Polian Speaks of Seven Seasons Working With Dungy as Head Coach
INDIANAPOLIS – Bill Polian worked side-by-side with Tony Dungy for seven years. They prepared for drafts. They prepared for offseasons. They prepared for games.
Together, they made seven playoff appearances.
Together, they won five AFC South titles.
Together, they won a Super Bowl.
Together, they helped make the Colts for the last seven seasons a model NFL franchise, one of the most successful in recent memory.
So, early Monday evening, when it came time for Polian – the Colts' president the last 11 seasons – to publicly discuss the retirement of Dungy after seven seasons as head coach, he knew well in advance there was just one way he'd get through it.
"You'll have to forgive me if I read from a prepared text," Polian told a group of media and Colts employees who gathered at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center for a 5 p.m. press conference at which Dungy announced his retirement.
Polian's voice cracked.
"I don't trust my emotions," he added.
Polian then read the following:
This isn't a time to celebrate Tony's monumental coaching and civic achievements. There will be time for that when he goes on the (Colts') Ring of Honor and ultimately, at the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame in Canton (Ohio). This is a time for those of us who worked with Tony – player, coach, football staff, front-office employee – to say, 'Farewell.' Not goodbye, but farewell, to a mentor, a role model and a cherished friend.
What an incredible privilege it has been to work with this extraordinary man. In training camp, on the bus, in the office, in the draft room – most imantly, on the practice field and in the meeting room – his teaching ability, his example and most importantly his unshakeable faith and optimism inspired us all.
Most of you don't know that it never rains on a Tony Dungy practice. It's true. In Terre Haute (Ind., site of the Colts' training camps) or the Westside of Indianapolis could be up to their ankles in water. But it doesn't rain on Tony Dungy's practice. In fact, I'm certain it wouldn't have rained in Miami (during the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI) except that Tony and God talked about it and decided it was OK.
Just before the half of the (AFC) Championship Game (following the 2006 regular season) against New England, when we were down badly, we were driving for a field goal. I turned to (Senior Consultant to Player Personnel) Dom Anile and I said, 'All we need is just a field goal. Just get a field goal and Tony will go in at halftime and do his magic and get us straightened out and we'll be just fine. We did, and he did and we went on to win the World Championship.
Earlier this season, when we were 3-4 and injured and things looked as bleak as they possibly could, a friend of mine said to me, 'You know, there's no God-given right to winning. You better get used to the fact that one of these years, the breaks will go against you and the injuries will become too great and the obstacles will be too high. You won't have that magical season.' I said, 'No, no. That's not the case. That's not the case at all. We have to keep scratching and patching and sooner or later, Tony will do his magic,' and so he did. This season, I think – and most of us around this football team believe – was his greatest coaching job of all.
We'll miss his faith. We'll miss his optimism. We'll miss his patience – and that's something he taught me in abundance. All of which contributes to that Dungy magic.
What a joy it was to come to work with Tony Dungy every day. What a privilege it was to work with a man who talked the talk – albeit softly – but walked the walk emphatically. What an honor it was to reach the ultimate goal with a man who did it the right way.
Last night, as we were reminiscing, Tony said his only regret was that we didn't win more World Championships. That's a heck of a regret to go out on, because we won everything else. But Tony, on behalf of all of your colleagues, all of your friends, you're wrong. We were winners every day we worked with you and I and everybody else in this building wouldn't trade that time for all the trophies in the world.
Tony, Lauren: Thank You, and Godspeed.