Thursday, November 13th, 2014


Tues., Nov. 11

3:30 p.m. ET

CHRIS MCCLOSKEY:  We’ll begin with opening remarks from each of our guest speakers.

TONY DUNGY:  Thank you, Chris.  It does feel like old times now.  Both of these teams in first place in their division and playing a November game.  It seems like when Rodney and I were there, it was always this way.

And I used to tell our teams, “Hey, we know what’s at stake here; we’re going to win our division; they’re going to win their division.  We’re going to play these guys and this regular season game is probably going to determine where the playoff game is going to be played.”

So you know there’s a lot at stake.  They’re fun times, and I would expect the game to be very similar to the games that we used to have.  Very hard‑fought, close and exciting.

RODNEY HARRISON:  And I just have to echo pretty much what Coach just touched on.  But the one interesting thing that Coach and I, we talked about, this game is completely different from the game they played last year in terms of no Reggie Wayne, Rob Gronkowski wasn’t there, Dwayne Allen wasn’t there.  A bunch of new guys on the team.

Obviously you still have Tom Brady who is playing lights out, the offensive line has improved immensely.  They’ve won five straight.  Indianapolis Colts they have the No. 1 offense in the league.

It should be exciting to see how Andrew Luck, who is on the verge of being an elite quarterback, how he matches up with Tom Brady.  It should be really fun to watch.


Tony, I’m in Indy this week, and obviously there’s been a lot of comparisons about Peyton and Andrew Luck especially in terms of the numbers they’ve been putting up.  How would you say that Andrew, what he can do and his repertoire varies from Payton’s in what it allows the Colts to do that maybe they weren’t doing before?

TONY DUNGY:  They are similar numbers.  But it is a different way of doing it.  Andrew is obviously more athletic and does some things out of the pocket, a little more runs and puts more pressure on the defense that way.  For the most part, when Peyton was there, especially early in his career, he had Edgerrin James and had a huge running game.

The Colts have not had that type of running game with Andrew.  It is a little different, but I think the thing that is similar is the fact that both of those players are so smart and they’re able to do a lot of different things, use a lot of different players, look for mismatches, that part is very similar. The difference being Andrew probably making more improvised plays than Peyton did.


Tony, this isn’t about this week’s game necessarily.  And I ask this knowing full well your relationship with him.  But if you were casting a Coach of the Year ballot right now where would Jim Caldwell fall on that.  And Rodney, could you weigh in on the job that Jim’s done with the Lions this year?

TONY DUNGY:  There’s a bunch of coaches that have done a great job.  I look at Coach Belichick and what he’s done from those first four weeks to now and that’s been impressive.  Bruce Arians obviously going through a lot of injuries there in Arizona.

But what Jim Caldwell has done, I think, in Detroit, is change the mindset.  Took a very talented group of guys who played well in spurts but never played well in the critical situations.  Now they believe in what they’re doing.  They’re playing with a lot of composure, and I think more than anything, has changed the mental approach in that locker room.  And that’s hard to do.

And so I would have to give Jim a lot of credit.  There was no question in my mind he would do that.  And those players would respond to him.  But he has done a fantastic job the first half of the year.

RODNEY HARRISON:  I would have to agree with Coach.  I think Jim Caldwell, you look at one guy in particular, and we talked about him last week, and Ndamukong Suh, who was really a very talented, explosive player but at times was very undisciplined and his entire team was very undisciplined.

You never knew what was going to happen.  Anything good in the last waning moments of the game.  And just to see the composure in which they’re playing with, the belief and just the mindset like Coach talked about, it’s just completely different.

I mean, what Jim Caldwell has brought is a calming influence, and it just proves right there, along with Coach Dungy you don’t have to be a yeller or screamer, don’t have to throw chairs across the locker room in order to get the respect and to get the attention of your team.

And I think he’s done a wonderful job.  I think that’s one guy that definitely should be in consideration as well as Bruce Arians.


Question about Jim Caldwell.  What are you seeing from him with the Lions that’s familiar to you with your time with him on the Colts?  And if you could follow up on that, if you both could, were you surprised that it took this long for him to get another head coaching job after the Colts let him go?

TONY DUNGY:  I’ll answer that one first.  I was a little bit surprised when you go to the Super Bowl and have that type of success and had the success that we had in Indianapolis.  You would think it would come a little quicker.

But Jim hasn’t done anything that surprised me.  He has preached what he believes in.  And we did the same thing when we got to Indianapolis.  Don’t turn the ball over.  They’ve cut their turnovers way down.  He’s not only helped Matthew Stafford but everybody else who handles the ball understand how important it is not to turn it over.

