With Joe Gibbs hanging up his whistle last week and Tony Dungy contemplating doing the same this week, let's pay tribute to the type of coach both men represent - the Classy, Quiet Coach.
The Classy, Quiet Coach probably will never get the respect he deserves. Oh, we pay lip service to him. We write columns about him and say things, "I'd like my son to play for him," but then our attention wanes, and we fall in love all over again with a Bill Parcells or a Bill Belichick, someone who is ruthless and someone who screams, demoralizes his players and chews them up and throws them in a ditch when they're all used up. Sports are so closely associated with our expectations and perceptions of manhood in this country that we want the guys in headsets or with clipboards to be gruff, angry, cold men.
Bob Knight keeps doing crazy things, and we keep embracing him. Belichick would kidnap the opposing quarterback's dog if it gave his team an advantage on Sunday, and we shrug our shoulders and say, "Whatever it takes."
But Dungy and Gibbs understood that you don't have to use fear and intimidation to motivate people. They spoke softly, asked for excellence and gave hugs. They didn't try to embarrass, bully or belittle. They understood that sometimes respecting your players is more than enough.
Parcells and Belichick: May they one day be carved in granite.
But Gibbs and Dungy: May they feel welcome at my house for dinner anytime.