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Dungy-Gruden: a swap made in TV heaven

By JOHN ROMANO
Published January 19, 2005


Obviously, they've been asleep at NBC. That goes for CBS, too. And heaven knows how the programmers at Fox missed this one.

There is a television series begging to be made. A reality show like none other. Better competition than The Apprentice, more drama than Fear Factor and enough bleeps to make Ozzy blush.

We're talking ratings, we're talking riches.

We're talking Coach Swap.

Sort of like Wife Swap, except everyone has a full set of teeth and the homes don't require a license plate.

Just ponder this for a series pilot:

We get Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy to switch teams.

Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

Think of the giggles. Think of the tears. Think of the felons who will line up for tryouts with the Colts.

I know what you're going to say. The teams will never go for it. Too many careers at stake, too much money potentially lost.

Don't you believe it. This swap would not only be entertaining, it also makes perfect business sense.

If you're the Colts, don't you feel like your team has hit a plateau? That after all those postseasons with no Super Bowl, maybe a spark is needed?

You may recall another team in a similar situation. The Buccaneers, after 2001, had made the playoffs in four of five seasons. Just like the Colts. They could not get past the same team in the postseason. Just like the Colts.

The Bucs had superstars and radio shows, division titles and sellouts. They had the universally respected Dungy at the helm. Just like the Colts.

You see, that's how the idea came to me. I was listening to the familiar calm of Dungy's voice on Sunday in New England and remembered how aggravating it could sound in the aftermath of another playoff debacle.

Dungy might lose a playoff game, but never his cool. Always polite. Always respectful. Always coming up a wee bit short.

That's where Gruden comes in. If Dungy is to be an exasperated Ward Cleaver in our series, than Gruden is Eddie Haskell. Always stealing the show, getting the big laughs, then wearing out his welcome.

Can you picture it? Indianapolis has an entire room of players who have never pounded the rock or gone to the woodshed. There would be a whole new set of tryouts for Darrell Russell, Todd Steussie and, if he can make bail, Andre Rison. I think Gruden may even have worked at a Hooters in South Bend, Ind.

You do know, Gruden remains the only head coach in history to switch teams and win a Super Bowl in his first season. He's also the only coach to follow a Super Bowl victory with consecutive losing seasons.

That's what makes this show so appealing. Everyone wins. The Colts could get their Super Bowl, and the Bucs might get back on solid ground.

Because Dungy is exactly what Tampa Bay needs today. He is firm. He is consistent. He is boring as heck, but wouldn't that be nice for a change?

When Dungy first hit these parts, the Bucs were the most pathetic franchise in the NFL. Within two seasons, he had them in the playoffs and beginning a six-year run as the most consistent winners in the league.

Say what you like about him flubbing the punch line; no one is better than Dungy when it comes to setting up the story. He has averaged slightly more than 10 wins since 1997, and no other coach in the NFL can say that.

Besides, who wouldn't tune in to see Dungy cutting food on Bryan and Joel's plates again at the dinner table?

I'm telling you, the possibilities are endless. Not just for this show, but others in the genre. For instance, how about Owner Swap?

George Steinbrenner gets the Devil Rays and just enough money for a $35-million payroll. Come to think of it, that might even spin off into a Homicide episode. Meanwhile, Vince Naimoli takes over in the Bronx, where he immediately slashes the payroll and tears down Monument Park to put in a cigar bar.

Trust me, this is the wave of the future, and the sports world had better get on board. Ozzy Osbourne saw it. He went from being a washed-up, scary-haired rock n' roller to a reality TV star. Donald Trump saw it. He went from being a washed-up, scary-haired business tycoon to a reality TV star.

Nomar and Mia could replace Nick and Jessica as the Newlyweds. Chuck LaMar could be the host of a new Survivor series. Chris Berman could star as My Big Fat Obnoxious Broadcaster (although, I suppose, he already does).

Even if the Dungy-Gruden swap didn't work out as planned, it wouldn't be a complete disaster. After one season, they would both get to go back home.

And then we could swap Bruce Allen for Rich McKay.

[Last modified January 19, 2005, 00:33:17]


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