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When did the Dungy Turnaround really happen?

You will find different checkmarks on calanders when you ask people to put down a time when the Bucs really changed things around under Tony Dungy. You'll get everything from the date he was hired, to the day we drafted Sapp and Brooks. Most people forget the steps along the way and the terrible start to 1996 that forged the season that started it all. But a little known fact about two starters who really messed up and embarrassed the coach, may have been the catalyst that started it all.

In this week of reflection as we wear the uniform of the 1976 team, celebrate the 1979 team, we also have to think about the last team to wear Orange, the 1996 team, Dungy's first Bucs squad. 

There is a fantastic similarity to Dungy's message and Coach Raheem Morris'. Dungy refused to let his team make excuses. In fact, in his book "Quiet Strength", he lists the excuses he felt his team could come up with..


  • We have a new coaching staff
  • We have to learn a new offensive and defensive system
  • We have sub-par facilities
  • We have a young quarterback
  • We never get the benefit of the doubt from officials
  • We have distractions over a stadium, and we may move cities
  • We never win in the cold


I scratched out the ones that dont apply in 2009, but amazing how many do huh?

Instead, Dungy told his team they had these things expected of them...


  • Be a pro
  • Act like a champion
  • Respond to adversity; dont react
  • Be ON TIME; Being late means its not important or you cant be relied upon
  • Execute; Do what your supposed to do when your supposed to do it, all of the time, not almost, ALL THE WAY.
  • Take ownership
It is this similarity that will allow the new Bucs to turn into winners like their predecessors did. But this 2009 team is not like the 1996 team, which had drafted talent for three years. The '09 team is more like the 93 team, devoid of talent as rebuilding takes place. Over the next few years, the Warren Sapps, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstotts will be added, and early indication show the members who assembled the 2009 draft class have improved upon previous models. Over the last few years, many picks were not able to even contribute, where as this years draft class features many on the field, and injury explaining a little bit more too. 
An example of not making excuses was done during training camp in 1996, Dungy woke the entire team at 5am and had them get on a BUS to DRIVE to Jacksonville instead of fly, got there, and immediately went to practicing vs the Jags. As expected, the Bucs were a mess. They were beaten physically AND mentally. 
They got better by the afternoon.
Dungy told them he liked the improvement, but felt they could do better. The team couldnt believe it..They thought they did well..under the circumstances!
Dungy explained, like Morris is preaching now.. You cant let circumstances matter...
No Excuses, No Explanations.
Over the years, veterans on that team during crunch time would say "Its time for a 5 O'Clock bus ride"!!

The Bucs were not mentally tough in the beginning of 1996. They let mental errors take a 13-3 half time deficit to a 24-3 one in less than a few minutes. Bucs lost the opener big. They went 0-6, and 1-8. Things did not look good. Then an incident happened that, In my opinion, is what turned the whole thing around.
Errict Rhett was late to a personal appearance. He was 30 minutes late for an autograph session at a car dealership. But the kicker, was on the same day Reagan Upshaw completely missed a visit to a 4th grade class. Making matters worse, this was the SECOND time he did a no show! Dungy received a letter that was painful for him to read. The teacher had explained Upshaws absense to the classroom of 4th graders, as a misunderstanding. Now he failed to show up again. Reading about the classes disapointment at the second no show, Tony Dungy in his own words..."was beside myself".

He started the Wednesday morning team meeting by telling his players they were not going to talk about football. 
At all.
Instead he told everyone about the incidents, about Rhett and Upshaw.." I dont care about the Raiders, and I'm not going to talk about the Raiders. We need to focus on US, on changing our own attitudes and accountability. Obviously, your word isnt important to you if it doesnt involve the game of football. You don't seem to think being accountable off the field is important. But as far as I'm concerned, we are NEVER going to win consistently until you all get rid of that attitude. The quicker you figure it out, the better" 
Dungy told the team that Rhett and Upshaw were not the disease, "but merely the symptoms of a bigger problem. Too many of our guys have the same attitude- they were unwilling to give 100% if they didn't personally think it was important".
Champions he told them, know its ALL important.
The Bucs tied the Raiders on a Dilfer to Alstott TD with 7 minutes left in the game, but the Raiders got down in easy FG range. Thats when Raiders kicker Cole Ford missed a 28 yard FG and gave the Bucs life and took the game into overtime, where the Bucs won it  with only 3:04 left in Overtime. 
It wasnt a sudden change in play, in fact despite being 1-8, the Bucs had held opponents to 13 points and under for 4 straight games; so the change had already started to take place on the defense. They just needed to get over the hump of learning how to win. The 2009 Bucs havent gotten to either of these steps because the future Bucs team has not been put together yet. 
Most people like to put the time of the turn around as the very next game, at San Diego. Why?
Because the Bucs couldnt win on the west coast, and they went down 0-14 to the Chargers in the first quarter, yet never quit. they fought back and won the game, on the west coast. They overcame one of those "Bucs cant win..." glass ceilings the team put over its head over the years. 
These are some of the telling signs to look for when were figuring out if the Bucs have turned around yet. 
Its way to early for this level of comparison, again, this team is more like the 93 version where the losses were like this...
Look familiar? The 1993 team had a little more stability though, as this 2009 team is not really fully comparable to another year's team because we have never fully rebuilt like this before. 
The 1993 squad did have one special moment. In game 15, on the road, the 1993 Bucs upset the Denver Broncos IN Mile High Stadium, with John Elway, and the Broncos hadnt clinched anything. It was probably the biggest upset in Bucs history. 

When you watch the movie, take a look at Sam Wyche. He did that quick shake and off the field when he lost, but when he won, he couldn't find enough people to shake hands. Just seems wierd to me.
The Touchdown in Denver was Dave Moore's first NFL touchdown, and look at how Craig Erickson got out of a sack to make that play. 
The San Diego game, John Lynch was coming home..he lived in San Diego.