The NFL is losing a heck of a football coach in Tony Dungy.
It's losing an even better man.
Tony Dungy did it the right way. He won, yet was kind, compassionate and had a general feeling of warmth about him.
|Tony Dungy managed to keep football in perspective. (AP)|
Football was always important to Dungy, who will announce his retirement today as coach of the Indianapolis Colts. It just wasn't the be-all-end-all.
I remember a few years ago when I was making my training-camp tours and had to get the Colts in St. Louis for a preseason game. I asked to meet with Dungy at the hotel. I was told he might have 10 minutes.
We spent an hour and a half together.
That was Dungy. During that meeting, I asked if he had somewhere else he needed to be, a courtesy.
He flat out said no. Few other coaches do that. No other coach can sit there and talk about football, life and anything else. Even those who do, you get the impression their mind is spinning out of control, thinking of the other things they should be doing, like watching reels of blitz pickups.
Tony Dungy was different, which was refreshing.
He didn't bull-rush you. He didn't try to keep state secrets. He was open. He was honest. He was caring. I can't remember a time when he jumped a reporter. He treated people with respect.
For a football coach, that's so out of character. In an era of the Belichick-ian ways of playing ogre at the podium, Dungy was class all the way.
As a man, he's even better.
We always hear parents say they hope their kids grow up to be like some of the good-guy athletes, role models who stay out of trouble. Dungy should be that for some parents and coaches.
I remember when he told me that one of the saddest things he found out was that a receivers coach for Bill Belichick's Cleveland team never got to see his son play football Friday nights because he wasn't allowed to leave in time.
Dungy's face looked sad, and this was a short time after his son had tragically taken his own life, so the wounds were fresh.
That's just it: As good a parent as Dungy was with his family -- and he made time for them, unlike a lot of coaches -- he still couldn't avoid the ultimate hurt in losing a child, made even worse by it being self-inflicted.
I know Dungy had battles inside as to whether football contributed to that tragedy. I'm sure he still does. I hope it's one game he's winning against himself.
They used to say Dungy wasn't tough enough. I remember when he interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars job in 1994. Owner Wayne Weaver told some that Dungy's persona was too soft, that he couldn't envision him standing in front of team making a passionate plea.
Dungy always laughed when I brought it up. You could tell it hurt, though.
In 13 seasons, that soft coach was 139-69. He led the Colts to a Super Bowl title in 2006. In his 13 seasons, he had one losing record -- his first with Tampa Bay in 1996. He won 10 or more games in 10 seasons, including all seven with the Colts.
Let the debate begin as to whether he should be a Hall of Fame coach. John Madden is in and he won one Super Bowl, like Dungy. Madden's record was 103-32-7 for a .763 winning percentage. Dungy's career percentage is .668, but it's .759 with the Colts.
Dungy is borderline as a Hall candidate, but there is little doubt that this is a man who deserves an even more important honor:
Tony Dungy is certainly in the Good Guy Hall of Fame. In coaching, that's so rare indeed.