Tony Dungy

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The winningest coach in the history of two different NFL franchises turns 61 today.

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Anthony Kevin Dungy was born in Jackson, Michigan—the home of the original Coney Island hot dog–on this date in 1955.  The Dungy family valued academics.  Wilbur Dungy was a physiology professor and Cleomae taught high school English.  Tony’s siblings include a sister who is an obstetrician, another who is a nurse, and a dentist brother.  Dungy attended Parkside High School, where he was a basketball point guard and option quarterback on the football team.  In 1973, he accepted a football scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where he earned the starting quarterback job as a true freshman.  In four years as the Gophers’ starting quarterback, Dungy threw for 25 touchdowns, ran for 16 more, and gained 1,165 rushing yards in 44 college games.  As a senior in 1975, he led the Big Ten in passer efficiency, completion percentage and total yards, finishing his college career ranked fourth in Big Ten history in total offense.  At 6’0” and 188 pounds, NFL scouts feared that Dungy lacked the size and arm strength to make it as a quarterback and he went undrafted.

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Dungy signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 1977.  He was moved to defensive back, where he used his intelligence to overcome his lack of speed.  In October of his rookie season, Dungy was installed as emergency quarterback after both Steelers signal-callers went down with injuries.  Playing both offense and defense, he intercepted a pass and threw an interception in the same game, becoming the most recent player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.  The following year, he led the team in interceptions and helped the “Steel Curtain” [Daily Dose, 7/8/16] to a Super Bowl victory.  Dungy was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1979.  In 1980, he was cut by the New York Giants during the preseason and retired from playing.

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Prior to the 1980 season, Cal Stoll, who had recruited Dungy to Minnesota, invited his former quarterback to join the Golden Gophers staff to coach defensive backs.  The following year, he joined Chuck Noll [Daily Dose, 1/5/16] in Pittsburgh becoming, at 25, the youngest assistant in NFL history.  In 1983, he was promoted to defensive coordinator.  After five years with the Steelers, Dungy moved to Kansas City, where he coached defensive backs for the Chiefs for three seasons.  In 1992, the Minnesota Vikings hired him as defensive coordinator and Dungy built the league’s stingiest defense.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1976 and went winless in their first season.  During that long and painful 0-14 year, a reporter asked Bucs head coach John McKay what he thought of his team’s execution.  “I’m all for it,” quipped McKay.  In 1996, Tampa Bay gave 41-year-old Tony Dungy his first head coaching job.  The Bucs were one of the most woeful franchises in league history, having gone 94-213 [.443] in 20 NFL seasons.  Tampa Bay had won one playoff game in the history of the franchise and had finished last 11 times in 20 years.  Dungy replaced Sam Wyche who, in four seasons, had won a total of 23 games while finishing in the cellar three times.  The Bucs had suffered 12 double-digit-loss seasons in the previous 13 years prior to Dungy’s arrival.  In his second year, he led Tampa to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.  Two seasons later, Tampa went 11-5 and won its first divisional title since 1981.  After leading the once-hapless Bucs to four playoff appearances in six years, Tampa Bay owner Malcomb Glazer fired the only head coach with a winning record in franchise history.  Eight days later, Mr. Dungy was hired by the Indianapolis Colts.

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The defensive-minded Dungy had implemented a “Cover 2” defense in Tampa that was so effective that it was copied around the league and became known as “Tampa 2”.  In Indianapolis, Dungy inherited a high-powered offense and a porous defense.  After replacing Jim Mora, who had gone 32-32 and was winless in two playoff games in Indy, the Colts were 10-6 in Dungy’s first season.  Beginning in 2003, they won 12 or more games in each of the next six years.  The 2005 season was painful, as the Colts reeled of 13 straight wins to gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  After sitting their starters in Week 14, the Horseshoes never regained their form and lost to Pittsburgh in the first round.  Indy bounced back the following year.  After falling behind 21-3 to archrival New England in the AFC title game, the Colts charged back for a 38-34 victory in what is still the largest comeback in the history of the conference title game.  Two weeks later, they beat the Chicago Bears, 29-17, to win the Super Bowl.  In December 2007, Dungy won his 72nd game to surpass the great Don Shula [Daily Dose, 9/22/15] for most wins in franchise history.  After going 12-4 in his seventh and final season in Indianapolis, Tony Dungy retired from coaching in 2009.

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Anthony Kevin Dungy went 54-42 [with a .563 winning percentage] in Tampa Bay.  Jon Gruden–who won a Super Bowl with the team that Dungy built—was two games above .500 in seven years in Tampa.  The winningest coach in Bucaneers’ history is also the winningest coach that the Colts franchise has ever had: and that includes guys with names like Shula, Eubank and Marchibroda.  Tony Dungy won 148 games in 13 NFL seasons.   He led the Colts to five divisional titles and made the playoffs in each of his seven years.  Ever cerebral, Coach Dungy was the youngest assistant coach [25] and coordinator [28] in league history and is the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.  He is one of three men [Mike Ditka, Tom Flores] to win a Super Bowl as both a player and head coach and is the first NFL coach to have defeated all 32 teams in the league.  In 2008, Dungy set an NFL record when he secured his tenth straight playoff appearance.  Dungy was added to the Colts Ring of Honor in 2010 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.  An author of two books, studio analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America, and the national spokesman for All Pro Dad [a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the importance of being a good father], Tony Dungy was voted to the NFL’s 2000 All-Decade Team.

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Happy birthday to one of the kindest, classiest men the game of football has ever known.

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