brings some insight into why college coaches often struggle when they take NFL jobs--college coaches are authoritarians because 1. they're older than the players, 2. the players make no money and they do, and 3. they're much more entrenched at their colleges than the players. But Nick Saban struggling in and then quickly leaving Miami reflects the failure of the old-style authoritarian yeller.

Signal to Noise said...

The college point is especially good. When you're an athlete in college, your coach is in loco parentis. But in the pros, you want someone worthy of respect, but who also treats you like a professional and a peer, because you've worked hard and earned a contract that reflects the value of your skills and work. This explains not only the younger coaches, but also most former players who move to the coaching ranks.

Coaching in the NFL is starting to resemble the American workplace a bit more closely, never mind some of the other pro leagues.

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