Dungy looking for right balance between football, family in '08 Print
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Monday, 21 January 2008 23:42
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Tony Dungy has spent half his life balancing coaching and family.
He's about to give it a new look.
After taking a week to debate his future as the Indianapolis Colts' coach, Dungy decided Monday he would return to the sideline for at least one more season, mixing his priorities as successful coach and devoted father and husband with some cross-country commutes.
``The thing my wife and I realize is that we've done this before,'' he said. ``We've done it for two years, we've done it parts of years in other places, and my dad actually commuted when I was in high school and was home on the weekend, and I think he raised four pretty good kids.''
For Dungy, it was a deeply introspective process.
He met with his wife, his children, his pastor, had discussions with team owner Jim Irsay, team president Bill Polian and a few Colts players. He called trusted colleagues and longtime friends for advice and then relied on prayers to help him make the choice.
Eventually the first black coach to win a Super Bowl realized he still wanted to coach, had the support at home and even a longtime friend, Jim Caldwell, set up as his successor.
So the 52-year-old Dungy, who holds franchise records for wins in both Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, finally said - why not?
``I wouldn't come back if I didn't think we had a chance to win and that I was the very best person to help this organization,'' said Dungy, whose contract runs through 2009. ``I wouldn't shortchange my family and wouldn't come back if my wife and children weren't for it. That's how the decision was made.''
Leading up to Monday, Dungy provided few clues about his leanings.
When his family moved back to Tampa, Fla., and his 16-year-old son, Eric, enrolled at a high school there earlier this month, many speculated the devoutly religious Dungy might retire.
Then, after losing to San Diego in a divisional playoff game last week, Dungy repeatedly said he still hoped to coach.
Irsay offered everything - fewer day-to-day responsibilities, his private jet to attend his son's high school football games - to keep Dungy.
But the offers mattered less than Dungy's family's wishes or his own motivation.
``I think at the end of the year, especially after that last game whether it's a win or a loss, you're very drained and you think this would be a good time to end it,'' Dungy said. ``But that's what you have to see. Does that passion come back? Does that excitement come back?''
In Dungy's case, it did for the third consecutive year.
While Dungy debated his future, Caldwell, the Colts assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach, was being mentioned as a possible candidate for head coaching jobs in Baltimore and Atlanta. He had interviewed with Arizona last year, and Dungy didn't want the Colts to lose him.
So Irsay moved quickly, locking up the 53-year-old Caldwell with a contract that gives him the new title of associate head coach and puts him in the unusual position of head coach-in-waiting with no timetable for taking over.
``The good news is Tony's back, and he's back for not only this season but perhaps beyond that,'' Polian said. ``I hope that's long beyond my tenure here.''
Caldwell went 26-63 in eight years at Wake Forest, his only head coaching job at the pro or college level, and has spent the past seven seasons as Dungy's assistant. He spent one year in Tampa Bay and the past six with the Colts where he's coached two-time league MVP Peyton Manning.
He also replaced Dungy for one game late in the 2005 season so Dungy could attend the funeral of his 18-year-old son, James. Indy lost that game 28-13 at Seattle playing primarily backups.
The mentoring process begins immediately with Caldwell becoming a bigger player in team meetings, but the quiet Caldwell is clearly in no rush to replace his friend.
``I certainly appreciate the opportunity of one day leading this team in the future,'' Caldwell said. ``And I hope it is in the distant future.''
Under Dungy, the Colts became the first team in league history to win at least 12 games in five consecutive years. He's won five straight AFC South titles, reached two AFC championship games, won 80 games including the playoffs and he's the only Colts coach in history to make the playoffs and win at least 10 games six consecutive years.
Dungy won 56 games, including two postseason games, in Tampa Bay turning around one of the league's worst franchises before joining the Colts. He took the Bucs to the playoffs four times and the 1999 NFC championship game.
Yet after 27 years as an NFL assistant or head coach, Dungy enters next season with some new challenges, like getting home as often as possible.
``There can be some negative things brought up, but I don't buy that,'' Irsay said. ``Tony is committed to his family, he's committed to this franchise and that's what every coach who has balance in his life has to do.''
But Dungy has no intention of making significant changes. While he's always put family ahead of football, he's not about to let the commutes become a distraction.
``If we felt it was going to be a burden at all, we wouldn't do it,'' he said. ``But we feel comfortable with the time that they're going to be up here and I'm going to be down there.''
 

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