WILNER ON FOOTBALL: Tony Dungy weighing his future as a coach Print
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Monday, 14 January 2008 13:36
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 Tony Dungy has a big decision to make, one that has nothing to do with going for it on fourth down.
Should the Indianapolis Colts coach continue in that role or retire to spend more time with his family and performing his charitable work?
Dungy made it clear Monday he is not tired of the coaching grind or the pressure of big-time games. And no, the previous day's stunning upset at the hands of San Diego that knocked the defending champions from the playoffs will not be a major factor in his decision.
But Dungy clearly is torn.
``I still enjoy it very much,'' he said moments after addressing the players for the final time this season. ``I love coming to work. I'm not burned out at all. All those things I feel really are positive.
``On the other side of the coin, I've done it a long time. I need to be a good dad and need to make sure I have the energy to devote to both jobs. I don't want to shortchange the Colts, and certainly don't want to shortchange my family.''
Should Dungy retire - he expects to decide within a week - the NFL will lose one of its classiest men. In an era of paranoid coaches, control-freak general managers and image-is-everything owners, Dungy not only is refreshing, he is exemplary.
Not only is he a man of strong faith and an important spokesman for his race, but Dungy regularly becomes a part of his players' lives away from the field. For instance, he offered opportunity and guidance to rookie defensive tackle Ed Johnson this season.
Johnson went undrafted last April in great part because of discipline problems at Penn State, where he was suspended and even kicked off the football team. When he was invited to try out for the Colts, Dungy said he determined after talking with Johnson that the player wanted to straighten out his life.
Johnson had a solid season for Indianapolis, and he had no off-field issues.
``I wouldn't want to play for anybody else,'' Johnson said Monday. ``He's a great coach, and the way he does things, he's a standup guy. He definitely gave me a shot when other teams didn't and I am so grateful for that. You know, the situation I was in, I couldn't expect anything more than a chance, and that's what he gave me.''
Dungy's teams have been considered underachievers by some. For all their talent, those critics say, the Buccaneers of 1996-2002 and the Colts of 2002-07 got to only one Super Bowl, beating Chicago last year.
They are missing the point. Sure, the goal is to win championships. But Dungy's legacy certainly will reach far beyond the wins (136) and the All-Pros he's helped develop no matter how long he coaches.
Consider his tireless work with groups such as All-Pro Dads and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Dungy was appointed to the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation last summer.
His resume away from football is just as impressive as his work on the sideline.
Dungy is one of the few coaches who draws praise from virtually all corners of the league. When he was practically ignored by New England's Bill Belichick after the Colts beat the Patriots for last season's AFC title, it drew outrage (quiet and not-so-quiet) from within the NFL. Belichick's bullying has become expected in the sport, but when he did it to the most-respected member of the coaching fraternity, it upset and even enraged other coaches and league officials.
Dungy will always be remembered for the grace and strength he showed when his 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide in December 2005. He said Monday that James' death will not be a factor in his decision about coaching longer or retiring.
``It's just really making sure I am doing the best job I can do as a dad,'' he said, referring to his four children still living with the family in Tampa, Fla., and one daughter not living at home. ``I do think that is my No. 1 job, and if (I) do that and can still do enough to be a good coach for the Colts, if I am doing that, I'll be back.''
And if he's not?
``Hopefully he comes back,'' linebacker Gary Brackett said. ``At the same time, we have go to recognize what decision he makes comes from the bottom of his heart, and we've got to respect that decision.''
 

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