Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Steelers in 1979 and again as coach of the Colts in 2007, said he got a firsthand look at how good Nick Foles can be when Dungy’s son Eric was a freshman at Oregon playing under Chip Kelly.
In September 2011, Foles was the quarterback at Arizona and completed 34 of 57 passes for 398 yards with three scores in a 56-31 loss to the then-No. 10 Ducks.
When Foles stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz this season, Dungy was one of the few who thought Foles still could lead the team to the Super Bowl.
“I thought he was going to be good. People laughed at me when I said they were still going to be good with Nick Foles,” said Dungy, who is in his ninth year with NBC and will be part of the network’s Super Bowl coverage Sunday. “I watched him play in college when my son was at Oregon. I saw him play for Chip Kelly. I know he’s talented and they have a good offensive football team. I thought he would fit in and play well.”
Dungy played QB for the Gophers from 1973 to 1976 and was an assistant coach at the U in 1980. He came back to Minnesota as the Vikings defensive coordinator from 1992 to 1995.
Dungy was surprised at how easily Foles was able to pass deep and create such a lopsided score in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings.
Still, he thinks the Patriots defense isn’t as good as the Vikings’, and the Eagles can use that to their advantage.
“They have a lot of weaponry. They have the defense that can play physical and fast for 60 minutes,” he said. “They can run the ball well and right now they have a belief in themselves. They have been the underdogs, and they don’t care. I think they’re going to give New England all they can handle.
“I think it’s going to be a 27-24 type of game, either way.”
Knows Brady’s game
The biggest rivalry in Dungy’s head coaching career in Indianapolis was between the Colts and the Patriots. The teams squared off nine times during Dungy’s tenure there from 2002-2008. The Patriots led the series 5-4, with a 2-1 advantage in the postseason.
Tom Brady was 5-3 against Dungy, as the Colts defeated the Patriots in 2008 when Brady was injured and Matt Cassel was the starting quarterback.
In those eight starts, Brady completed 176 of 271 passes (64.9 percent) with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He averaged 238 passing yards per game.
So he knows that the biggest question in this game is an obvious one: Can the Eagles stop Brady?
“Brady is good, and he has been in this situation so many times. He’s going to play his game,” Dungy said. “I think the Eagles have a similar team to the two Giants teams that have beaten New England in the playoffs.”
Dungy has done great work for the NFL and for NBC, and on Thursday night he was awarded the Pat Summerall Award for his community service, leadership and charity work.
Yes, I have known Dungy from the day he enrolled with the Gophers, and nobody is more deserving of this award than him.
Steckel and Belichick
Bill Belichick’s father, Steve, and Les Steckel’s father, Bill, were both in the Navy and became buddies. Shortly after Steckel was named the Vikings coach in January 1984, I was visiting the Vikings and another gentleman was there. It turned out to be Belichick.
After Belichick left, Steckel told me about their fathers and said Belichick was a friend. Steckel had offered him the Vikings defensive coordinator spot and thought Belichick was going to take it.
Belichick was the New York Giants linebackers and special teams coach, working under Bill Parcells, who had just completed his first year as head coach in 1983.
Belichick turned the Vikings job down for family reasons, and Parcells elevated him to coordinator in 1985. As for Steckel, he was fired after a 3-13 season and became a Patriots assistant the following year.
Kapsner on longevity
The fact that Brady, at age 40, still is playing at such a high level is unprecedented in the NFL. And it’s all the more unlikely when you consider he was a sixth-round pick out of Michigan.
But one person who is not shocked at Brady’s longevity is Jason Kapsner, who Michigan recruited out of Eden Prairie the same time they recruited Brady.
“Not surprised at all. He gets better under pressure and that has always been the story of his game,” Kapsner said. “He’s a winner, and I clearly expect that he’s going to come out of here with his sixth Super Bowl ring.”
Kapsner was a top-100 recruit when he signed with the Wolverines and the coaching staff had assured him that Brady wouldn’t be a player to worry about.
“He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game,” Kapsner said. “But when I was being recruited they basically said, ‘Don’t worry about him.’ Physically he wasn’t a specimen in a lot of ways. The coaches really weren’t too focused on him early on in his career there.”
Kapsner completed five of 10 passes for 58 yards in his career while Brady eventually got a starting spot during his junior year in 1998.
“He did fantastic. All of the same things that he does, like this last game [the AFC championship] where he comes back and has the winning drive at the end of the game, he did that throughout college,” Kapsner said. “He showed the same characteristics of when the pressure was on, he got better.”
Clutch play at QB
Kapsner got to see firsthand the part of the game that would create the myth around Brady, his unbelievable ability to win games in the final moments.
In Brady’s final three college games in 1999, he defeated No. 6 Penn State 31-27 in Happy Valley with a winning throw with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter.
The next week, Michigan defeated Ohio State 24-17 with Brady throwing two scores in the final 16 minutes of the game.
Then Brady had one of his greatest performances in the Orange Bowl, a 35-34 double overtime win against Alabama. He threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to win the game and finished 34 of 46 for 369 yards and four scores.
Brady went 20-5 as a starter at Michigan and was promptly forgotten about by every NFL team until the Patriots selected him 199th overall in the sixth round.
“We had great seasons,” Kapsner said. “But he was a sixth-round draft choice. No one really thought much of him at all.”
Kapsner pointed out that becoming a starter at any level requires some good fortune. Recall that Brady got his shot after Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second week of 2001.