Turns out the Dungy era isn’t over after all.
After a disappointing playoff finish, and a week of careful reflection and intense media scrutiny, the Indianapolis Colts off season is officially under way with head coach Tony Dungy back on board.
On MLK Day no less, the lone African-American coach to win a Super Bowl chose to continue his tenure at the helm for a seventh season. In the process, the Colts also secured their coaching future post Dungy, appointing Jim Caldwell to the role of associate head coach and guaranteeing his succession to the top spot when Dungy chooses to step down.
Following a week of uncertainty, something that has been commonplace for the past three years, Colts brass is clearly pleased with the outcome and is looking forward to business as usual.
“This is something that’s not been unusual, it goes on in the past it will go on in the future, in terms of where coach’s family is and that sort of thing,” said Colts owner/CEO Jim Irsay. “Tony’s committed to his family; he’s committed to the franchise, that’s what every head coach that has balance has to do. Tony does a great job in balancing that and that’s the way it will be.”
In securing Caldwell’s position, the Colts stave off several potential suitors giving the former assistant serious head coaching consideration. But according to Irsay, that commitment is in no way designed to expedite Dungy’s retirement, rather secure the Colts future for that eventuality.
“We thought it was in our best interest to have a transition plan in place that would allow Jim to know that I look for him to be our head coach someday, but I say someday,” Irsay added. “For Tony, this isn’t just definitely one year or something like that. Just like at the end of this coming year, we’ll sit down and talk again, that’s the way that it has been.”
Be it a victim of his own success, or the scrutiny that comes with it, Dungy’s decision to return was one that commanded national attention throughout championship weekend. But as team President Bill Polian noted, only the attention was unexpected, as the coach has annually sat down with family and Colts management, prioritizing the balancing act for several years.
“Tony has said many times that coaching isn’t what he’s going to do forever,” Polian said. “At the end of each season, he sits down with Jim (Irsay) and myself, talks through the various issues. That’s happened this year; unfortunately it became a public issue. That’s made things perhaps a little more unyielding than we would have liked, but the end result is what it’s been the last three years. Tony remains the coach and remains 100 percent committed to doing the coaching. And I presume that’s a situation that will occur every year as long as Tony coaches and I hope that’s long beyond my tenure.”
For Dungy’s part, the decision to remain was not at all affected by the considerable attention. As always, the coach said the ability to commit ample time to family and franchise was paramount. In making that determination, the coach maintains his ability to do so despite the rigors of fatherhood, family relocation and despite 12 years leading two franchises to success.
“I love this franchise, I love my family, and my decision after my 10th year was can I give my family and the franchise the energy, the passion that they both deserve and I made the decision that I could. I really took the same process this year. It was a little surprising that it was followed more than the previous two years.”
Though the balancing act of family and work alone is enough to consider, Dungy added his commitment to his personal ministry weighed on the decision to return as well. With the profile of the consummate professional and one of the most well respected coaches in professional sports, Dungy has influenced many lives in a positive manner, something that he plans to continue as long as he’s at the head coaching helm.
“I look at this job as a job, but I also look at it as a ministry and 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 win,” he added. “I wouldn’t come back because we do have capable people here. I wouldn’t short change my family, I wouldn’t come back if my wife or my children were not for it, so that’s how the decision was made.”