They’ve cut their penalties down.  Still probably not at a point that he wants it.  And they’re playing in the two‑minute situations well, defensively and offensively.  The one thing he probably hasn’t gotten straighten around well enough is the field goal kicker.

But other than that, it’s just fundamental football.  And it’s not anything that is rocket science.  And Rodney and I sit there and we talk about it every week in the studio.  Situational football, playing smart, when the pressure’s on.  Those are teams that win championships.  And I know that’s what Jim believes in.

RODNEY HARRISON:  Looking at Matthew Stafford, he’s without Calvin Johnson, and what he’s been able to do with the influence of Jim Caldwell, making Golden Tate look like if he’s on the verge of making a Pro Bowl, that type of receiver without Calvin Johnson, they’ve had multiple injuries to all three of their tight ends.

Reggie Bush, he’s been injured.  And to still keep that continuity and not make excuses, I mean, this is a different Detroit Lions team and you have to credit the head coach because we always knew they were a talented team.  We look across the board and they’ve got big, fast, strong guys but they could never put it together.

So you don’t wake up one day and all of a sudden it works.  It takes a coach to come in there and to sometimes change the culture and some guys that have been there, maybe they don’t like it.  But it’s something that Jim Caldwell has done.  He’s put his imprint in there and it’s worked out tremendous.

And I think a lot of guys in that locker room respect him, and I don’t think they respected their coach for several years dating back to a few, three, four years ago.


Turnovers, especially interceptions, have played a key role when the Patriots played the Colts in recent years.  What’s the more intriguing matchup, do you think, is it Revis and Browner against Luck or the Colts’ secondary against Brady?

RODNEY HARRISON:  I would have to say, to be honest with you, it’s Ron Gronkowski.  Will the Colts make an effort to take him away, and maybe not even in the field.  Maybe he catches out routes and short intermediate routes but in the red zone.  That’s one thing I’ve yet to see a defensive coordinator do.

And like Coach said, we talk about it each and every week, and it just amazes me that we get the best tight end in the league.  He’s matched up time and time again on a safety or a linebacker or a defensive end out wide.

And it’s just amazing to me.  Now, Revis, I think maybe he matches up with T.Y. Hilton.  Maybe Browner matches up with Reggie Wayne, but the Patriots have done a pretty good job of playing some zone coverage as well as playing some man coverage.

Now they have the two corners that can match up.  They have those two big physical guys but at the same time you can’t play man coverage the entire time because it wears your secondary out.

So I think Belichick, he has some guys that are starting to step up in terms of pass rush.  He has a lot of confidence in his corner backs.  Now they’re doing a lot more blitzing on defense compared to what they’ve done in the past.

TONY DUNGY:  As far as the question on the turnovers, I think with both of these quarterbacks, it’s going to come down to pass rush.  I don’t think the secondary is going to be the people that create turnovers.  These quarterbacks are too accurate.  They’re too smart.  They’re not going to throw into covered guys.

But the games that have featured interceptions have usually featured one team rushing the other quarterback really well.  And I would like to pick up on Rodney’s point.  I think when Indy has the ball, Bill Belichick is so good at taking away your best threat, and I think they’ll do some things probably with Revis on Hilton.  They’ll try to take away Reggie Wayne.

Last year they didn’t have Dwayne Allen, and I think that could be the key.  Fleener and Allen, how well they’re going to play, because I think they’re the guys that are going to get the opportunities.


Previously this matchup was labeled as Brady versus Manning, do you consider this Sunday night rivalry game with home field in play or does this game feel like the games you two used to take part in?

RODNEY HARRISON:  For me, anytime I played in Indianapolis, I mean, they have such great fans.  And that place is a very difficult place to win at.

And Belichick, he’s treating this like it’s a playoff game because it’s a very difficult place.  They play with a different speed when they’re on that turf, and it’s just something about the fans and just how excited they get when they’re playing against Belichick and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  So I guarantee you, I wanted to have a conversation with Bill, and he declined to have a conversation with me.

So I know how important this game is, because he’s really focused on this game.  So I think he approaches it like it’s a playoff game.

TONY DUNGY:  Those games, when Rodney and I were there, they were always billed as Brady versus Manning, but I promise you in their locker room and our locker room nobody was thinking about, “oh, we’ve got to help Tom win or help Peyton win.”  It was all about home field advantage and we’ve got to win this game so when we play in January the game will be at home rather than on the road. And I know Rodney that’s the same thing guys you were thinking.

