clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Role of the Head Coach

There is a fascinating debate happening over at Stampede Blue on the subject of Tony Dungy's remarks for the Indiana Family Institute.  At this speech, Tony reconfirmed his political and religious alignment with the institute and their goal of enacting Indiana Senate Joint Resolution No. 7 which defines marriage as one between a man and a woman.  This organization claims...

The enemies of SJR 7 are far more dangerous than the media and even most Christians realize. They not only want to destroy marriage and create a society free from any and all sexual boundaries, they will spare no effort to attain their ultimate goal of silencing all those who oppose them.
 Questions were raised about the role of Tony Dungy in attending such a conference.  Does his participation imply that the Colts agree with the views of this organization?  The front page of their website shows Tony, in Colts colors, and clearly connects him to the group as more than a mere member.  

However you may feel about this issue, the interesting part of the discussion emerged when readers questioned the role of the Head Coach in representing themselves and the team in such heady political matters.

The question I have is fairly straightforward, what role do you think the Head Coach holds in relation to the organizations interests.  There are 1,908 news reports in the last 7 days about Tony's speech, and I'm fairly certain that none of them consider the fact that he is the leading figure of a largely apolitical organization.  Does the Head Coach have to sacrifice their views on political issues while coaching in order to serve their organizations interests?

I'm not terribly sure of the amount of interest in the NFL by homosexuals.  I also have nary a clue about the percentage of Colts fans who consider themselves homosexual.  I do know, however that there is no owner in the league that would want any member of their organization to do anything that would discourage fans from buying tickets and merchandise due to the remarks by one of their employees.

It is my opinion that the Head Coach, while in control of a vast amount of resources and public spotlight has a responsibility to use that power appropriately.  Namely, that power should go to the enhancement of their team.  The decision to go public as the Head Coach of the Colts and entertain support of a controversial issue undermines the relationship of the Colts with their fans.  Even if support of the team by homosexuals is low, we live in a divided country with many fans on both sides of the debate.  I by no means expect Head Coaches to live in a political vacuum, but their role in shaping public debate on difficult issues should be minimal.

NFL Coaches and players, in my opinion, represent an idea.  That idea is shaped and managed by the front office and ownership of their respective teams.  Coaches are there to win games and manage athletes competing in the most glorious of team sports, for they are 32 giants, even among coaches.  Certainly a NFL Head Coach is expected to pour over game film, study opponents, encourage and prod players to their best, and other obvious tasks.  They are also expected to be leading character figures that represent the best of sportsmen.  The Arizona Cardinals fired an assistant coach for soliciting a prostitute and set an example for coach conduct that perhaps the Detroit Lions should have considered.  

What I'm getting at here is that the public role of Head Coaches should be selfless toward their team.  I know there are countless examples of Coaches undermining their team for more money (but in capitalism, greed is still considered good), but above all it is the league and the game that remains protected.  I think that Tony's remarks were not only inappropriate because of the subject, I think Tony  made a miscalculated political decision that can politicize a relatively apolitical sport.  

What happens when Players and Coaches begin to decide against teams because of their political views?  Are we heading toward a world of "Red State and Blue State" teams?  In such a divided time, does everything become politically motivated?  

Obviously, this is more of a thought piece than a serious intellectual work.  I know the readership here say the least, but I'd be very curious to understand where other folks see the Head Coach's role in society and their organization.  I don't mean this discussion as a question of the merits of Tony's speech or other marriage issues, rather the larger question of Head Coaches.

I look forward to your comments!