Less Without Moore

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 3, 2007

MIAMI, Feb. 2 -- In 1973, University of Minnesota assistant coach Tom Moore went to Parkside High School in Jackson, Mich., to make a recruiting pitch to a young quarterback. He popped in a videotape to show the recruit how his offense worked. Here's how things go, Moore told the young man: You get three or four different plays. You go to the line of scrimmage. You look over the defense and pick the right one.

The recruit was hooked. Wow, he thought to himself, that would be fun. He was headed to Minnesota.

That recruit was Tony Dungy.

When he was hired as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts 29 years later, Dungy inherited an offensive coordinator from his predecessor, Jim Mora. Dungy was pleased to find that he wouldn't have to perform a complete housecleaning of his staff like most new head coaches because the offense was in the hands of someone he knew and trusted.

That offensive coordinator was Tom Moore.

This is the Super Bowl of Peyton Manning. It's the Super Bowl of Dungy and his friend and Chicago Bears counterpart, Lovie Smith. But there in the shadows, as usual, is Moore, who has played a significant supporting role in getting Dungy and Manning to this point.

"Tom doesn't have a higher national profile because he doesn't want one," Dungy said this week. "He's very quick to give everyone else the credit, to deflect the credit. He's done a great job for 30 years in the NFL and he's done a great job with Peyton. I think because of the fact that he's old-school and he's a ballcoach, that that's what he wants to do, that's why he doesn't have a great profile. He's a tremendous coach and has been for 30 years."

Moore, 68, is a coaching lifer, with a career dating from 1961. He coached a division team in Korea when he was in the Army. He coached in the World Football League. He coached in college. He coached in the NFL. He coached for the Pittsburgh Steelers on two of their four Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1970s. He coached Barry Sanders with the Detroit Lions. He's never been a head coach, but he said this week that doesn't bother him.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Moore said. "I have to be me. I have not been cheated because I haven't been a head coach. Nobody owes me anything. . . . I've been 30 years in this league and it's a privilege to coach in the National Football League -- the way I've been able to raise my family, the things I've done. And the biggest thing: 30 years to do exactly what you want to do and have fun. You can't buy that with money."

Moore's legacy will be coaching Manning, the quarterback who arrived in Indianapolis along with Moore in 1998. They have grown to be as completely in sync as a quarterback and an offensive coordinator can be, and now they have a Super Bowl appearance together as well as Manning's long list of passing exploits to show for it.

"Tom Moore would tell you it's because of the players he has," Manning said this week. "But that's Tom being Tom. You want to play for him because you like him so much."

Manning has become an on-field extension of Moore.

"Tom Moore calls most of the plays," Manning said. "But I do call some of them. I have the ability to change them."

Moore also allows Manning to have input into his game plans.

"We talk about it and there are things he likes and some things he doesn't feel comfortable with," Moore said. "We go over it and hash it out and make sure we're on the same page and make sure we're doing things that are sound and things he feels comfortable with. It's important that he feels comfortable with it, and the chances of him being successful go up. I don't want to put a guy in there and have him do something that says, 'Tom Moore says you've got to do this.' "

The Colts' offense is not particularly complex. They focus on doing a limited number of things but doing them all properly and precisely.

"Our offense is really not that difficult," Dungy said. "We don't do a whole lot with motion. We don't do a whole lot with different formations. We just play basic football."

Dungy says he has "the ultimate faith" in Moore. He had tried to hire Moore several times earlier in his coaching career, he said, but the timing never was right. Moore would be under contract somewhere else, and Dungy couldn't get him. But their paths intersected again when Dungy was hired by the Colts in 2002, and he found himself back with the man who had helped him so much as a young player.

"He worked with me and developed me as a quarterback, as a thinker, and helped me develop as a person," Dungy said. "No question I wouldn't be here today without working under Tom for those four years in college."

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