When I first saw that Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson were Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, my gut told me neither would make it, that neither had built enough of a resume to warrant induction.
Then I looked at the 22 head coaches in the Hall, and looked at the resumes of Dungy and Johnson. Now I think both should make it.
Dungy took over Tampa Bay when the Bucs were perhaps the worst organization in pro sports. After going 6-10 while installing his systems, he went 48-32 and made the playoffs in four of five seasons. He also built the team with which Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl the year after Dungy was fired.
Dungy went to the Colts when they were, like the Bucs, noncompetitive. This time operating with a good young quarterback in Peyton Manning, Dungy went 85-27 in Indy, winning one Super Bowl and making the playoffs in all of his seven seasons there.
Should his failure to win more than one Super Bowl with Manning harm his candidacy?
Well, George Allen, Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Hank Stram coached during the Super Bowl era and combined for one Super Bowl victory, and they’re all in the Hall. Dungy did exceptional work with two previously inept franchises. I think he deserves to be inducted.
Jimmy Johnson is an interesting case. He took over a Cowboys franchise depleted in talent and went 1-15 his first year and 7-9 his second.
The next three years, almost exclusively with players he drafted and developed, he went 36-12, made the playoffs three times and won two Super Bowls. The team he built won a third Super Bowl with caretaking coach Barry Switzer.
Had Jerry Jones allowed Jimmy to hang around, he might have become one of the most accomplished coaches (and de facto general managers) in football history. As it was, he produced a dominant franchise from nothing, with help from the Vikings.
Three years after being forced out in Dallas, Jimmy coached the Dolphins for four years. He made the playoffs three times but failed to win a playoff game. Instead of building from scratch, as he did in Dallas, he tried to build around Dan Marino, which proved more difficult.
Jimmy’s final record was an unspectacular 80-64. To elect him to the Hall, you’d have to look at the work he did in Dallas.
I’m OK with that. John Madden and Bill Walsh were NFL head coaches for just 10 years; Allen for 12; Joe Gibbs for 11. The Hall has rewarded coaches as often for brilliance as longevity.
I was lucky enough to cover Dungy as an assistant and Jimmy as a head coach. They were opposites in terms of personality. Jimmy would scream when it suited his purposes; Dungy never raised his voice. Each, in his own way, was a brilliant and dominant coach.
Spent much of my podcast with Strib hockey writer MIchael Russo yesterday talking about J.P. Parise. Wednesday night at Kieran's Irish Pub, I had Twins' GM Terry Ryan on, and he was remarkably open while talking about his life as a player and his battle with cancer. All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.