Panther Tracks

NBC’s Tony Dungy/Rodney Harrison: Panthers are the team to beat in the NFC; no Super Bowl hangover

Former NFL coach and player Tony Dungy, center, takes a photo with former NFL running back Edgerrin James, left, and former members of the Indianapolis Colts teams he coached, with his Hall of Fame bust during an induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Canton, Ohio. Dungy said he doesn’t expect a letdown from Carolina this season. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Former NFL coach and player Tony Dungy, center, takes a photo with former NFL running back Edgerrin James, left, and former members of the Indianapolis Colts teams he coached, with his Hall of Fame bust during an induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Canton, Ohio. Dungy said he doesn’t expect a letdown from Carolina this season. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) AP

Newly elected NFL Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy thinks the Carolina Panthers are the team to beat in the NFC, and he doesn’t believe they will fall prey to the type of Super Bowl hangover that has hurt some of the past teams to lose in the Big Game.

But Dungy doesn’t expect Carolina to repeat its 15-1 record of a year ago, either.

“Having spent some time with those guys, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly,” Dungy said, “I think they’ll come back fired up with a determination to get back (to the Super Bowl). Part of the Super Bowl hangover is not that you’re not doing everything the same way. It’s that everybody else is pointing at you.”

Dungy spoke to the Observer via a NBC conference call for its “Football Night In America” NFL pregame show. Dungy is a studio host along with Rodney Harrison, Dan Patrick and Mike Tirico. The first show will air Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m., prior to the Panthers Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos to kick off the 2016 NFL season.

Some of the past teams to lose in the Super Bowl have struggled in the following season. After reaching the 2004 Super Bowl, for example, the Panthers were 7-9 the next season. The 1993 Buffalo Bills were the last NFL team to return to the Super Bowl after losing the year prior.

Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, expects Carolina to be very competitive this season.

Carolina is “getting everybody’s best shot,” Dungy said. “I think the conference is going to come after them and I don’t think they’ll go 15-1 again, but I don’t think it will be from a lack of effort, lack of intensity or lack of focus on their part. They’ve got too much leadership there.”

Tirico, moving to NBC after a long stint with ABC and ESPN, said he spoke with Carolina coach Ron Rivera earlier this week and the two talked about just this topic.

“Of the coaches I’ve seen have to deal with ‘we lost the Super Bowl and how do we come back next year,’ he’s been proactive reaching out, canvassing other people, not just limited to the football world,” Tirico said. “I applaud him for that cerebral and in-depth approach to get over that quote Super Bowl hangover.”

Even Harrison, who has been critical of the Panthers in the past, expects another strong season from Carolina.

And no hangover.

“I’m not even concerned about that,” Harrison said. “They have their core group of guys, young guys that are very hungry, that are very excited, guys that as you watch them on film, they love playing the game of football...I think it only gets better. I really do. I’m not going to sit here and say they’re going to go 15-1, but I do believe the hunger, the thirst, the enthusiasm, everything is there. I think that Cam Newton has that deep down inside of him and a lot of people have doubted him.

“I doubted this team last year and what do they do? They go 15-1 and end up in the Super Bowl. I don’t think, whatsoever, there will be any Super Bowl hangover.”

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