Tony Dungy Treated Players the Way He Wanted People to Treat Him

NC Nighthawk@NC Nighthawk (my Xbox gamertag)Analyst IJanuary 13, 2009

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy announced his retirement Monday, bringing to an end a coaching career that saw him win 148 games and a Super Bowl.

In January 2003, John Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Gruden has not returned since. Perhaps we should credit Dungy with 1.5, if not two Super Bowl wins.

I am sad for NFL and Indianapolis Colts fans but I am happy for Tony Dungy and his family regarding his retirement. He was a great coach but even a greater man. Tony was a consistent coach and a consistent individual.

Future Football Hall of Famer Dungy is the best African-American coach in NFL history in my humble opinion and he is one of the best league coaches ever.  He is about character and class, and simply one of the best role models in all sports.

Screaming, degrading, and intimidating were not strategies in Dungy's motivational playbook. He taught and communicated. He was laid back but he treated players the way he wanted people to treat him.

Tony is the only coach in NFL history to produce six straight 12-win seasons and 10 consecutive playoff appearances.

Dungy finishes his career as the Colts' franchise leader in victories, going 85-27 in the regular season and 7-6 in the playoffs. He also spent six seasons in Tampa Bay, turning a franchise with a losing culture into a perennial Super Bowl contender in the late 1990s and the early part of the 2000s.

The 53-year-old coach left Tampa with a career record of 54-42 in the regular season, becoming the highest winning coach in franchise history there, too, and got the Buccaneers to the NFC title game in 1999.

The decision ends a tenure in Indianapolis during which Dungy became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. He reached the playoffs all seven seasons, winning five division titles, and appearing in two AFC title games. 

Dungy's teams were also eliminated from the playoffs four times without winning a game, including the past two seasons after winning the Super Bowl.

He always said he intended to retire by the time he turned 50, but hung around longer because he enjoyed the game and the Colts players.

Tony Dungy was the composed, honest, straight-forward, and respecting leader of a premiere franchise.  He never turned a cold-shoulder to any coaches or offered lame handshakes. When Dungy told opposing teams "good game", he meant it. 

Tony has also been a mentor and friend to several current NFL head coaches, including Herm Edwards of the Chiefs, Lovie Smith of the Bears, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, and, of course, Jim Caldwell of the Colts, who will succeed Dungy.

Dungy has spent the past five years debating whether to leave football, each year taking about a week to meet with his family, which now lives in Tampa. He has always said when he left, he would not return.

He has always listed his priorities as faith, family, and football, and returned to coach in 2008 when the Colts opened the new Lucas Oil Stadium only after team owner Jim Irsay agreed to let Dungy use a private jet to commute home.

Dungy's career, which includes an all-time league-high average of 10.7 regular-season wins, also included tragedy. In December 2005, his son, James, committed suicide while attending school in Tampa. He left the Colts for one game, then received the game ball from his players after they made a goal-line stand to beat Arizona in the season finale.  The Colts' season ended two weeks later with a shocking loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

When his son committed suicide  the entire league rallied around Dungy and his family. In 2007, Dungy's memoir "Quiet Strength" became a national bestseller. The book is as much about Dungy's religious faith and life philosophies as it is about football.

Tony’s other son, Eric, will be a high school senior in the fall and those close to him thought the father wanted to accompany his son on college visits.

Although the 53-year-old Dungy is young enough that he could return to the game, all indications are that he is finished coaching for the long term. He has said he would like to do other things with his life, including starting a prison ministry, and that when he leaves the Colts, he's walking away from football for good. 

It would be difficult to find a coach more respected by his peers and players. This season, Dungy easily won a Sporting News' survey of current NFL players who were asked which coach they would most like to play for.

People connect with Dungy, because you do not even have to like football to learn something from him.He left an impression on the league, but more importantly, he left an impression on people.

Most coaches leave because somebody tells them to. It is wonderful to see Tony Dungy leave under his on terms and as a winner, because he wants to.


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