Tony Dungy believes there may be occasions for fourth-down gambles on Sunday
On occasion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy uses Friday afternoons to take another glance at game film. This Friday, however, when Dungy sat in front of a monitor after practice, it was not to seek answers but to provide them.
With preparations for the team's crucial game against Minnesota still in full force, the Bucs' head man took a break to speak directly to the team's fans through a Buccaneers.com chat session.
Dungy was fresh off the Bucs' practice field, having stepped almost directly from the team's final full-scale workout into a cyberspace exchange. Thus, he was warmed up for questions about how to stop the Vikings' potent offense, how to best utilize the team's pair of running backs and how best to size up second-year QB sensation Daunte Culpepper.
Those topics and much more were covered during Dungy's 30-minute chat on Buccaneers.com. A full transcript of that session follows.
Buccaneers.com Chat Session: Head Coach Tony Dungy
solar: Hi, Coach Dungy. Do you think you'll go for it on fourth down inside the red Zone instead of kicking a field goal early in the game?
Tony Dungy: I don't know about early. There will be times where we'll have to be aggressive and go for it on fourth down. We know that Minnesota has a good offense, so we know we'll need touchdowns.
hotgirl: Les Steckel seem to always call plays late. Why?
Tony Dungy: We don't necessarily call them late, but we have a lot of plays that are called 'Check with me', where Shaun has to check before giving the offense the play. Sometimes, he then has to read the defense at the line of scrimmage before he gives the actual play, and the sometimes on the road it's tougher to get the plays in because of the noise.
chodgson: How did you address the turnover problem with the team this past week?
Tony Dungy: We've talked about it. We have drills that we do to try and eliminate the fumbles especially. And we just try to increase our concentration on offense.
m242557sm: Coach, how has the attitude been through practice this week? Do the Bucs feel as if they are out of it at this point in the season?
Tony Dungy: Our attitude has been very good. I don't think anyone feels we're out of it. We know that this is a real important game towards turning our season around.
jeepwill: Hi coach Dungy what do you feel about our special teams return? Why not just go full speed when returning the kick off?
Tony Dungy: Our returns are set up to try to read the way the defense is covering and then go to the open lanes, so the return man is trying to go full speed, but he can't always go full speed because he has to be able to see where he's going.
chu: Historically, running backs get stronger and more productive as the game progresses. How is it possible to get this type of result when we are sharing duties between Alstott and Dunn?
Tony Dungy: It is harder for a running back to get into the groove when he's splitting the carries. We had that same difficulty since 97 because we're trying to split between two guys. What we have to do is convert more third downs so they each get more opportunities.
jbbucs: Are you concerned about the Vikings' running game?
Tony Dungy: Yeah, they're number one in the NFL in rushing. In games in the past when Robert Smith has gone over 100 yards against us, we've had trouble, so we don't want them to get started. Yet, this year Daunte Culpepper has become a big part of their running game as well.
bladerunner: What is your impression of Daunte Culpepper? Did you think he would be this good this soon?
Tony Dungy: We thought he would be a very good player. He had excellent training in college and a lot of physical skills, and he has done a great job of making the big play for them all year.
m242557sm: Will Booger (Anthony McFarland) get any playing time this week, or will this be a game-time decision?
Tony Dungy: It will be a game-time decision, but right now he feels confident that he'll be able to play, so that's what we're counting on.
hotgirl: Why doesn't Shaun have plays on his wrist like other quarterbacks?
Tony Dungy: He does. He actually has a wrist band with about 30 plays on it of the plays that we're sure that we're going to run that week. He also has the com system in his helmet.
jsharp: I have loved watching the "trick" plays that you have attempted so far this year, despite the success or failure. Please keep it up.
Tony Dungy: Our coaches have good ideas and we've had a lot of opportunities with the trick plays and hopefully we can get a couple more this week.
chu: I think it is admirable to want to keep Alstott and Dunn happy, but have you considered using one as a feature back (20-30 carries/game)?
Tony Dungy: Yes we have talked about that, but then we always get back to 'How do we use our weapons the best?' And for one of the guys not to touch the ball that much, we don't think we're using our talent as best we can.
tampabaycutie: Coach Dungy, I have read that we are 'going back to basics' this week. Please tell us that this does not mean that we are going to abandon the passing game! Yes, we love the trick plays!!!
Tony Dungy: Going back to the basics doesn't mean only running, it doesn't mean not blitzing on defense and it doesn't mean not having trick plays. It just means being fundamentally sound and working on that in practice. For instance in the passing game, making sure that we running the proper routes at the right depth and throwing and catching the ball properly. It has more to do with the fundamentals than what the plays are.
Buc This: Hello Coach. What is the team's morale after such hard-to-swallow losses? And will they rise again like last year?
