Dungy Retires After Seven Seasons as Colts Head Coach
INDIANAPOLIS – His wife warned Tony Dungy the day wouldn't be easy.
How right she was.
Dungy, the winningest coach in Colts history on the field and one of professional s's most-respected figures on or off of it, announced his retirement after 31 NFL seasons on Monday evening in an emotional press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Laughter and tears were the emotions of the day – not only for Dungy, but for those who worked closely with him for more than a half decade.
"My wife, Lauren, she told me to bring some Kleenex," Dungy said, smiling through tears as he began his remarks.
"I thought I would make it a little farther than the first sentence."
Dungy, who coached the Colts to the postseason the last seven seasons and to a victory in Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season, made his announcement at a press conference attended by – in addition to family and Colts employees – Colts Owner Jim Irsay and Colts President Bill Polian.
Irsay and Polian, like Dungy, fought tears during an emotional scene in which the Colts – in Polian's terms – said "farewell" to a man who coached them to five consecutive AFC South titles from 2003-2007.
"An incredible journey," Irsay said of a tenure that began with Dungy's hiring on January 22, 2002.
"I don't trust my emotions," Polian said before reading from a prepared text.
Dungy, 53, who is succeed by Jim Caldwell – an assistant on the Colts' staff since Dungy's 2002 arrival who became the Associate Head Coach last January – spoke at length, then answered questions from the media gathered at the Colts' facility.
"I've been blessed, tremendously blessed to play three years in the NFL and coach 28," Dungy said. "Those 31 years have been fantastic. I'm thankful to the Lord for the career I've had. . . .
"I wouldn't trade these 31 years in for anything and I wouldn't trade these seven that I'd had here. This has been very, very special. It has been awesome. It has been special.
"I have gotten to live a dream that most people don't get to live."
Dungy has considered retirement the last three off-seasons.
"I have a real peace about it that this is the right time," he said.
Polian, with whom Dungy has worked the last seven years, "has always been the face of the franchise, the standard-bearer."
"He is that because of all that he does in the community, but his aura, if you will, rubs off on everybody else," Polian said. "He raises the bar for everybody, and does it in such a gentlemanly and honest fashion. . . . Every great teacher is remembered for the lessons they teach, and he is nothing if not a great teacher. I've been blessed to be around two incredible ones (Dungy and Hall of Fame Head Coach Marv Levy) in my time.
"That part of it is indelible. That doesn't go away."
Dungy began by thanking his mother and father "for raising me right and teaching me how to treat people."
"That was the most important lesson I probably ever learned in life, and I got that from them," Dungy said.
Dungy, known as much for his character off the field as for his team's successes on it, then talked of his high school and college coaches, then spoke of playing in the National Football League for Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Chuck Noll.
He spoke of Lauren – "his confidant, counselor and best friend" – then spoke of other head coaches from whom he learned: Marty Schottenheimer, Dennis Green and the late Bill Walsh. Dungy also thanked Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, for whom he worked from 1996-2001 before his firing following three consecutive playoff seasons.
"I thank the Glazer family for letting me get started as a head coach, and the great time I had in Tampa," Dungy said.
He spoke most extensively of his time with the Colts, during which he coached the Indianapolis franchise to an 85-27 record in seven regular seasons. He led the Colts to five consecutive AFC South titles from 2003-2007 and to AFC Wild Card appearances in 2002 and this past season.
"I'm going to be a Colt forever," Dungy said.
Dungy's overall record with Indianapolis was 92-33.
"These seven years have been better than I ever could have imagined," Dungy said, "because of the people that Jim Irsay has here and the way he has built the organization and because of a lot of the people you see standing around here. . . .
"I think we'll look back on this time and see that it was really, really special. In the time of free agency and the changes that go on in a team year in and year out – the seven years we have put together, I think people will look back and say it was special."
Dungy finished a 13-year NFL head coaching career with a regular-season record of 139-69 and a 148-79 postseason record.
"I think my legacy will be more of how we did it," Dungy said. "In talking with some of the players today, most of the guys talked about things that didn't involve what we did on the field. That's important to me. As Jim (Irsay) said when he called me, 'We needed to connect with the community and turn Indianapolis and Indiana into Colts Country,' and I think we've done that.
