Nice Guys Finish...First?
In the movies, the nice guy saves the day and gets the girl. At least, that is the basic idea.
Once upon a time, a coach of great character named Tony Dungy took a horrible Tampa Bay Buccaneers team and molded them into contenders. From 1996 to 2001, Dungy led the Buccaneers to the playoffs in four of his six seasons.
But success is eventually measured in postseason victories. During his tenure, Dungy’s teams finished with a disappointing 2-4 record in the playoffs and never reached the Super Bowl. He was ultimately replaced in 2002 by Jon Gruden, who immediately won a Super Bowl with Dungy’s team. The perception was that Dungy was "too nice" to get his team over the hump.
Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith finds himself in a similar situation. In his five years in Atlanta, the Falcons have rebounded from a chaotic franchise to being one of the best organizations in the NFL. Smith’s 56-24 regular season record is only slighted by a 1-4 playoff outcome.
Like Dungy, Smith is a world class individual who exudes friendliness with the media and an air of constant confidence. He is easy to ask questions to and always gives quality answers. While Smith is a focused field general on game days, his fiery demeanor is often overshadowed by the perception that he is just too nice to get it done. When you are 1-4 in the playoffs, people tend to try and search entirely too hard for the reason why.
If the Falcons were to find themselves losing early in the playoffs in 2013, could the coach who has led the team to the longest run of success in franchise history be in trouble? Only the emotions of the moment will eventually answer that question. For today, the thought seems absurd.
Tony Dungy went on to success in Indianapolis and ultimately won a Super Bowl in 2006 with Peyton Manning at quarterback. The perception that Dungy was too nice gave way to the recognition that he is a Super Bowl-winning coach. Mike Smith aims for the same recognition in 2013.