Hall of Fame coaching finalist and NBC Football Night in America analyst Tony Dungy made major waves on Monday with comments to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune regarding Rams defensive end Michael Sam.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy told Kaufman. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth . . . things will happen.’’
On Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show, Kaufman provided context and further insight regarding the remarks.
“I think what he was trying to say, and this is what’s going to make it very difficult in terms of an additional response, because it’s sensitive,” Kaufman said. “Dan, this is not Sammy Watkins. This is Michael Sam. And by that I mean, by definition, a seventh-round draft pick is marginal. The guy’s marginal. May make the roster, may not make the roster. Nobody’s gonna be surprised if any seventh-round pick doesn’t make the roster.
“So I think it’s almost like he’s not worth the trouble,” Kaufman said of Sam. “Now, you can’t say that, that’s a very crude way to put it. And Tony won’t put it like that. But I think you’ve got to factor in the fact that [Sam] almost went undrafted, and there’s no question that the Oprah Network and TMZ, they’re gonna be at Rams Park, and they’re not gonna be there to check on Aaron Donald’s progress at nose tackle. And you know that. They’re gonna be there for a specific purpose . . . . He put his coaching hat on and not as an analyst for NBC in answering the question and as a coach, a marginal prospect weighed against the distraction, and that’s why he said what I said. That’s what I think he meant.”
Eventually, we’ll hear more about what Dungy meant. He’s scheduled to join Dan’s show later in the week. Until then, the reaction to the comments will continue.
“I’m a little surprised about what he said,” Kaufman said of Dungy. “I was surprised at the time. I’m surprised now. Just because of his reputation as a pioneer, outspoken about minority issues. Keeping an open mind on hiring practices. Don’t go in with stereotypes. But, again, I don’t think he was being homophobic.”
Sam is indeed a marginal prospect. Rams G.M. Les Snead told PFT Live two days after picking Sam that the Rams hoped to sign a pair of defensive ends as undrafted free agents, but that the team feared undrafted free agents wouldn’t choose to join a depth chart stacked with pass rushers. That makes the uphill climb even more challenging for Sam.
And that makes this situation far different from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. Robinson’s talent was undeniable. Branch Rickey wouldn’t have stuck his neck out for a player who would have been struggling to stay on the roster. The Rams have willingly embraced a slew of potential distractions with no obvious strategic upside.
That’s possibly what Tony was saying. We’ll know much more when Tony addresses the comments later this week.