Nice Guy Is Finished, Alas

There was no way the firing of Tony Dungy wasn’t going to be difficult and sad. Dungy’s a helluva nice guy and the winningest coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history.

Those doing the firing are not nearly that nice. And what they’ve won is the right to keep what they’ve inherited. The Glazers once again lived down to their PR-challenged reputations. No one this side of John Walker can turn a media briefing into an awkward interrogation the way the Glazer brothers, Classless and Duplicitous, can. Candor, empathy and public relations savvy continue to elude them like so many Brad Johnson-to-Reidel Anthony TD passes.

It would have been an upset on the order of Luxembourg knocking off Nazi Germany, but couldn’t the Glazers have made a behavioral exception for Dungy? Instead of a terse, written statement at a media-squeezing late hour, followed by a bumbling, disingenuous, next-day press conference, couldn’t they have stood up and just said:

“Thank you all for being here. After much anguish and soul-searching, we have decided not to bring back head coach Tony Dungy for the fifth and final year of his contract. We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best in the future.

“Before explaining why we’re taking this action, this much must be said first. “We as a franchise owe a large debt of gratitude to Tony Dungy. More than anyone else, he was responsible for turning the Bucs around. For making losers into winners. That will never change.

“Moreover, he did it in a way that always exuded class. Would that we all comported ourselves with such dignity. So, we thank him for what he did and how he did it.

“As responsible owners, however, we would be remiss if we didn’t keep raising the bar. It is the nature of competitive sports; it is the nature of the competitive-sports business. Our fans, from what we heard — and we do listen — expected nothing less than continued improvement. That means a championship — not merely settling for no longer being bad. That’s not a standard; that’s a governor on progress. We went, as everyone knows, from bad to good — and then stayed there — and began regressing.

“The prospects for next year, frankly, did not appear any different. Defensively, we’ve been among the best; offensively, among the worst. That glaring shortcoming didn’t change from the 11-6 NFC championship loss to the Rams two years ago and, from our vantage point, wasn’t going to. If we didn’t act now, it would have meant we were settling. We care too much to settle.

“Our fans are owed that much. This community, which has been so supportive of this franchise, is owed that much.

“We obviously wish this day had never dawned. But dawn it did, and we’re not backing off our first obligation. It is not, however tempting, to Coach Dungy, who did, we all certainly acknowledge, a good job. It is to our loyal fans who expected a better job. And so did we. We are not just owners here; we’re also stewards of this franchise.

“Now we look to the future. Sure, we have a short list of possible candidates, and, of course, we didn’t just come up with it. And, of course, Bill Parcells is on it. He’d have to be. In this business — in any business — you always have to think contingencies and ways to improve.

“But let us stress that, however it looked to you, the media, we went as far as we could, maybe farther than we should, to give Tony a fair shake. To prove to us and all the fans that we were headed in a direction that was more than the maintenance of the status quo. Ultimately, we didn’t see it. Realistically, I doubt if many others did either, including all of you here right now.

“We’ll let you know when we have some news, but please don’t expect us to comment on the steady stream of rumors du jour. Believe me, the business of getting better can’t wait.

“Thank you for being here — and we’ll see you soon.”

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