A Weekly Conversation with Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
Each week during the 2008 regular season, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy will discuss topics pertinent to the Colts with Colts.com.
Question: A 23-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The Colts had a 21-20 lead before a 51-yard field goal by Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee with :04 remaining. A tough loss, but as you've often said before, you just don't believe change is the way to go.
Answer: I think you spend the whole off-season figuring out what you're going to do and spend a whole training camp to work on things. To say after three weeks, 'Maybe we weren't right,' or, 'We need to do this or that,' or, 'Because this guy got hurt or this guy retired we need to do this or that . . .' It's usually not the case. Usually, when you look at the tapes as we have been and you look at what you have done well and what you haven't done as well, you find out it's the things you worked on that you're doing well and you need to continue to work on those and work a little bit more on the things you haven't done as well.
Q: With five AFC South titles and six playoff appearances in six seasons, there haven't been too many of these times in your time with the Colts, but in your experience, the tone is typically the same, isn't it? When a team loses two out of three, there's going to be call for change . . .
A: It's always the same. It's hard to resist that. That's where (former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Head) Coach (Chuck) Noll was always so good. He would just say, 'This is what we've done. This is what we're going to do. This is what we're always going to be about.' The easiest thing to do when you're not having success is say, 'Well, here's the new way we're going to go.' Most of the time it doesn't work and the time we've had to pull out of these kinds of periods have been when we've just zeroed in on our fundamentals and our details and we've started to play better.
Q: Have you ever seen teams try to change? Are there times it works?
A: It can. It does happen and some teams pull it off and do well. I guess it probably works better for teams that do different things. You'll play some teams that have different game plans. New England is a good example. They may be five wide receivers against you and the next week they play all tight ends and run the ball and that's their approach. Or sometimes they play 4-3 (defense) and sometimes they play 3-4. They do different things and that's part of what makes them good. I think for us what we've always done is try to concentrate on a few things we do well.
Q: The defense has allowed more than 180 yards rushing in all three games this season. But the big picture is points allowed and in the last two games, the Colts' defense has allowed 15 and 16 . . .
A: We haven't gotten the ball back for our offense in good field position and that's the tough thing. Every game takes on its own personality. (Against Jacksonville) we have a 7-3 lead and we're going down the field and what should be pass interference ends up being a(n interception return for a) touchdown (for the Jaguars). Instead of having the ball at the plus-30 and a chance to go ahead 14-3, we're behind 10-7. That kind of changes the whole flow of things around. We have to do a better job on third down. The two games we've lost, we haven't done a good job on third down. But there's nothing fundamentally wrong and nothing we have to do differently. We just have to do things a little bit better.
Q: And as always is the case when there are struggles defensively, the questions arise about personnel and scheme . . .
A: It's not something I tend to worry about. I try to look at the tape and find out what's gone wrong. People say, 'These guys aren't big enough,' or, 'This is what's happening.' You'll see what we call Power O and they run it nine times and seven times it makes two or three yards. One time it breaks out because we don't play it quite right. You understand that all we have to do is play it right every time and it's going to be fine. That's hard to explain to people. They say, 'Don't tell me about the problem. Just fix it.' That's what we have to do. We have to get it fixed.
Q: So, what's the approach this week? Does having the bye week now help?
A: We look at what we've done so far, what has been good and what hasn't. We try to work on what needs to be fixed. In our case, we have two brand-new tackles (Dan Muir and LaJuan Ramsey) who need to play and learn what we do. We have a strong-side linebacker (Clint Session) who really has started three games at that position. Now, we have a safety (Melvin Bullitt) who has started one game at that position. We have to continue to practice the things we're going to play so those guys get more comfortable at it. Offensively, we have a chance now to get some timing and get grooved and get (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) some of that work. Normally, he might take most of the off week off. He'll probably practice a little more and work a little more than he would during a normal bye because he missed so much time in training camp, so I think it's going to help us.
Q: Offensively, there were some good signs on Sunday. Three long touchdown drives, and more than 100 yards rushing for the first time this season . . .
A: We averaged six yards a carry against a pretty good run defense. We just didn't get enough carries and didn't have the ball enough. We made some big plays in the passing game and had a chance to make a few more big plays. (When) we get some people solidified and get some people back on offense and practicing, we'll be sharper and better. That helps the defense, too. We actually have been ahead very little in these three games, so we're getting a lot of runs. We're getting some 40 runs a game average against us. In the past, we have been ahead enough so we haven't defended 40 runs a game. We had a chance to do that and if we're as sharp as we normally are, we may have been ahead in this game. It all works hand in hand. When every unit plays better, the whole thing looks better.
Q: When times are tough, there's a tendency to think the sky is falling. But these are essentially the same issues, the same questions, as December of 2006, October of 2004, etc. . . .
A: We had it Halloween 2004 after (losses to) Jacksonville and Kansas City. It's just the fact that if you have a good memory, and you remember those conversations, and you remember how you got out of those situations, and you remember what happened, and you evaluate and don't fall into the panic mode, you see what's needed and many times, it's pretty much the same.
Q: And you have said many times before that you feel a huge role for a head coach is making sure players not only hear that message, but understand that it's real. It's not just talk.
A: I don't know how many players we have on defense that are still here from '06. Not many from '04. You think, in your mind, 'Oh, well, they understand. We've been through this three or four times before,' but a lot of the guys here haven't been through it, so you just have to make sure they understand, 'Hey, here's what you're hearing. Here's what people say the problem is. Here's what all of the experts have to say. Here's the tape. Here's what we need to do. Here's why these seven runs gave up 100 yards in the game and here's why these other 35 runs only gave up 90 yards.'
Q: People always think the bye week is good for getting healthier, but you seem to think it will benefit the Colts in other ways this year . . .
A: I think it will be a good time for us to grow, with four or five guys on defense, especially, and then some of the guys who need some work on offense. If guys like (rookie guard) Mike Pollak and (rookie tight end) Jacob Tamme can practice, that's going to be good for us.
Q: So, overall, you're not one to believe the sky is falling just because you're 1-2?
A: You just look at the whole thing. I'm sure San Diego was getting that before Monday night – what's wrong with them? They're 0-2. Who's fault is it? We're not getting any pressure. Jacksonville, I'm sure, was getting it last week – everybody who has high expectations. I'm sure the sky is falling in New England a little bit. They're not going to let that be a factor. Those guys know what they're capable of and what they have to fix and what the problems are. I think most good teams will do that. They'll stick to what they know and do well. That's what we have to do.
Q: One thing that stood out from your talk with the media Monday was when you said there were times you didn't see the hustle and effort you're used to. That's rare for you to see, and obviously something you don't want to see again . . .
A: I think one of our trademarks has been flying and hustling and never stopping on plays. They had some runs that just broke because they ran a little harder and stayed after it more. That's something we have to get corrected. Sometimes when you're thinking and trying to figure things out you are thinking too much and not just hustling and playing. We have to cut down some of the thought process, too, especially for some of the new guys.