RODNEY HARRISON:  Yeah, all the time and coaching ‑‑ that’s why when they played against Denver, that win was so critical.  And I know they were excited.  You saw the excitement in the postgame conference with Brady and some other guys.

But Bill, you knew Bill, not just from a confidence standpoint for the team, but he knew that in January, once the playoffs start, if he can get that one game up on the Denver Broncos, it’s such a big difference going out to Denver playing and trying to win an AFC championship game as opposed to doing it at home. So that was a big victory, and that’s what he’s looking at this week with the Colts.

TONY DUNGY:  Exactly the same thing here, because Colts have three losses.  If they win this game, both teams will have three losses.  The Colts will have the head‑to‑head tie breaker.  So Patriots have to be feeling, hey, if we win this game, we’re not going to go to Indy again this year.  That’s the way you’re looking at it.


Tony.  Tony, I was wondering if you could talk about Dan Rooney’s impact on creating more opportunities for minorities and head coaching positions and general manager positions, and Rodney was wondering what your take is on the Steelers is.  They have some good wins, but still seem to lose to teams that they should beat?

TONY DUNGY:  I’ll go first and talk about Dan Rooney.  I think it goes way back to those four Super Bowls early on.  Dan Rooney had lunch with a guy by the name of Bill Nunn, a sports reporter for the African‑American newspaper in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Courier.  He sat down with Bill and said you’ve been critical of us, written a lot of negative things, why don’t you come to work for us and help us out.

He hired Bill Nunn and that kind of put together that team with a lot of those small school guys, historically black college players coming there early on and setting the tone.  And that’s the way Dan always thought.

So from that standpoint, whether it’s players, front office, what’s going on in the National Football League, Dan wants the league to be the best it could be.  And that’s opportunity for everybody.

They gave me my first coordinator’s job, I was 28 years old.  And they didn’t have to do that, but that’s the way Dan thought.  That’s the way Coach Noll thought, the best people for the job, let’s get it done and let’s see if we can win.

And he’s always been that way.  I think he’s done some special things for the league and the National Football League in general.  So, yeah, I think you have to give him a lot of credit.

RODNEY HARRISON:  You talk about the Steelers, and obviously their roster has changed.  A lot of leadership has gone, since guys have retired and moved on to different teams.

And you still have Dan and Troy Polamalu and a couple other guys Brett Keisel, but the majority of their guys are new guys.

A lot of times when you have young guys and lose a lot of that leadership, young guys tend not to understand the importance of being consistent and taking one game, understanding that you beat the Colts 51‑34 and being able to take that, throw that in the trash and come right back and mentally prepare yourself to be able to play week in, week out.

And with that type of offense that they run, they’re going to put up a lot of big numbers, but they’re also going to ‑‑ they’re going to make mistakes and turn the ball over and do such things.

We’ve seen that from Ben a long time.  He’s an excellent quarterback and he goes about things a different way.  You have to be able to take the highs and the lows and that’s one of the things I see when I look at the Steelers.  They’ve got some young guys back there, and they’ve had some injuries.  So you’re going to see some inconsistent play.  But as far as what they’ve done, they beat the Steelers.  They beat some pretty good teams.

They beat the Colts.  They beat the Ravens and obviously they lost to the Buccaneers and the Jets, so when you’re playing you don’t want to lose to those type of teams.

But I do believe the Steelers and Mike Tomlin will do a great job of getting them back on track, get them focused and they should be fine once they get some of their key guys back from the injured list.


You guys touched on it a little bit earlier, I’m going to ask you to possibly use your crystal ball and go one step further.  Outside of Sunday, both of these clubs have pretty user friendly schedule to wrap up the season.  Do you guys think that either or both clubs have a chance of winning out the rest of the season, or if they are going to lose a game, who would you say is their biggest challenge?

TONY DUNGY:  They both have a chance to win out, because of Luck and Brady, that every game you’re in you have a chance to win because of those guys.  And I know that’s how I always felt when I was coaching against the Patriots.  If we didn’t beat them, we had to assume they were going to win the rest of their games and it would be tough to catch. And I know that’s how I always felt when I was coaching against the Patriots.  If we didn’t beat them, we had to assume they were going to win the rest of their games and it would be tough to catch them in the standings.

