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Mike Tomlin is Black–And It Didn’t Matter

Late last night, Mike Tomlin became just the second black head coach in NFL History to win a Super Bowl.  There was no coverage of it.  No press conference.  No discussion of it during media day or after the clock read 0:00.

Race Not an Issue

Race Not an Issue

Just two years ago, Tony Dungy became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl.

In fact, Tomlin’s race didn’t seem to factor into any discussion at all by the media and fans alike.  If anything, Tomlin’s age was a bigger eye opener.  At just 36–and in his second year as head coach–Tomlin became the youngest coach to ever win a Super Bowl.

On NFL Network last night, Deion Sanders brought up the point that age seemed to trump race this year.  Tomlin seemed happy that his race wasn’t a significant story regarding the Super Bowl, stating, “I’ll continue to get older,  but I’ll always be black.”

In a post Barack Obama world, one would like to hope that this becomes a trend.  That a black man or woman–or any minority–can ascend to the pinnacle of their profession and the surrounding discussion  will pertain to the quality of his or her performance rather than the amount of melanin in his or her skin.

It is well known that Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney is a big Obama supporter.  He also helped usher into the league the now famous “Rooney Rule”–which states that a team with a head coaching vacancy must interview a minority for the position.  It’s certainly possible that Mike Tomlin’s race–along with his resume–helped open the head coaching door for him.  Hired just two seasons ago, it’s not abundantly clear that Tomlin was the correct choice.

In that respect, the Rooney rule worked to perfection.  It allowed a man who might otherwise get passed over for a promotion to get an extra look.  It opened the door for him–but it was Tomlin’s job to walk through it and secure the position.  And he did. And oddly enough, from that point on, race didn’t matter.

Not even after a Super Bowl victory on the first day of Black History Month.

Now that is the epitome of progress.

February 2, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dear Brett Favre

Dear Brett Favre,

If you’ve been near a television in Mississippi, or have had the luxury of an Internet connection, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Tony Dungy retired from being the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. And he did it quickly, smoothly, and with a ton of class.

Favre Teeters on Retirements Edge

Favre Teeters on Retirements Edge

Though you may sometimes be an erratic quarterback with a penchant for throwing passes to the guys wearing different jerseys, we still love you. You’ve been a great player to watch for almost two decades. You play hurt, you play without fear, and you certainly improve the play of your teammates.

But Brett, you are a heartbeat away from forty years old. And though there have been a few signal callers who have found relative success at middle age—Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde come immediately to mind—2009 may just be the year to call it quits.

That’s not to say that you still don’t have talent. You probably throw the ball harder at 39 than most quarterbacks at 25. You still are reliable enough to play all sixteen games and you are a man who genuinely doesn’t play the game soley for money. I can’t help but appreciate that.

Whatever you do decide, Brett, please don’t drag it out. Please learn from Tony Dungy—make a commitment and stand behind it. I know the idea of walking away from the game is scary. I know football is all you’ve known since your Pop Warner days. I know that, aside from family, it’s probably your first love.

But Brett, I think I speak for most when I say that I cannot bear to have the networks cover the “will he, won’t he” retirement speculation that surrounds you every year at this time. If you love the NFL as much as I know you do, don’t subject its fans to your indecisive, libra-esque tendencies.

Please don’t retire, cry at your press conference, only to text message your former teammates that you still have “the itch.” Similar to a break-up with a girlfriend, as much as I still care for you, I can’t see you anymore. I need space, and to get over you, you need to step off the stage for a little while.

If the week 17 game against the Dolphins was indeed your swan song, you had a great career. You’re one of the best to ever play the game, and you will be remembered for generations to come. That’s more than most can say about their lives. With that said, nothing is forever—certainly not football. Please know this. If retirement is even creeping into your mind, it’s probably time to go. And just like a band-aid, you need to rip it off quickly. The sting will last for a short while, but in the end, we’ll all be better for it.

