Don't Assume This is Last Year Coaching, Dungy Says
PALM BEACH, Fla. - Tony Dungy made something clear at the NFL Owners meetings on Tuesday, and that's this:
It's not necessarily safe to assume this is his final season.
Dungy, entering his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, spoke to the media for more than an hour Tuesday morning at the AFC Coaches Breakfast at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach. He discussed a variety of topics, including the naming of Jim Caldwell as his successor and the pair's working relationship in recent months.
But he said although his successor has been named, the point he made in January is just as true in April:
He has no timetable for retirement.
"It will come pretty soon, but when that is, I don't know for sure," said Dungy, who tied an NFL record last season by coaching a team to the postseason for a ninth consecutive season.
Dungy, who has coached the Colts to five consecutive AFC South titles and six consecutive playoff appearances in six seasons, considered retirement after last season – something he said he has done after each season since the 2005 season.
He opted to return, and when he did, Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay announced that Caldwell – an assistant with the Colts since 2002 – would succeed Dungy.
That has prompted speculation among media and observers that the 2008 season would be Dungy's last, speculation he said Tuesday was premature.
"I thought 2005 was really going to be my last year, that after 10 years (as an NFL head coach), that was going to be it," Dungy said. "Every year since then, if I was a betting man, I would have bet every succeeding year was going be my last year."
A reer joked that he might coach until the retirement of quarterback Peyton Manning, and that if Manning retired in May, Dungy might, too.
"That would definitely speed it up," Dungy said, laughing. "If he says he's done, there'd be a pretty good chance I'd be gone the next day."
On a serious note, Dungy reiterated what he said in January, when Caldwell was announced as his successor – that he strongly believes Caldwell will be a "sensational" head coach, but that he will make a decision based on his future at the appropriate time.
And that time, he said, has not yet come.
"I've kind of looked at it that way the last three or four years, to kind of appreciate the journey, because you don't know when it's going to end," Dungy said. "I tried not to go in (to any season) saying, 'This is going to be my last year.' I don't want to make a decision based on that (idea), (that) if we don't win this year, it's all over. I still want to be focused, rational and I want our team to be good for a number of years, whether I'm here or not.
"I try not to look at it that way, saying this is going to be it, but knowing that it could."
Of the decision to name Caldwell as a successor, Dungy said although he strongly supported the move, it was not a case of Caldwell being his "hand-picked" choice.
"My sense was that that was what we were going to do, and Jim Irsay made that decision," Dungy said. "I think it was good for our organization and good for me, but I didn't go in and say, 'We ought to do this.'''
Caldwell, who was named Associate Head Coach after two seasons as Assistant Head Coach/Quarterbacks, has had an increased role this off-season, participating in meetings and decision-making processes, Dungy said.
"It has been good in a lot of ways," Dungy said. "Even starting this spring, Jim has been able to sit in on some meetings that he normally wouldn't. We're talking a lot more, dialoguing – decision-making and why. It's kind of a tutorial that I wish I could have had before I started.
"I think he'll be that much further ahead in the game. It has been good for him and it has been good for me to kind of go over things and not just make decisions, but talk about why and what goes into it. It kind of makes you think."
And Dungy said while the experience of this off-season will benefit Caldwell, he said Caldwell is already more than ready for the next step.
"I think he'll be sensational," Dungy said. "He is very prepared and very thorough. He's an excellent communicator. He has been a head coach. He has been with a national championship team (as an assistant coach) at Penn State. He took Wake Forest to bowl games (as a head coach). He has been to a Super Bowl as a quarterbacks coach. He has helped a great quarterback (Peyton Manning) develop. In our locker room, he has that presence already. Our guys know him.
"I don't think there's any chance at all he doesn't do phenomenally."