Tony Dungy knows why Rod Marinelli has brought so many former Tampa Bay coaches and players to Detroit.
"I think it absolutely is part of the mindset, trying to create that winning mindset," Dungy said from the annual NFL owners meeting recently.
Dungy coaches the Colts, Marinelli the Lions. But back in 1996, Dungy landed his first NFL head coaching job with the Buccaneers, and he gave Marinelli his first NFL job as his defensive line coach.
Marinelli is trying to build the Lions much the way they built the Bucs. The former Bucs are in Detroit to build a bridge, in a way. They know the system well and should be able to patch holes effectively, helping the Lions improve in the short term. They also are supposed to create a culture from which the long-term building blocks -- the Lions' draft picks -- can learn.
"When you can have some guys that you know believe in the things you believe in, it helps," Dungy said. "You're selling it as a head coach. They've got to hear it from your assistant coaches as well. They've got to hear it from the players who are in there all the time."
Especially when the team has been losing for a long time and the fans and media often overreact to everything negatively.
"They're getting so many messages," Dungy said. "Detroit is, I'm sure, just like we were in Tampa, where, you know, we'd get a guy hurt in Tampa my first couple years, and that's all you'd hear around the whole city. 'Oh, the season's over now. Eric Curry got hurt. There's no way you can win.' "
"But that's what the players hear," Dungy continued. "So they've got to hear it from everybody else. 'No, the season's not over. We're going to be fine.' You're saying it as a head coach, but if you're only one voice, it's not as effective. I know that's what Rod's trying to do."
Can't a coach get caught in a comfort zone, though?
"The danger is sometimes you're bringing in your guys and you're letting guys who are pretty good go," Dungy said. "But you've got to know what fits you.
"There are players, especially the system Rod plays, they might be great players, they don't fit that. And so it looks like sometimes, 'Well, this guy's a good player. Why did we let him go?' "
Dungy said you have to keep an open mind and try to get the players you inherit to buy in first. But if they don't, you have to move on.
"I think that's what Rod did," Dungy said. "Slowly but surely, he understands who does fit, who does buy in, and he's now bringing in guys who are going to add to that."
MORE: After the Lions hired Marinelli in 2006, ungy knew what they would do with the ninth overall pick that year.
"I teased Rod before the draft," Dungy said. "I said, 'You can hide your first-round pick as much as you think. I know you're taking Ernie Sims, because this is a guy who just epitomizes what you're all about, what you're trying to sell.' "
Sure enough, the Lions took Sims. Who does Dungy think the Lions will take 15th overall this year?
"I don't know," Dungy said, smiling. "I haven't had time to study it yet."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Stop doing that." -- Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, growling somewhat good-naturedly about Lions coach Rod Marinelli bringing former Tampa Bay coaches and players to Detroit.