On Thursday, March 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy sat down with Buccaneers.com for an interview in the web site's 'Your Turn' series. All of the questions used for the interview were submitted by Buccaneers.com users. What follows is a transcript of that interview, with the name of the user preceding the question that he or she submitted.
Your Turn with Tony Dungy
Moderator: Please welcome Tony Dungy, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Dungy, thank you for taking some time today out of your busy offseason schedule to be with us.
Tony Dungy: I'm looking forward to it.
Moderator: This interview is called 'Your Turn' because the questions were supplied by Buccaneers.com users. So what follows is what our fans really want to know.
Tony Dungy: Alright, we'll see if we can help them out.
Joe from Ripley, West Virginia: Now that Sean King has some pro-bowl protection on the offensive line, what are your expectations in terms of QB performance for the 2000 season?
Tony Dungy: We like Shaun King a lot and we think he's going to do a great job for us. Most second-year players, that's when they make their biggest jump in terms of performance between their first and second year. Unfortunately for Shaun, he's going to have to learn somewhat of a new offense, so it's going to be not quite as easy for him. But having to play those last six games gave him a great head start on the 2000 season and he's got an edge on some of the quarterbacks that were drafted in the same class as him.
Jeff from Wampum, Pennsylvania: Will the Bucs try to use TE Dave Moore more this coming season? I think he could be a key in helping Shaun King progress as an NFL quarterback.
Tony Dungy: Well, Jeff's from Pennsylvania there, and all the Northern people ask about Dave Moore – the Pennsylvania, New Jersey connection. Dave just re-signed with us and we're very happy about that, because Coach Steckel's offense does feature the tight ends a lot more than maybe what we did the last four years. So we're expecting Dave to catch a lot more passes, he's excited about it and we're looking forward to maybe a 40, 50-catch year from Dave.
Scott from Staten Island, New York: Do you think the team will miss Hardy Nickerson's leadership on and off the field and will Jamie Duncan be able to fill his spot effectively?
Tony Dungy: Jamie Duncan did a great job for us the last part of '98 when he had to play. Hardy…we are going to miss that leadership, we're going to miss that Pro Bowl experience that he had, but that's part of the way the system goes now. Young guys have to be ready to step up and replace people, and we think Jamie will do a great job and we think the defense will continue on.
Jeff from Sarasota, Florida: I'm a middle school teacher at Sarasota Christian School. I have been proud of the character of the men who are Bucs. Entering the draft, how much priority is put on character compared to skill?
Tony Dungy: That's a good question, because every team is a little bit different. For us, we really look at character quite a bit. We want the guys to come and fit in and be a part of what we do here. We want them to be a big part of the Tampa Bay area, and we want them to be good ballplayers as well. But we think you can do a lot with character. I think that showed on our team last year, all of the close games that we were in and we were still able to come through because the guys did believe in each other. So we like to find out about the person as well as the ballplayer.
Chas from Rochester, New York: Has Shaun King been putting in extra time this offseason to prepare for being a starter for the Buccaneers, and if yes, what specific things is he working on?
Tony Dungy: I don't think Shaun has worked any harder this offseason than he did last year. His goal was to come in and be a starter last year. It didn't work out that way, and he got to play later on, but I think he's preparing the same way. I think he does realize that we are counting on him, and that type of thing, but I don't think he looks at it any differently whether he's a rookie or a second-year guy, starter or second team. You've got to be ready to go. I think he's working very hard but he worked hard last year as well.
David from Palencia, Spain: Do you think that the 2000 opponents of the Bucs are difficult teams?
Tony Dungy: That's always hard to say. I think if you asked this question last year at this time, if someone had to play St. Louis rather than San Francisco, they would have thought they got a little bit of a break in the schedule. If they had to play Tennessee rather than Pittsburgh, they would have thought they had a break, so you really don't know. Every year is different. Because of free agency and the impact that maybe one or two drafted players can have, teams can be very different. Injuries can make a big difference. I know we went into last year saying, 'Boy, we had Denver and Atlanta, the two Super Bowl teams at home.' That was going to be two very tough games for us. They ended up being tough games, but Denver and Atlanta didn't make it back to the Super Bowl. So, it's hard to say. We're looking at the schedule as we know it's going to be tough. We are playing the first-place schedule, so we've got our work cut out for us.
Joe from Clinton, Louisiana: How does your faith as a Christian affect the way you do your job as an NFL coach?
