INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Dungy stopped by the Indianapolis Colts' team facility on Wednesday, getting in some interviews as part of his duties with NBC, which is broadcasting Saturday's Divisional Round matchup between the Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs.
But that's where the work trip ended for Dungy, as the legendary former Colts head coach also was able to get an up-close-and-personal look at the direction of his former team now as it continues embarking on a historical first season with Frank Reich — Dungy's former intern and later assistant coach in Indy — at the helm of the franchise.
Dungy checked out practice on an extremely cold Wednesday afternoon, catching up with Colts owner Jim Irsay, as well as general manager Chris Ballard, before Reich had the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach address the team as it continues its postseason push.
Not long after, Dungy hopped on the phone and made an appearance on 1070 The Fan's "The Ride With JMV," where he gave his thoughts on a multitude of Colts-related topics, such as Reich's tremendous first season, the Colts' playoff hopes, quarterback Andrew Luck's resurgent year and much, much more. Here is that conversation in its entirety:
On the Colts getting back to the playoffs:
"It has been wonderful to see this resurgence. And just watching this team in November and December, it's exciting to see. We've got the game on NBC Saturday afternoon, and we're excited — I think we've got the best game of the weekend."
On if Frank Reich has met expectations in his first year as Colts' head coach:
"I thought we would get this. It's frankly happened a little faster than I thought we would get it, but I knew he would just put his stamp on this team. I told Jim (Irsay) at the time, I thought that was just the Lord watching out for the Colts, and that they were going to get the right person. And it did; it ended up being Frank Reich, and he has just been perfect."
On what makes Reich unique:
"Talking to the players — I've been out here today doing interviews for NBC — and they all say the same thing: just (he's) focused, composed, keeps everybody on track. But more than anything, they know they can trust him, and there's a belief they're going to be on the right track with him. And they believe in him."
On if Reich should be the NFL Coach of the Year:
"You know, I have a vote for AP, and I voted for Frank. I believe when you start off 1-5 and you take your team to where they are, you just have to say: that's a tremendous job. There have been some other good coaching jobs — Matt Nagy, the turnaround in Chicago, that's tremendous, and Andy Reid has done a good job — but to come in your first year and to not have the success right away, to struggle, to get to that point, and then to be able to rally and keep everybody together, I think he should be the Coach of the Year."
On if he believes Chris Ballard should be the NFL's Executive of the Year:
"Boy, you have to look at it. And when you draft two players that make the All-Pro team their first year, when you pick a coach who takes you to the playoffs [his] first year, you still have the salary cap room, you haven't mortgaged the future. He's done a tremendous job."
On what he thinks when he watches linebacker Darius Leonard from a defensive perspective:
"I had a chance to meet him today for the first time, and I told him he's playing a very, very special, unique position. This position started with Jack Ham in the early 70s, and then it went to Derrick Brooks and Mike Merriweather and Cato June — there have been some really special players to play that WILL linebacker position in this defense, and he's playing it as well as anybody. He's got the torch to carry — the position demands a lot — but when you've got a playmaker there, he can be a difference maker, and Darius certainly is. And from everything I hear from everybody around this building, he's not only a special player, but a special person, too."
On if he sees a comparison between Leonard and Derrick Brooks:
"There is. Some of the same type of quickness and explosion and striking ability. But Darius has a little bit longer arms, a little bit bigger body, and he's a better pass rusher. So he can do some things — now he's not on the level of Derrick Brooks yet; we've got to give him about five or six more Pro Bowls before that happens — but he's certainly off to a great start, and he's hungry to learn, which is what you need."
On the Colts-Chiefs Divisional Round matchup, and if the Kansas City defense is feeling pressure to keep up with the Colts' offense:
"It's going to be interesting to see who feels more pressure. And I coached in Kansas City for three years, I know that environment, and all of those guys (with the Chiefs), what they're hearing all this week is 'Hey, you haven't won a playoff game in so long, you have never beaten the Colts in the playoffs, you haven't won a home playoff game in 25 years. What's going to happen?' They're getting all this. And yet, they've got a great offense. But these last few games, down the stretch in the regular season, their defense has given up leads. So there is going to be that sense that, 'Hey, even if we get ahead a score, we better score again.' And so the Colts have the pressure of playing on the road, but the Chiefs have this pressure of history. And it's going to be interesting to see who actually handles it better."