DO YOU WANT FAVRE TO RETIRE?

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, General, NFL | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFL Predictions, Part 1

1.  If Baltimore beats the Titans, I think they’re a lock for the Superbowl.

Ed Reed

Ed Reed

I don’t want to make too much of this–afterall, as great as Flacco has played this season, he is still a rookie and prone to “rookie mistakes”–but the Ravens are the scariest team in the NFL.  We could be witnessing a team that channels the 2007 Giants–a squad that gets hot at the right time and rides a strong defensive wave (coupled with a good showing by their young quarterback) all the way to the Superbowl.

It’s not as if the Ravens haven’t been to the Superbowl before on the back on their defense.  But this year, their offense is actually showing up.  And that’s very scary.

2.  The Steelers will Dominate the San Diego Chargers on Sunday

I don’t forsee this being a game similar in vein to when these two teams met earlier in the year.  I think Sproles will inject some speed and creativity into the offense, getting lots of YAC on screen passes in particular.  But I expect that Pittsburgh defense to be in full force.  I think they will shut down the running attack and blitz Rivers until he throws up the white flag of surrender.  As good as Phiilip Rivers has been this season, I expect to see Polamalu to get a turnover and return it for a touchdown.

3.  Tony Dungy Will Retire

By early next week, we should hear whether Dungy will retire or come back to the Colts in 2009.  I think he’s completely done.  Dungy has stated before that football isn’t his only passion, and one would think that such a serene man would like to spend more time with his family.  With Jim Caldwell already lined up to replace him, Dungy will step aside and finally let someone else run the show in Indianapolis.  Soon after the season ends, Favre will follow Dungy into the sunset, as well.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do You Fire A Nice Guy?

Good Guy With Mediocre Results

Good Guy With Mediocre Results

After losing to the San Diego Chargers on wildcard Saturday the Indianapolis Colts face a big dilemma.  The dilemma is plain and simple; how do the Colts divorce themselves from Coach Tony Dungy without looking like the bad guy.  Dungy has been a good coach for Indy for seven years.  I say “good coach” because four times in seven years the Colts have been bounced out of the playoffs in their first game.  Twice the Colts were boat-raced by the Patriots, and once they won the Super Bowl.  With a collection of potential Hall of Famers and perhaps the best quarterback of all-time, winning one Super Bowl in seven years is in no other terms, a failure.  Winning twelve regular season games six years in a row is a good accomplishment, but if you go out and lose in week 18 the luster on that accomplishment is tarnished. 

The problem the Colts face is delicate.  Tony Dungy is the embodiment of midwest values.  He’s a devote Christian who is very active with youth in the Indy area.  He’s shown his fallibility by dealing with the death of his son publicly.   He’s also a very hard working dedicated coach.  However, look back at his years at Tampa.  He turned the team around, but it was Jon Gruden who took them to the Super Bowl.  In Indy, Dungy inherited a playoff team that was primed for multiple Super Bowl runs.  What was Dungy supposed to bring to Indy?  Defensive intensity is the answer.  Now answer honestly, how dominant has Indy’s defense been in the past seven years?  Not so much.  Consider Dungy’s coaching nemesis across the field on Saturday night.  Norv Turner has been the media whipping boy wherever he’s been, but what’s Turner’s record in the past two Decembers/Januarys?  12-1.  Dungy’s is not nearly that good, but again he gets a pass because he’s such a good guy.  And therein lies the problem.  Because the NFL is filled with sordid characters and borderline tyrannical coaches, Dungy’s humble positive nature has been overly-celebrated which clouds his mediocrity.  If the roles were reversed, Turner would be facing immediate firing if his team stunk it up on Saturday.  No doubt about that.  The time has come for the Colts to respectfully remove Dungy, but in true Dungy form look for him to remove himself. 

FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!

January 5, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, General, NFL | , , , , , , | 1 Comment