“People who have known Tony Dungy a long time talk about what a man of dignity he has been,” wrote Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post. “Flashes of that always came through on television. You never saw him grab a player’s facemask, never heard him disrespect anyone. (He is) a man who clearly embodies everything we want our sporting heroes to be.”
In the 2005 season, Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to the NFL’s best record at 14-2. The Colts were the talk of the league with their 13-0 start, which featured a much-improved defense complimenting the offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning, but their season ended with a 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional playoff. Dungy handled the setback with his customary grace.
“It’s disappointing,” he said, “but I know we’ll bounce back.”
Pittsburgh safety Mike Logan praised Dungy as “one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever known.” Said Logan: “I’ve known Coach Dungy since I came into this league and he encouraged me. He’s inspired my life.”
The Maxwell Club honors Dungy with the 17th annual Greasy Neale Award as NFL Coach of the Year. He previously won the award in 1997 when he was coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and Dick Vermeil are the only men to win the honor with two different teams.
Tom Moore, the Colts offensive coordinator, has known Dungy since he was a teenager. Moore was on the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota and recruited Dungy out of high school. Moore also was Dungy’s quarterback coach with the Gophers. Now Moore works for Dungy in Indianapolis.
“Tony hasn’t changed a lick, really,” Moore told Jeff Reynolds of Pro Football Weekly. “As a player, he was the 1973 Peyton Manning. Smart. Prepared. A great communicator. He’s a great football coach in the same way.”
“He has consistency in his life, a consistency in his approach to life,” said Atlanta general manager Rich McKay who worked with Dungy in Tampa Bay. “He is more impressive the more you know him.”
Dungy has his own style of coaching built on patient instruction rather than in-your-face screaming. Dungy seldom raises his voice, yet his record proves that he gets his point across. Before he took the job in Tampa, the Buccaneers had 13 consecutive losing seasons. Dungy took the team to the playoffs four times. He performed a similar turnaround with the Colts.
“There’s a perception that because you don’t curse and shout, maybe you’re not a disciplinarian,” Dungy said. “I’ve seen this picture painted. Many people want Vince Lombardi and I’m not like him. My demeanor is not that of the typical head coach, but I still let the players know what’s expected of them. I talk to them, not at them.”
“I played in San Francisco when Bill Walsh was just starting out and people said he was too cerebral. Bill told me his coaching career was delayed a few years because of that (perception). That was one of the criticisms of Tom Landry. He was too even-keeled. Yet both of those men were very successful. You have to be yourself, that’s the bottom line, and I’ve been consistent in that regard.”
Dungy has built relationships with players and coaches across the league, so the tragic death of his teenage son James in December was felt around the NFL. Wrote Gary Myers in the New York Daily News: “It is rare in the (football) business that somebody is universally liked, but Tony Dungy is.”