On the pressure of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes making his NFL playoff debut:
"He is cool, he has been poised all year. My sense is he is going to play great, but, as you mentioned, I mean you look at these new quarterbacks this year and they weren't the same. (Mitchell) Trubisky played a very good game against Philadelphia, but Deshaun Watson was not what we had seen in the regular season; Lamar Jackson was not. So there is something to that, your first time out of the box in the playoffs, it's different. No question."
On what impresses him about what Ballard and the Colts are building:
"I talked to Frank about it, and (it's) getting the right type of people, not compromising on your standards that way (and) bringing a team focused on playing together. So I think the character of these guys and the togetherness, that's what's going to make this team special. And I think they're just scratching the surface of what they can be."
On the challenge of being able to achieve so much after starting 1-5:
"You've got so many young players, and then when you think about it, well who are the core guys? Who are the kind of seasoned veterans? And it's Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton — well these guys aren't 35 years old. Their core guys are in their prime. So I think it's a really, really bright future for Colts football."
On how he'd react back in the day if Reggie Wayne showed up to a game with a clown mask on:
"I would've been stunned, but, of course, it's a different world. And the social media and all of that is different. It just wouldn't have happened back then. But I think these guys know Frank Reich, and he wants them to be focused, he wants them to be dialed in and he wants them to be team-oriented, but they also have a little bit of fun. I've seen Frank in the sunglasses and the shades coming to work, so it's a different world now."
On the difference in Reich now and when he first brought him on as an intern in 2006:
"I think he's really the same guy. One of the advantages that I think Frank has (is) as a backup quarterback, you were a guy who had to just be prepared all the time. You never knew when you were going to play, but you had to prepare as if you were going to be in the lineup week in and week out. So he's used to that, and he's used to just focusing and keeping the nose to the grindstone, and I think that's where he is, and that's what this team feeds off of."
On if Andrew Luck has been even better this season than he expected:
"You know, you just heard the reports that, 'Oh, he's not throwing well; he doesn't have the velocity on the ball; maybe it'll never be back totally.' You know Andrew's going to play smart, you know he's going to be prepared, he's athletic — all of those things. I just didn't know how he was going to throw the ball. But this last month, watching him closely and watching him throw, I think it's the same Andrew Luck. So, yeah, I would have to say based off the reports I was getting this offseason, I'm very pleasantly surprised."
On if Reich has been a perfect influence on Luck as a quarterback:
"Yeah, and I think he's convinced Andrew that, 'You don't have to make every single play, every play doesn't have to be a touchdown, and you know what? We need you out there. So running out of bounds, sliding, getting rid of the football, throwing an incomplete pass is not the worst thing in the world,' and I think that's really helped Andrew." … (How Reich has been able to get that message across the right way to a player like Luck…) "…Who has the competitiveness and wants to help his team win and wants to make every play, and to get him to say, 'You know what? There are times when you're going to have to do that — you might have to sell out and dive and get the first down that's going to be the game-winner. But not every single play. So that's what we've got to recognize, and that's what you've got to get better at,' and Andrew has.
On his final thoughts on the Colts-Chiefs (without giving a final prediction yet):
"I love where the Colts are, and I know they're the underdogs going in, but it's going to be a tremendous game."
On his final predictions for the other three playoff games:
"I like the upsets in the AFC — I like the Chargers (against the Patriots). And then I like the favorites in the NFC."
On the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach of the Cardinals and how teams are trying to find the next "offensive guru:"
"Well, I never criticize other people's hires, because three years ago everybody said the worst hire in the world was Doug Pederson, and where did he come from and how could they hire them? And he's the only man standing that's got a Super Bowl. Frank Reich is the last guy hired, and, 'Oh gosh, the Colts didn't get their first choice, and they should've had Josh McDaniels,' and Frank is obviously the right person. So I feel bad — I think some of these owners don't understand the process and totally ignore defensive coaches who might be great people. I think they're looking for lightning in a bottle. But if they've done their homework and that's the guy they're convinced they can do it for their franchise, it's the more power to them."
On if a defensive guy like Matt Eberflus will face a more difficult road to be a head coach due to an offense-first philosophy across the league:
"I was on Twitter and a couple of Colts fans said, 'Boy, I hope we don't lose Matt Eberflus.' I said, 'Don't worry; the owners aren't smart enough to hire him. They're looking for offensive gurus.'"