On Saturday, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy gets his first shot at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He’ll be pitted against 16 other nominees, including three of his former players, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Marvin Harrison, during the selection process.
Getting in will require an 80-percent vote from the 46-member selection committee, with only five modern-day finalists allowed. With no distinction made between players, coaches and owners, that may be a tough task.
He’s certainly deserving of it though, not just in terms of his coaching record, but the impact he had on his players and on the league. It’s a far better NFL today because Tony Dungy helped shape it.
Dungy spent seven seasons in Tampa, where he transformed the league laughingstock into perennial contenders, setting the stage for the Bucs to win the franchise’s only Super Bowl in 2002. He then spent six seasons in Indianapolis, leading the Colts to a Super Bowl victory.
His 139-69 (.668) head coaching record between the two franchises is the ninth-best winning percentage in NFL history, with seven of the eight coaches ahead of him already in the Hall of Fame.
Of coaches who have won 100 career games, Dungy has the sixth best winning percentage. Since the merger in 1970, Dungy is the only head coach to lead a team to the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.
He set an NFL record for consecutive 12-win seasons (six) and his 10.7 wins-per-season average is highest in league history.
As a leader
Dungy carefully laid a foundation for his players and his coaches, instilling a winning attitude on the field and in life. There was no yelling or cursing. He didn’t believe his players should own guns.
It can’t be quantified in numbers, but he played a direct role in influencing some of the league’s most philanthropic people.
Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Peyton Manning were all named Walter Payton Man of the Year, with Trent Dilfer, John Lynch, Brooks and Dunn (no pun intended) also winning the Bart Starr/Athletes in Action Award for their leadership on the field, at home and in the community.
And then there were players he didn’t coach but became a mentor to, including Michael Vick, who spent time in prison for dog fighting and re-entered the league a changed man. Dungy even sat by his side when he was introduced as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
He did the same with Plaxico Burress when he faced felony gun charges and a two-year prison sentence.
Dungy’s reach extended beyond football with his All-Pro Dad and Family First organizations, along with his prison ministry.
Dungy made history in the 2006 season when he became the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. That game was even more significant because his counterpart on the Bears, Lovie Smith, also an African-American, got his start as an assistant under Dungy.
The fact that Dungy made it a point of extending opportunities to minority assistants shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with diversity being such a prominent and ongoing issue in the NFL.
Of the 18 African American head coaches in NFL history, five have worked for Dungy — Herman Edwards, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier, with three of them reaching the Super Bowl.
In total, with himself included, Dungy was directly responsible for the advancement of one-third of the league’s black head coaches. He also advanced the career of Rod Marinelli, who went on to coach the Detroit Lions.
Perhaps the testimony of his former players carries the most weight.
“Tony built our defense in Tampa and his teams went to the playoffs 11 of 13 seasons,” said Warren Sapp via USA Today. “If Tony Dungy is not a Hall of Famer, then, I want out .”