Can the NFL put the ceremony on hold? Can Tony Dungy get his jacket, make his speech, then hop on a plane until he reaches his destination?
As much as he has tried to hide it, or us for that matter– we need and miss Dungy. Dungy is on his way into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016. A well-earned honor, but he is still needed.
Not just specific teams but the game in general.
Dungy was a master of the locker room, talent evaluator, scout, coach, friend, confidant, and the master at motivation. He will go down in history as the first African-America Head Coach to win a Super Bowl as well as the Mark Jackson of the NFL (or Jackson is the Dungy of the NBA).
You want to talk about a legacy then he’s your man. He was the youngest assistant coach in NFL history with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 25, then became the youngest defensive coordinator. That lasted until 1989 when he went to the Kansas City Chiefs as the defensive backs coach until he took a position under Dennis Green with the Minnesota Vikings as defensive coordinator in 1992.
The NFL changed in 1996 when Dungy took control as head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It wasn’t a race issue that he brought along, it was a defensive scheme that changed the game.
Enter the Cover 2 that made careers and Super Bowl Champions.
Dungy came with a defense that would cause havoc on any QB and his receivers. The thought of the defense was genius, but the hard part was finding players that fit his scheme and this is where Dungy excelled above everyone else.
Would Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and John Lynch have become as great as they did without Dungy?
I now that’s a hard question to answer but it’s a valid one. They had great careers after Dungy but that Cover 2 made them All World players. The NFL is like any other sport– its a “what have you done for me lately” league and Dungy fell victim to that as he was let go after the 2001 season.
In 2002 he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts in what was a bittersweet year for Dungy. He finally got a chance to coach a great QB in Peyton Manning but he also had to watch as his former team, the one he built from the ground up win the Super Bowl that same season. Ouch.
Not one to let it get to him Dungy started to build the Colts in his vision and what he was left with when he departed was more history. To me it was more than the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl (it was two African-American coaches in that game). He won that Super Bowl in 2007 against the Chicago Bears who were coached by his friend and former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith (who ironically coached the Bucs). He no longer had a need for a sympathy ring from the Bucs Super Bowl victory, he had one of his own.
Dungy departed the game with a record of 139-69, 9-10 playoffs record, 1 Super Bowl and 6 Division titles.
He coached Manning, Sapp, Brooks, Lynch, Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Keyshawn Johnson, just to name a few of the future and current Hall of Fame players he has helped. But what’s most important to me is this stat: During his 13 years as head coach he had ONE losing season and that was his first year at 6-10. One losing season as a coach and some wonder why he is never mentioned as one of the greats.
He is an NFL commentator now, sitting next to his nemesis Rodney Harrison but I often wonder when listening to him give game predictions or post game comments if he still misses it?
He’s only 60 years old. Some of these players today could sure use his guidance. The Cleveland Browns come to mind as do the Dallas Cowboys. I would love to see him with a team like the Houston Texans and their defense but he has no desire to come back. As a fan I would love to see it, and how many people can say they are a fan of a coach?
That’s the impact he has made on the game.
Tip your hat ladies and gentleman to Tony Dungy as he begins his march into Pro Football Hall of Fame.