INDIANAPOLIS —Going into halftime trailing a mediocre San Diego Chargers team 23-7, Tony Dungy really let his team have it.
"I told our guys, 'I've never seen a team play worse. We ought to be embarrassed, and if we don't start playing better fast, I don't know what I'm going to do.'"
OK, not exactly Mike Ditka, but Dungy's tone clearly made an impact.
"One of my players, Matt Giordano, looked at a rookie beside him, he said, 'You probably don't know it, but you just got chewed out.'"
Dungy was asked all about his famous even-keeled nature Thursday in an appearance on "The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz," which you can listen to in its entirety by clicking here.
As it turned out, one of the primary reasons the Colts were playing so poorly that day was because of the worst performance in quarterback Peyton Manning's career, as he tossed six interceptions — three of them to his nemesis, cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
But it was also an inspired Manning who helped lead his team on an improbable comeback effort in the second half, as San Diego nearly blew a 23-7 fourth-quarter lead against the defending Super Bowl champions before escaping with a 23-21 victory after kicker Adam Vinatieri pushed a 29-yard potential game-winning attempt wide right with 1:31 remaining.
Manning would end up completing 34-of-56 passes — then a career-high in attempts — for 348 yards with two touchdowns to six picks. The Chargers were led by Cromartie and a young Darren Sproles, who had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as well as a 45-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"You know what? He had a bunch in the first half," Dungy said when asked if he remembered how many picks Manning had that day. "We had a lot of people hurt; we only could dress like 40 guys or 39 guys, we were ravaged by injuries. …And we came back and we had a chance — we should've won the game. We missed a field goal right at the end. But definitely could've won the game. He hung in there, in spite of all those interceptions."
At halftime, Dungy said he wasn't afraid to look everybody in the eye — Manning included — and let them know how he felt.
"I said, 'Hey, those guys stink, and we're playing worse.'"
That's about as much trash talk as you're going to get from Dungy, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Asked if he recalled getting into any big-time arguments with Manning, Dungy said, "We really didn't have a lot of shout-'em-out, drag-down arguments."
"We'd have intellectual arguments, and he'd always want to do things a certain way or a different way," Dungy continued, "but once he knew why, it was easy to get him on board."
Dungy recalled playing for legendary Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, who instituted "Family Saturdays" during the regular season, in which the players' and coaches' children were invited to Saturday practices to play on the field with their fathers.
Dungy then instituted "Family Saturdays" when he became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, later, the Colts, when he said he got a little push-back now and then from No. 18.
"Peyton, as you know, a little bit of a perfectionist, he'd always have 20 plays that he wanted to run on Saturday morning that didn't go well on Thursday or Friday and get that timing just right," Dungy said. "And we'd have guys with their kids, and he'd get a little frustrated.
"So about every four weeks or so, he'd come in my office and say, 'I understand what you want to do, having the kids there, but maybe we can just keep them in the locker room. Maybe they don't have to be out on the field.' And I'd say, 'Well, this system's won a lot of Super Bowls. So trust me — it'll work.' So we'd go back and forth on that."
But then, fast forward about 10 years later, and Manning is now with the Denver Broncos. Out at a practice to interview Manning for his job with NBC, Dungy was just about to sit down when Broncos and former Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley approached him.
"He says, 'You'll never guess what Peyton did,'" Dungy recalled. "I said, 'What'd he do?' 'He went to Coach (John) Fox, he said, 'We've got to start instituting Family Saturdays. These kids need to know where their dads (work)'' — now that he had twins, you know? So I felt like, 'OK, I didn't teach him much about football, but I did get that across.'"
Dungy also promised to return to the show on Friday to talk about Manning's infamous skills as a prankster, so stay tuned if/when that happens.