Tony Dungy: That's a good question. Many times, things happen and you can't figure out why. Many times, you want to get a little disturbed at things or upset, and you've got to be careful that you're not just looking at the short term, you are looking at the long haul. I think from that standpoint, my faith affects me a lot, the way I coach the team, the way I select the team. I think all of that is reflected, and I want to show the guys some Christian leadership. The first game last year, I kind of criticized the officials and got a big fine from the league, and I had to think about what kind of role model I was being. So it does come into play. I want to win, but I want to be a Christian first and foremost.
Kent from St. Petersburg, Florida: Aside from the obvious athletic ability, what intangibles did you look for in the young players at the combine?
Tony Dungy: I think at the combine you do look more for intangibles…at least I do. Because, as we talked before, players' character, how they're going to fit in, those kinds of things are very, very important to us. So we try to talk to the players, we try to look at how they go about approaching the combine as well as how fast they were, how tall they were. Is it very important to them? Are they putting their best foot forward? Are they on time for the interviews? Are they on time for what they have to do on the field. How are they approaching things? Many times that can tell you a lot more about the guy than how he actually runs or how big he is.
Becky from Bellevue: Fans following the Bucs for a while probably already know this, but for us new Bucs' fans who don't know, how did you get interested in coaching? When you played for the Steelers and 49ers, did you have any inkling you'd wind up coaching some day?
Tony Dungy: I sure didn't know I'd wind up being a professional coach. Both of my parents were teachers, and I kind of viewed myself that I would play professional football for a few years then be a high school teacher. I like working with young people especially, so that's what I always kind of had in my mind. My playing career wasn't as long as I would have liked it to be, only three years, and when I got finished, it was 'Where am I going to go now?' Coach Noll with the Steelers gave me a chance to come back and learn the coaching business with the Steelers. I got into it and really enjoyed it. I get a chance to work with young people, I get a chance to be outside a lot, and those are things that I enjoy. But, no, when I was 22 years old and playing, I never dreamed I'd be a professional coach.
Scott from Bradenton, Florida: All last season, our defense smothered other teams. However, we didn't start taking the ball away until halfway through the season. Getting turnovers was a big part of our success. How can our defense keep that going all season this year?
Tony Dungy: That's something we are going to try to keep going," said Dungy. "That's something we've stressed ever since we've been here, and it really wasn't until midseason of '99 that we really got it going at the pace that I thought we should. We've got guys who have the ability to create turnovers, we've got a lot of speed on defense. It's something we practice and we work on, and we have from day one in '96 when we got here. But I think that the feeling among the players is that now that we've got it, we've got to keep it going, because turnovers really equal wins in the NFL.
Ron from Munster, Indiana: If you could put 3 players in the hall-of-fame based solely on their performances against your Buc teams, who would they be?
Tony Dungy: Well, number one is easy: Barry Sanders, for sure. He's had some big, big days, and even though we've been geared to stop him he has done a great job against us a lot and we're happy to see him retire. Number two is Brett Favre. He has put some monster days up against us – a four-touchdown day, a three-touchdown day – and has really played great against us. The third one, I'd probably have to say someone from Minnesota. Even though Robert Smith has had big days against us, I'd probably have to say Cris Carter. And those three guys probably will be in the Hall of Fame before it's said and done.
K.C. from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida: What kind of a role do you feel "Booger" McFarland will play this year?
Tony Dungy: Booger came here and, really playing behind Warren Sapp and Brad Culpepper and learning our system, I thought had a great first year," said Dungy. "He might not have had the stats that many first-year players have, but he allowed those guys to rotate and stay fresh. Because of him and Marcus Jones, we had fresh linemen in at the end of the game and in our fourth quarters we played outstanding football. He's going to be a big part of that, but I see his production going up a little bit and his playing time going up a little bit, and I think he's going to be a guy that's capable of having a double-digit sack year.
David from Oshkosh, Wisconsin: What as a team, and individually as a coach, will it take for you and the Bucs to win a Super Bowl?
Tony Dungy: That's something I think we're really going to have to be careful about. When teams get to the place we got last year, there's a lot of talk about the next level, and what you have to do to win that game. But, to go to the Super Bowl, you don't have to just build on the last year. You really have to go back to the beginning. You've got to have a great offseason program, which we just started ours on Monday and we had 41 players on the first day, so that was a good start. But you've got to have a good draft and then a good mini-camp, and have an injury-free training camp with a lot of hard work there. A good pre-season, which we were 4-0 last year in the preseason. Get out of the gates strong. You've just got to do everything step by step. That's what we've got to do, rather than say, 'Well, there's one thing that's going to take us to the Super Bowl.' It's got to be playing the whole year well, and that's got to start right now.
