"I have not watched it. I've gotten the reports. I'm disappointed with all the profanity. I think Rex can make his points without all that."
--Tony Dungy, August 16
That's Tony Dungy, self-appointed moral landlord of the NFL. Sometimes I think of him as a 2010 version of the Michael Landon character on "Highway to Heaven," going from town to town, fixing problems with his unique blend of quiet strength and copyrighted dignity.
Dungy appeared on the Dan Patrick Radio Show Monday and said, among other things, he would not consider Ryan a candidate if he were in a position to hire a head coach.
"I would not. I personally don't want my players to be around that. I don't want to be around that," Dungy said. "It's hard for me to be around that, and if I were in charge, no, I wouldn't hire someone like that."
You know what? I'm OK with that, I really am. If Dungy were a GM or owner of a team and he didn't want to hire a head coach because he had objections with his vulgarity? His prerogative. Kind of dopey when you consider that stance would probably eliminate the top 10,000 or so guys available for the job, but that's OK.
No, where Dungy loses me is here. He was asked if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should speak to Rex about the F-Bomb buffet we all heard last Wednesday night.
"I would hope that he does," Dungy said. "I don't know that he will or not but I would hope that he does. I just don't think the league needs that. I don't think our young people need to hear that that's the way it's done to be successful. Because it doesn't have to be that way."
Nope, sorry. If Dungy is going to be the conscience cop of the NFL he has to know that Rex Ryan spewing out a bunch of four-letter words at 10 p.m. on a subscription cable network should be problem, say, number 34 when Tony makes his list of which souls to try and save. And methinks that Roger Goodell has at least 33 reasons not to care so much about what happens on HBO (unless he's really into "Cathouse", I guess).
Why No. 34? Because it is August 17 and there have already been 33 NFL players arrested this year. I don't know, which do you find to be the more egregious offense: Ryan (admittedly) acting like a 12-year-old on TV while breaking no laws, or Philip Merling being arrested and charged with aggravated battery on pregnant girlfriend? How about Jermaine Philips, charged with choking his wife? How many F-Bombs does that equal?
I know, I know, it's not fair for me to tell Dungy what issue he should be fighting for. But remember, this is a guy that has a new book out called "The Mentor Leader." He's made an industry on this stuff, with Michael Vick as his prime example. The guy that killed at least seven of his dogs by at hanging or drowning? OK, Dungy knows that was wrong, but Vick still has a "lot to offer." He has spent a great deal of time over the last 18 months telling us that all Vick needed was a father figure, all he needed was religion, all he needed was some guidance.
Seems that Dungy is the last person to realize that Vick is a lost cause, just another athlete who thinks he above it all and will simply never figure it out. So when there was a shooting at Vick's birthday party on June 25, Dungy didn't take offense. He wasn't calling for Goodell to intervene, or finding the first microphone and telling Dan Patrick or whoever that he would never have a man like Vick on his football team.
"He didn't do anything other than maybe put himself in a place where he shouldn't have been," Dungy said. "But people will look at that one incident and forget about the other 364 days and a lot of the good things that have gone on."
So Vick -- with a history of killing dogs and spreading STD's -- gets a pass. And Ryan -- guilty of swearing -- gets blasted. Am I missing something?
Look, Tony Dungy is by every account a good man. I'm not sure I'd go so far as some of the Saint Tony stuff I've read over the past few years (my favorite? "The Tony Dungy I know is incapable of telling a lie" -- Peter King) but there's a lot to be said for what Dungy is trying to do outside of football. To walk away from coaching -- turning his back on $5-6 million bucks a year -- and focus mush of his energy on prison ministry and mentoring is way past admirable.
But what bothers me is: When I turned off "Hard Knocks" at 10:56 last Wednesday I was sure of two things -- Rex Ryan could now be confirmed as a Class A blowhard and sometime over the next week Tony Dungy was going to say something about the language. Again, it falls in the self-appointed landlord territory.
When Dungy coached for the Buccaneers did I miss where he called out the FOX Network for language and adult content on its prime-time shows? Is he OK with everything on NBC, his current employer? Or how about all the years "Inside the NFL" was on HBO? Why didn't Tony have moral issues with the NFL serving as lead-in to "Real Sex 88"?
Maybe he did have trouble with it and decided to keep quiet.
Too bad he didn't do the same on Monday.