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Goldberg on Football: Dungy Becomes The Super Bowl's 2nd Black Coach

Goldberg on Football: Dungy Becomes The Super Bowl's 2nd Black Coach

Tony Dungy, the face and the voice of the NFL's black coaches, finally is in the Super Bowl.

He's not the first black coach to make it there. That distinction belongs to his good buddy Lovie Smith, who got there four hours earlier when his Chicago Bears won the NFC championship earlier Sunday.

Dungy will take it.

``I'm very proud of being an African-American. I'm very proud of Lovie. It's going to be special,'' Dungy said.

Dungy said he wanted to savor Indianapolis' 38-34 victory over New England and would have plenty of time to talk about racial issues next week.

But it clearly meant something to the man who has now been a head coach for 11 consecutive seasons - six in Tampa Bay and five in Indianapolis. He had been in two previous title games, one with each team, but had never gotten to NFL's showcase game.

Neither had any other black coach - in addition to Dungy's two losses in championship games, Dennis Green had lost two and Art Shell of the Raiders had lost another.

Then Smith's Bears beat New Orleans 39-14 and Dungy's Colts came back from a 21-3 deficit to make it to Miami. In two weeks, these two old friends will meet in a historic Super Bowl that will rival the one played in January 1988, when Doug Williams of Washington became the first black quarterback in the game.

``It's something I've heard all week,'' said one of Dungy's stars, defensive end Dwight Freeney. ``I hope we get to the point we don't have to hear about it. I'm happy for both coaches just being there to represent.''


An apt word for Dungy and Smith, who represent legions of blacks who, until Shell became the first black coach of the modern era, felt shut out of what's perceived as an ``old boys' club.''

Dungy noted recently that at least blacks now are a part of the system because they are getting second chances - he did, so did Green, Shell and Ray Rhodes.

In fact, that applies to every one of the eight black coaches who have been to the playoffs - except Cleveland's Romeo Crennel, who has just finished his second season. There could be a ninth on Monday if Pittsburgh, as expected, hires Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin to replace Bill Cowher.

But none has been to the Super Bowl, a fact that has kept the spotlight on Dungy despite his .644 career winning percentage.

He doesn't care - he's been through a lot worse than playoff losses.

This win came 13 months after Dungy's 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide in Tampa, a shock that may be one reason the Colts lost their first playoff game last season after a 13-0 start and the top seed in the AFC.

Dungy has kept his grief to himself, just as he keeps his emotions in check on the field - he did that Sunday even when his team fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter.

``I can't get over the calm look he has on his face,'' said Peyton Manning, who led the comeback and silenced some of his critics by getting to the first Super Bowl of his illustrious career.

``He's calm on the opening kickoff and he's calm when we're down 21-3. It's one of the things that allows us to come back from deficits like that.''

There was a little emotion Sunday - twice when calls went against his team, including a replay decision he thought he would win. But he remained cool.

So when Joseph Addai burst up the middle from 3 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown with a minute left, and Marlin Jackson clinched it with an interception 44 seconds later, Dungy was in the Super Bowl for the first time in his 11 seasons as an NFL coach.

It's double joy for black coaches, especially because Smith was an assistant to Dungy in Tampa. Smith traveled to Indianapolis to see his mentor for the Colts' first-round game against another black coach who was with them then, Kansas City's Herman Edwards.

``We said at the time that it would be great if Herm or I could get to the Super Bowl against Lovie,'' Dungy said.

It's happened.

And it's fitting for a lot of reasons that Dungy is the one.

Michael Cash
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