"I think that's going to be part of it, that I was somebody who – in every stop we've been at – helped our players connect back with the community and be the type of role models our young kids need. I hope it (his legacy) would be something like that and very little talked about what we did on the field."
Polian said when he and Dungy spoke Sunday evening, Dungy expressed regret the Colts won only one Super Bowl in his tenure. Dungy on Monday said, "You always think you can do a little bit better," but added, "I'm enough of a football historian to know to know it's not always your time."
"You always think you can do a little bit better and win a few more," he said, "but I won't look back and think I could have done anything more, that if I'd put more time in, maybe we could have won one more game. I think I did all I could do. I think our coaches and players did all they could do.
"The Lord blessed us with one, and that's one more than a lot of people win."
Dungy, too, spoke of the Colts' coaching staff, several of whom were also with him during his tenure in Tampa Bay.
"We've developed a bond, and it has been awesome," Dungy said. "To come to work every day and know that everybody's pulling the same way, toward the same goals, and trying to win, but trying to win in the right way – we've had a tremendous staff in place for the last seven years.
"It was a perfect storm. The Lord brought people with the same vision – some great players, some great leaders. It allowed us to stay focused on a goal for seven years.
"That's why it was always fun to come to work, because we had everybody pulling in the same direction. It's not often you have that."
Shortly after the Colts' loss to the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game on January 3. Dungy said he planned to discuss his decision with his wife, Lauren, after which he planned to speak with Polian and Irsay.
"My wife and I talked and we just felt this was the right time," Dungy said. "You don't always get to go out on top. It's hard to go out on top because it's so much fun winning. When you're winning, you don't want to stop. But I think I have a chance to do some other things down the road. I think I have a responsibility to be home a little bit more and be available to my family a little bit more and to try to do some things to help make our country better.
"I don't know what that's going to be, but I hope to do that."
Dungy said his hope was for the Colts to win next month's Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., then retire.
"We would walk off the field in Tampa where it all started for me, and that would be the perfect time to retire with our second one," Dungy said. "It didn't quite work out that way. After we lost in San Diego, you're initial thought is, 'I have to come back. We have to make up for this. This is not the way to go out.'''
But he said after talking with his wife, and after a trip to New York with his son, Jordan, for surgery, the decision to retire was clearer.
"You just think, 'It's just the right time,''' he said.
He said he knew by mid-week last week that he likely would retire, "but I always like to give it a little time. By Sunday morning, he said he was sure of his decision.
"That's probably when I knew for sure – at the very end of the week," Dungy said. "I went in and talked to Jim (Irsay) Sunday and he said, 'Have you had enough time to think about it.' I told we had. Then, we spent about two and half hours just crying and talking about the last seven years and how beautiful it has been."
He has said in the past the Colts will be his last coaching position.
"I can't imagine coming back right now," Dungy said. "You never know what's going to happen. Who knows what five years is going to bring? My mother was an English teacher and if someone had told her I was going to write a book she would have never believed that, so I guess you can never say never, but that's one of the things Lauren and I talked about, to coach as long as I needed to, to satisfy what was inside of me. I have, so this really is a retirement, but I am smart enough to know a lot of guys have said that and come back.
"I don't anticipate it, but we'll see."
Dungy said primary among his post-football plans is working on a more hands-on basis with young males.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do from here," Dungy said. "I know I want to do something that will allow me to spend more time with my family, and I want do something that will allow me to connect with young people. Those would be my goals."
"We have so many guys who didn't grow up like me, who didn't have their Dad there and didn't have that person to look at and say, 'This is how you do things.' That's one of the things we have to get corrected in this country. That's something I'm very, very interested in."
Dungy said while he was comfortable with his decision, there were difficult moments throughout the day. One came when he addressed the Colts' coaching staff for a final time as the head coach. The Colts have a saying, "Next Man Up," that is used often when a player is injured and a reserve is called upon to play well in his place.
Dungy said to the Colts' coaches, "Jim Caldwell's the next man up, and he's going to run the meeting from here."
"It was great in a way to give Jim my chair, but it's going to be different," Dungy said. "It was bittersweet. It was."