Longtime Chargers and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison formally announced his retirement on Wednesday morning, a move that was quickly followed with the announcement that he and former Colts coach Tony Dungy would be joining the crew of NBC's Sunday night "Football Night in America" studio show.
With Cris Collinsworth leaving the studio to fill John Madden's microphone in the booth, there's an opening for strong, opinionated voices on that crew. Harrison wasted very little time showing that he has one of those. On a conference call, Harrison and Dungy were asked about the changes to the Colts coaching staff and Peyton Manning's angry reaction to those changes. Harrison used the opening to find Manning lacking in comparison to the quarterback of his Patriots teams.
"This is something I’ve discussed with Coach Dungy and I think it gives Tom Brady the edge over Peyton Manning in terms of leadership. If this went on in New England, it wouldn’t come out publicly. He wouldn’t make a big fuss over it. So many guys are looking up to [Peyton] that once they sense panic, they could panic. You have to control your emotions and not allow these things to get outside the walls."
Dungy disagreed with his assessment of Manning's panic, and Harrison fired off a few more views before the call moved on to other topics. It was a great preview of the possible things to come during the 2009 football season. Whether or not you agree with Harrison's view of Manning and Brady, it's a strong, pointed view that would give rise to an extended, interesting debate. As long as he's as blunt and honest in his views of former teammates, Harrison should be a fine addition.
One doesn't think Dungy will be quite so quick to drop the hammer, if only because he seems like one of the nicest men ever to pass through the game of football. Hopefully, he'll use his experience as a coach to illustrate things that might escape cursory analysis but it's wrong to expect him to approach the job with the same edginess that Harrison appears to bring to the table.