Tony Dungy: It's always tough the day after a tough loss, but by the following week you have to be ready to go. We've had four tough ones in a row, but I think right now our team is in good spirits and we'll be ready to play against Minnesota.
m242557sm: Against the Lions it seemed as if KJ was the key target and Quezzie was almost ignored. Was this part of the game plan, or did coverage dictate those plays? I love to see Quezzie getting the ball so often…such a speedster!!
Tony Dungy: Coverage dictates where we go with the ball more than anything. We do have to work every week to get all the guys the ball during the passing game.
chu: Do you think you are using Keyshawn Johnson's talent the best way you can?
Tony Dungy: We're still learning that and we're still trying to figure out how to use everyone's talents and how to combine that into the best offense. So I think that will get better as the season progresses.
jsharp: I have noticed a reluctance to throw the ball into the end zone. When inside the 30, on two occasions that I can recall a pass was thrown to the six yard line. Any reason you can divulge not to take some shots all the way for the touchdown?
Tony Dungy: We're really looking at how the defense is playing and if you're playing against teams that protect the end zone, you're looking for a throw in front of the defense that allows the receiver to run it in.
bladerunner: Are you at all concerned about Alstott's continuing trouble hanging onto the ball?
Tony Dungy: Yes we are, but we work on it in practice and then we have to go into the game feeling like he is going to hang onto the ball and not let it affect our game plan.
hotgirl: Coach Dungy, why are the play-actions being called on third downs instead of first and second?
Tony Dungy: We do try and call them on first and second down and the fact that we've run some on third down is really more just to keep the defense honest and get them a threat of the run on third down. But play-action passes really are built for first and second down.
mikey1: How do you feel about the remaining schedule, do you feel the Bucs will at least get a chance in the post season?
Tony Dungy: We will if we start to play well. There's not a game on our schedule that we don't feel we can win, so I think the post season really depends on us.
Buc This: With the play of Nate Webster, how do you decide who will start? Is this something you decide after watching film or do they both get the reps in practice?
Tony Dungy: They both get reps in practice. Basically, Jamie starts when he's healthy and we still want Nate to be able to play. Nate started a game when Jamie wasn't able to practice during the week.
jsharp: You are known for your low-key demeanor. During a run of bad luck like this, are you ever tempted to stand on a chair during halftime and scream at the team for 15 minutes, just to sort of wake everyone up?
Tony Dungy: (laughs) If I thought it would do some good and help, I would do that. It's been my experience that it doesn't always help the situation. During this streak I haven't been tempted to do it. And really, for these four games, we've been ahead or tied at half time, other than the Minnesota game.
Buc This: The blocking downfield has improved considerably. To whom is that accredited?
Tony Dungy: To Coach Steckel's philosophy, to Coach Williams working on the blocking with the receivers, and to Keyshawn's blocking ability...all three of those pieces have helped.
chu: You talk about defenses dictating what the offense can do. But isn't there something to be said about creating your own opportunities? All defenses play to stop Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens but they still have big games consistently. Why don't we have this consistency? Do we not have the players?
Tony Dungy: We have the players, but we have taken the approach that we'll try and utilize a lot of guys depending what we see. Randy Moss doesn't have a big game every week, even though it may seem that way. Some weeks it's Cris Carter, some weeks it's Robert Smith. Other teams do try and utilize their other guys as well. I think when the team wins, that's the most important thing.
tampabaycutie: Coach Dungy, who do you predict will break Lee Roy Selmon's record for sacks in one season first...Warren Sapp or Marcus Jones?
Tony Dungy: Warren says he's going to. I think Marcus may get some more double teams after having a couple of outstanding games. Right now, Marcus is closer, so I'll say Marcus.
chu: Who suggested moving Marcus Jones from tackle to end? Give that person a raise!
Tony Dungy: (laughs) Actually, Rod Marinelli. He turned out to be right. It's the best spot for Marcus, so it worked out very well.
k4lk: I've heard that you keep in touch with Coach Denny Green. Do you exchange coaching tips?
Tony Dungy: We do. We stay in touch, and it's usually more me asking him questions. Occasionally, if it's someone we just played, I'll talk to him about that. But usually, it's me asking him questions.
hotgirl: Coach Dungy, honestly, what is the difference between last year's offense and this year's?
Tony Dungy: It's a completely different style. I think there's more audibles at the line of the scrimmage for the quarterback. There's more outside running, more formations and different kinds of motions.
Buc This: What is the most important trait of a champion in your opinion?
Tony Dungy: The ability to deal with success and adversity. You're always going to have some adversity that you have to overcome. And then when you do overcome it, you have to be able to deal with the success that follows. A champion has to be able to handle both. Most teams have the physical talent to be champions, but the mental toughness is what separates them in the NFL.
Tony Dungy: It's been fun, especially since I didn't have to type. We got some very good questions. Hopefully, we can do it again in the middle of a long winning streak.