INDIANAPOLIS – The winningest head coach in Colts history still is emotional about his former team.
Tony Dungy, in town for NBC Sports for Super Bowl XLVI, spent eight wondrous seasons in Indianapolis and he still follows his team closely. What appears will be a lifetime tug on his heart, Dungy followed Indianapolis through a difficult season in 2011, and he will keep his interests intact as the team navigates the off-season.
Asked about Peyton Manning and the impact he had on the city and how the team ranks in the civic mind, Dungy spoke.
"He had a lot to do with it, obviously, coming here in 1998," said Dungy. "We never played them here when I was with Tampa, so my only observances of Indianapolis were coming to the Combine. When I got here in 2001, it definitely was a Pacer town. I remember a couple of games that year, we were playing Miami and all the green in the stands. By the time I left, you could walk around and see kids in Colts jerseys. You saw blue and white, and you see it out here now."
Dungy is aware the team and Manning are at a position where a medical matter is involved in the possible continuation of a career. He knows Owner and CEO Jim Irsay and Manning share a nice relationship and though history is important, the health issue is prominent.
"I don't think there's any question of what's going on. It's a medical issue," said Dungy. "I've talked to Jim Irsay enough. Jim is not worried about the bonus money. He's not worried about finding ways to do it. … There's a special bond there. It goes even beyond just owner and quarterback. No one knows what that's going to be, if Peyton's going to be able to play and what the medical deal is. Personally, I don't see Peyton playing for another team and in another jersey. I don't think Jim wants that. I don't think Peyton wants that. My opinion, I think he's going to play here if he's physically able to play. That's the question mark. When that will be known, I don't know when that's going to be."
When was asked if the opinion came from his head or heart, Dungy conceded it was an all-inclusive observation.
"Both," said Dungy. "From my heart, we've had a lot of talks, Peyton and I, over the years about history. He's a historian. I know how much it means to him to start and finish in one place. Then you look at the football side of it, too. You look when Marvin (Harrison) left and people asked me, 'Where is he going to play.' There are only a few places you can play, teams that have enough money to do it. He's not going to play for a rebuilding team. It's got to be a certain group of players there and people who need him. When you break that down, 'Where are those places, how many opportunities would (there be) for Marvin?' I just didn't see it happening. That was heart and head, and that's the way it turned out."
From his network perch, Dungy saw Indianapolis go through a difficult 2-14 season that ended with personnel changes being enacted at the end. The duration of the season and its aftermath registered soberly with him.
"This last whole four months have been tough on me," said Dungy. "I talked to Jim Irsay a lot when he was going through the decision on the (general manager) and head coach. It's like the kid in the divorce. You love both parents and both sides. You don't want it to happen. When it happens, it's hurtful. It has been (hurtful). The whole thing with (Vice Chairman) Bill (Polian), (Head Coach) Jim (Caldwell), now what's going on with Peyton (Manning), to see them lose 10 or 11 games in a row, that was hard on everybody, but it definitely was hard on me."
NFL SUPER BOWL NOTES
*Dan Reeves holds the record as a nine-time Super Bowl participant. He played twice with Dallas (V, VI), was an assistant with Dallas for three more (X, XII, XIII), was the Denver head coach for three more (XXI, XXII, XXIV) and directed Atlanta to the Super Bowl as head coach (XXXIII).
*Jerry Rice and Gene Upshaw are the only players to play in Super Bowls in three decades. Upshaw played in Super Bowls II (1968), XI (1977) and XV (1981). Rice played in Super Bowls XXIII (1989), XXIV (1990), XXIX (1995) and XXXVII (2003).
*Referees for Super Bowls involving the Colts – Tom Bell (III), Norm Schachter (V), Tony Corrente (XLI), Scott Green (XLIV).
*An announcer unlike any other – Jim Nantz provided play-by-play coverage for Super Bowl XLI and Super Bowl XLIV, the Colts' last two SB appearances, Masters and Final Four. Nantz is the only announcer in history to call the trio of events.
*More people viewed Super Bowl XLIII than voted in the 2008 Presidential election (131.2 million).
SUPER BOWL – Quote/Unquote
"The Super Bowl started as a game, then it became a day, now it's a week." – Ed Goren, FOX Sports