Tuesday, January 13, 2009

farewell Tony Dungy

When I was growing up, I liked the Colts because they were nearby, their uniforms were cool, and they always lost. (I always liked underdogs.) Well, Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, Peyton Manning, and Tony Dungy sure changed the losing part.

All Dungy did after arriving was give Indy six straight 12-win seasons, culminating in the team's first Super Bowl title since 1971, when they were the Baltimore Colts. Did Indy bow out earlier than they should have a couple of times ('05 and '07, for example)? Probably. Did they overachieve by making the playoffs all those years despite often having no running game (2008, 2006) or no run defense (every year until 2005)? Absolutely. They're also the only team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl with the NFL's worst rush offense. Remember former Indy coach Jim Mora's "Playoffs?!" rant? It's hard to make the postseason every year in the NFL. Really, really hard.

Oh yeah, almost forgot, Dungy was the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. More importantly, Dungy's career helped make that feat not a big deal. When Dungy first got the head job in Tampa, there weren't a lot of black coaches in the league, and the Rooney Rule was new. By the time his Colts won it all, a coach's skin color didn't matter any more than an outside linebacker's. (Would that the NCAA would follow suit here.) If the Colts had lost, Lovie Smith of the Bears on the other sideline would have been the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. Nobody talked about how Romeo Crennel and Marvin Lewis were black when they were hired, but rather about how good they were as coordinators. And when Crennel was fired, nobody blamed his skin color for that either. Remember a few years back when Jesse Jackson was hopping mad after Ray Rhodes was axed in Green Bay after one 8-8 season? No, I don't really remember that either, not anymore.

Tony Dungy announced yesterday that he was retiring. A classy guy, a great coach, and he'll be missed.

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