RODNEY HARRISON:  I look at the Patriots’ schedule and I think the next few weeks are probably ‑‑ the next month is very difficult.  They’ve got the Colts, the Lions, the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers.  And they have to travel to Green Bay and the Chargers.  Those are two games that they could lose.

I’m not saying they will, but those are two games they definitely could lose.  Even with the San Diego Chargers not playing up to their standards right now.  But whenever you travel on the West Coast, it proves ‑‑ it’s very difficult to win those type of games.

But the one thing about Belichick is he’s such a good coach as far as keeping the guys focused on one game at a time.  And around the league maybe that’s a cliché, but not in that locker room, because that’s something that he preaches.  Everyone has basically bought into that, that’s what all the other coaches preach.  They don’t look ahead.  They don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, they focus on one game at a time.

And when I played there, he had me brainwashed into thinking that.  I never thought about playoff scenarios or anything like that, I always focused on one game at a time and I’m sure he’s doing the same thing with those guys in that locker room.


Rob Gronkowski has been so good the last five weeks.  Everybody knows he’s going to be the focal point of the offense and he still puts up huge numbers.  Tony, as a former defensive guy, how would you go about defending him and maybe limiting his impact on the game?

TONY DUNGY:  It’s really difficult.  You have to try to get some hands on him and jam him and knock him off his routes.  But he can be a lot of different places.  And that’s part of the problem.  They’re lining him out wide.  They’re putting him in motion some, lines up on the right and left.  He catches the ball over the middle and inside.

He catches deep corner routes and outside routes.  So it’s not easy.  But you’re right, I think he has shown how valuable he is to this team, when he wasn’t in the lineup, when they had him kind of on a pitch count, the offense was struggling.  Since he’s come back full go, they have really been difficult to stop, and he’s allowing the other guys all of a sudden Brandon LaFell is playing great and Edelman has been consistent all year, but he’s getting more one‑on‑one opportunities.  So he not only makes those plays himself but he helps the other guys.


Rodney, I know you follow the team pretty closely.  You know how seriously Rob was injured last year.  Did you ever think he’d be able to come back and be the old Gronk this quickly?

RODNEY HARRISON:  No, and I’ll tell you, that’s been something that’s really impressed me because I’ve gone through the same injury and it took me two years to really feel comfortable.

Now you see him ‑‑ I mean, he’s not just lining up as a tight end, like coach said, he’s lining out as a wide receiver and across the middle, he’s not afraid to go across the middle.

A lot of times I was afraid with guys falling around my knee.  I’m protecting my knee.  But you don’t see that with Rob.  No sense of hesitancy.  Just out there playing football.  He looks so comfortable.  And one thing, too, I notice about Rob is just his football maturity.  He’s playing smarter, the way he’s running his routes.

Before he solely just depended on athleticism.  Now he’s learning the game of football.  He knows how to set guys up in his route run and he’s pushing off and he’s being a good veteran player.  And that’s what you expect.  He’s getting better.  And he’s learning how to play football and it’s scary, because a lot of football to be played.


One more Gronk question, Rodney, how would you cover Gronk?

TONY DUNGY:  I want to hear this.

RODNEY HARRISON:  You know, it really wouldn’t be any different than what I did with Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and all the guys that, Shannon Sharpe, all the great guys I had to cover throughout my career.  I would just get up and jam them and press them.

But I was 220, 225 pounds.  I could run with most of those tight ends.  And it was just something that I embraced.  I loved going against those tight ends and even back when I first came in the league, when Tony Gonzalez came to the league they used him as a tight end but also used him out wide like they do with Jimmy Graham and the rest of the guys.  It was pretty scary get a guy 6’5″, 6’6″, can run, jump, do all those different things but it comes down to being able to match up.

You get guys like Earl Thomas, he’s a terrific young safety, but he’s 5’9″ and he can’t match up with these big 6’5″ and 6’4″ guys.

So that’s why I still place a premium on safeties that can go up there and match up.  And unfortunately, these guys can play, but you don’t see a lot of safeties being able to cover the wide receivers that’s why they struggle so much.


Would you rate Gronk as a better tight end than any of those other guys?  As far as a pass catcher?

RODNEY HARRISON:  I still really like Jimmy Graham.  I think Jimmy Graham is ultimately probably the most difficult matchup, because we’re looking at him with a hurt shoulder.  And that’s been hobbled ‑‑ basically hobbled him for the last month of the season.

If you look at a healthy Jimmy Graham.  A healthy Jimmy Graham is a pretty good football player.  But Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas I think those three guys could be grouped right in there.  But Rob Gronkowski is having a MVP‑type season.