Ashley from Palm Harbor, Florida: Do keep a close eye on college football or any certain team?
Tony Dungy: I like college football really as a fan. We get a lot of tape after the season's over, this time of year, looking at players for the draft. When I'm watching during the year, I'm just watching as a fan. Being in Minnesota, I'd always been a Big Ten fan until I got down here. Now I kind of watch the ACC and SEC and, naturally, Florida, Florida State and Miami. I'm not going to say who my favorite team is, because that's always kind of a triple-edged sword down here. But I have gotten to watch the local teams much more now.
Steve from Garden Grove, California: I coach youth football and I was very impressed by the tackling of your defense. Could you share some of your secrets, such as drills you use to get such top notch results?
Tony Dungy: That's a comment a lot of people make. We do have an outstanding tackling group. Part of that is the players we select and the way we draft, but part of it is we practice fundamentals. We do tackling drills every day in practice that we're in pads. We have little five-minute drills where we are tackling and a lot of professional teams don't do that. They assume that the guys know how to do it and are good tacklers, but I think that the more you do something, the better you get at it. So we try to be physical, we try to practice one-on-one tackling at least five minutes a day.
Larry from Hudson: My first son was born on the 14th of march - a boy weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces. I have been telling him about the Bucs. He wants to know if you're going to get Keyshawn Johnson?
Tony Dungy: First of all, congratulations! Secondly, I'm not sure that we can really comment on that. At one point, the Jets were saying that they were going to try to trade Keyshawn, and there was conversation about that. Now they're saying they're not. We have to treat it as, he's a player under contract to another team and not comment on it. But Keyshawn's a great player, and I think anybody would like to get him if he were available. I guess I'm safe in saying that.
Will from Sarasota, Florida: What the Bucs defense accomplished last year is the stuff that legends (and NFL Films) are made of. What are you and your staff going to have to do to get the players to play at that intensity level again in 2000?
Tony Dungy: I think our defense understands how we win games. We did play with great intensity. We gave up a very, very small number of points – I think we were at 10 points or less in half of our games – and that is outstanding defense. I think we set the bar now, and our guys understand that. So what we have to do is stress playing a little bit better and see if we can limit the mistakes in '99, try to cut down on those. We want to be a little bit better than in '99. I challenged the defense last year – I thought they should strongly be considered as the defense of the '90s if we played up to our potential in '99, and we did that. Now, we've started a new decade, a new millennium, and I think the challenge is, hey, let's be thought of as the best defense of this decade.
Corey from Neptune, New Jersey: After the Buccaneers playoff year in 1997 they fell to 8-8 the year after. Obviously, there are high expectations for the team this season after coming so close to the Super Bowl. As Head Coach, what do you plan to do to prevent a let down this year?
Tony Dungy: In '97, when we won it and came back and got ready for the '98 season, we really did not have a lot of players that had come off a successful season. We had a lot of people that had come off a lot of poor seasons, and you always had that motivation that next year has got to be our year, next year has got to be better. I think we're fortunate now that we have quite a few veterans that were on that '97-'98 team that understand what it takes to come off a good season and continue to do well. I think we're going to see that we are maybe a little more focused than we were in the '98 camp. We'll know how difficult it is when people are shooting at you and you're not shooting at other people.
Tim from Punta Gorda: Are you getting some much-needed rest?
Tony Dungy: Tim, I'm actually not right now! It was a little difficult for us. We went farther along than we ever had, then we went to the Pro Bowl. We didn't get back from the Pro Bowl until February 5th, and we took a week's vacation. So it was about the 15th of February when we started what we consider our offseason. The previous year, we started about the 15th of January, so we're about a month behind. Right now, we've got to get to the draft, try to catch up there, then once we get to the draft, we'll be able to take a little bit of a vacation.
Ron from Tampa, Florida: What do you think is the greatest asset you bring to this team? Most of us fans have opinions, but I'd like to know what you try the most to bring to the table.
Tony Dungy: Wow…I'm not really sure. I think the biggest thing I try to bring to this team is consistency. We're going to do things the same way all the time. We're going to set a high standard and we're going to try to do things the right way. I think the consistency and maybe just the steadiness is probably the best aspect that I can bring.
Moderator: Coach, that's the last question. On behalf of Buccaneers.com users, thank you for spending time with us.
Tony Dungy: Thank you. I've enjoyed it and hope we can do it again.