{Wed, 24 January, 2007}   Blackenheimer becomes Black Vermeil?

One foe vanquished… With the Colts’s stunning victory over their Masshole nemesis from Foxboro, not only has Peyton Manning taken a step toward equalization of his position in the NFL pecking order in comparison to “The Matinee Idol”, but Tony Dungy is sixty-minutes short of elevating his coaching resume from merely regular-season great (see Mora, Jim, previous coach of Indianapolis) to champion (see Holmgren, Mike). It was neither of those “ghosts”, from retirement or Seattle, that Dungy was chasing, though. Rather, it was a face he knows well, from being on the opposite sideline in the NFC Championship before the last great Super Bowl: St. Louis-Tennessee.

That is correct: Tony Dungy is chasing Dick Vermeil.

 When Vermeil emerged from self-imposed exile as ABC colour-man for West Coast NCAA matches in ’97 & with a contract from that non pareil seductress Georgia Frontiere, he had a reputation as a good coach, a disciplinarian, & the last man to do anything of note with Philadelphia’s NFL entrant. (It’s a pity how little Buddy Ryan actually got out of his defensive monster (Jerome Brown, Reggie, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner) & the should-have-been-as-great-as-Montana-to-Rice tandem of Cunningham & Fred Barnett. But that’s neither here, nor there.) What Vermeil lacked, though, was a championship. He had a Rose Bowl crown, sure, & an NFC championship, but not the ring that counts.

Thus, the return. But even older & more grounded, the players’s coach that he would not, could not deign to be twenty years prior, he could not get the Rams over the hump that had persisted since Dickerson had been traded to Indianapolis (& even those teams weren’t exceptional). ’99, the third year of Coach Vermeil v2.0, proved magic, though. Already armed with Faulk, Isaac Bruce, & Torry Holt, new hire coordinator Mike Martz implemented his pass-first offense under the command of Spaceman Warner. The rest of the story, we know.

Now, look across that TWA Dome field, at the ’99 NFC Championship. Across from Vermeil, stood Dungy. He was in his fourth season in Tampa, after being hired in ’96 from the Minnesota Vikings staff (where he was defensive coordinator) to replace the inimitable Sam Wyche, & there he was, Tampa at its highest since season three under John McKay, one game from the Super Bowl.

They didn’t make it. & two years later, Dungy was out, only to resurface in Indiana within the month.

Sure enough, too, another conference championship beckoned, ’04 against the Patriots, & again, the Dungy-helmed side lost.

0-2. Entering Schottenheimertowne.

With Sunday’s epic victory at the RCA Dome over those same Patriots, of course, that road into Marty’s ignominy has rerouted onto an I-95 bypass. At the end of that, too, Dolphins Stadium, & the potential for history. More importantly, to re-write his own story. With victory, Dungy will have leapfrogged not only Mora the Elder & Schottenheimer, but Dan Reeves as well. He will join Holmgren & Ditka as Super Bowl WINNING coaches, & of course Vermeil, his adversary from seven years ago, who was only there for his own redemption.

To think: another even-tempered players’s coach winning a title with a “pass-wacky” scheme & marginal defense. Sometimes, the soft shades display better on the canvas than the crimsons & hunters. (As in green, that.) Sometimes, Jon Gruden is good for that final push, but to perpetuate the success one’ll need to find something else.

Indianapolis has, presumptively, in moving from Mora to Dungy. Kudos, to Bill Polian, to Peyton Manning, & largest of all, to Tony Dungy.

Now, my Super Bowl XLI projected final score:

Black Vermeil 27
Dude named Lovie? 13


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