Tony Dungy wasn’t just a pioneer for minorities who aspire to be NFL head coaches. He was a beacon for mild- mannered, intellectual assistants who believe they can lead teams without playing the profanity-laced macho card.

If Seattle continues down the 9-1 path it has established this season, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could become the latest example of a successful, soft-spoken assistant being elevated to the head coaching ranks for the first time.

“I don’t think you necessarily have to be stern to be a head coach,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Look at [Seahawks] Coach [Pete] Carroll. He’s a guy who is very relaxed, very poised, very into being positive and bringing that positive synergy and that competitive nature.

“That’s what I love about Coach Carroll. I think Coach Bevell is very, very similar in that fashion. You think about other greats, like Tony Dungy, in that fashion as well.”

Dungy, who helped turn around the Buccaneers and won a Super Bowl with the Colts, became a first-time head coach at 40. Bevell, 43, became an NFL assistant with the Packers in 2000. He got his first coordinator’s job with the Vikings in 2006 and moved on to the same job with Seattle in 2011 after the Vikings removed the interim tag on head coach Leslie Frazier.

“He’s going to be a head coach,” Carroll said. “I’ll be excited for him when he gets that opportunity, and I’ll do everything I can to help him get it. If that time ever comes, we’ll really miss him because he’s done a fantastic job for us. He’s totally taken over the [play-]calling and the design of our [offense].”

Seattle’s offense ranked 28th in Bevell’s first season but shot up to ninth in 2012 when the Seahawks, with Bevell’s urging, drafted Wilson, a quarterback from Bevell’s alma mater, Wisconsin. This year, Seattle ranks 11th in total offense and second in rushing, behind Marshawn Lynch and the selective running of Wilson.

In NFL circles, Bevell is credited with constructing an offense that utilizes Wilson’s running ability while not putting him at risk. He’s also managed to develop this year’s offense despite numerous injuries.

The starting offensive line has played only one game together. Receiver Sidney Rice is out for the year. Receiver Percy Harvin hasn’t played a game yet, and tight end Zach Miller also has been hurt. Yet Wilson’s passer rating (101.8) is better than the franchise-record 100.0 that he set as a rookie last season.

“When I was in Minnesota, it was my first opportunity to be a coordinator, so you kind of learn on the fly,” Bevell said. “I was learning the job, first of all. Then I was learning our people, our personnel. Then kind of how to use it.

“And I think that started to get me where I am today. I think I do a much better job of using our people and probably being little more flexible in what we do and what we don’t let certain players do. So I’ve come a long way in that regard.”

Bevell, who signed a two-year extension this past offseason, almost certain will leave after this year. A year ago, he was in the running for the head coaching jobs in Arizona, Chicago and Jacksonville.

“I definitely don’t want him to go anywhere,” Wilson said. “I love him to death. He’s a guy who is so prepared all the time, very poised in situations. I care a lot about Coach Bevell and his family. But at the same time, I want the best for him, whatever it leads to.”

Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 24 of 39 passes (61.5 percent) for 280 yards, a touchdown and two picks in his NFL debut in last week’s loss to Philadelphia. The completions and passing yards set franchise records for a quarterback in his Packers debut. Not sure how big a deal that is considering the Packers had started only three quarterbacks in the previous 21 years before Tolzien stepped in for the injured Aaron Rodgers last week.

Northern Intelligence

Just when you thought it was tough to accept the fact that the Bears have one outstanding receiver, along comes a duo. Brandon Marshall is on pace for 1,397 yards, which is expected. Alshon Jeffery is on pace for 1,306, which wasn’t. With a combined 1,521 yards, they rank No. 1 in the league this week. No. 2, with 1,514 yards, is Denver duo Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Asked what it’s like to be one of the top duos in the league, Marshall said, “I don’t think it’s ‘one of the top.’ I think we are the top. Numbers don’t lie.”


Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked an NFL-high 379 times since 2001. Sunday, he’ll be looking across the line at Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. “Well, yeah, you’ve got to be careful,” he told reporters in Detroit. “You’ll end up dead if you’re not careful.” Suh said, um, thanks? “I guess I can take that somewhat as a compliment. But no, there’s going to be no killing on Sunday.”


Three observations …

• People not old enough to remember the late Todd Christensen need to Google the former Raider if they think tight ends as major receiving threats is a new thing. Christensen died this week of complications from a liver transplant surgery. He had 92 catches in 1982 and 95 in 1986, both records for tight ends at the time.

• Remember when Panthers coach Ron Rivera came to the Metrodome on the hot seat back on Oct. 13? Well, he’s 5-0 since then. And his new nickname — “Riverboat Ron” — is sticking. It started when he went for it on fourth-and-1 twice on the opening drive of that 35-10 victory over the Vikings.

• Although Peyton Manning has to be the early front-runner to win yet another league MVP, he’s got a lot of competition heading down the stretch. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Jamaal Charles are contenders.

Two predictions …

• Speaking of Peyton, he’s not too beat up to take down the 9-0 Chiefs.

• The Jets have alternated wins and losses for nine games in a row, but will win at Buffalo for their first two-game winning streak.