If you are trying to write the history of the National Football League, you cannot do so without including Tony Dungy. To me, that's Hall of Fame worthy.
In 13 seasons as a head coach of two different franchises, Dungy made quite an impact. In 1996 he was hired to take over the dismal Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization after being one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for several years. Before Dungy arrived in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers had enjoyed just 3 winning seasons in 20 years of existence, and one of them was in a shortened season. In just 2 of 20 seasons had the Buccaneers finished with a positive point differential. After a 6-10 season in his first year with the Bucs, Dungy would never have a losing season again in his career. Dungy compiled a 54-42 record in Tampa Bay (.563) and 4 playoff appearances, going 2-4 (.333). In 1999, Dungy led his team to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, the NFC Championship game, where the Bucs held the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams to just 11 points, though the Buccaneers lost 11-6. In his 6 seasons in Tampa Bay, Dungy had 5 winning seasons in 6 years (compared to 3 in the previous 20) and his teams posted a positive point differential in 5 of 6 seasons (compared to 2 in the previous 20). Ultimately, however, Dungy was fired for too many playoff failures.
Dungy wasn't off the market for long, however, as the Indianapolis Colts came calling and Jim Irsay wanted Dungy all the way. Dungy inherited a talented Colts team but in need of a defensive overhaul and of a culture change. Dungy led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his 7 seasons in Indy, winning at least 10 games every year and having a positive point differential each year as well (something the Colts had done only 5 times in their 18 years since moving to Indianapolis). Under his watch, the Colts won 5 division titles, an AFC title, and a Super Bowl. Dungy compiled an 85-27 record (.759) in the regular season and a 7-6 record (.538) in the postseason.
For his career, Dungy won, plain and simple. He was a head coach for 13 seasons and won at least 10 games in 10 of them, having only one losing season - his first year as a head coach. He made the playoffs 11 times and won a division title 6 times. He won a conference championship and won a Super Bowl as well. He compiled a 139-69 record (.668) in the regular season and a 9-10 record (.474) in the postseason. Of all NFL coaches who have coached at least 100 career games, Dungy holds the 9th best win percentage, and 7 of the 8 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Of all the coaches who have won at least 100 career games, Dungy has the 6th best win percentage, and the top five all are in the Hall of Fame.
But honestly, none of that is Dungy's biggest accomplishment. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame says that they focus only on the on-field merit, it is impossible to ignore the bigger impact that Dungy had on the game. As I said, you couldn't write the history of the NFL without Tony Dungy. On February 4, 2007, not only did Dungy lead his Colts to a Super Bowl victory but Dungy also became the first African-American head coach to ever win the Super Bowl.
Dungy's impact is still greatly felt today, also. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith, and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell all coached under Dungy, and former NFL head coaches Leslie Frazier, Rod Marinelli, and Herm Edwards are also from the Dungy coaching tree - as is former University of Alabama head coach Mike Shula.
Bill Polian, who worked with Dungy in Indianapolis as the Colts general manager, said it best about Dungy:
"In many respects, he's replaced Wellington Mara as the conscience of the NFL... In many respects, he is a role model and pioneer for the African-American community. It doesn't take long traveling through airports with Tony to see that he holds the same position today that Jackie Robinson probably did in his time. To walk with him is like traveling with the Pied Piper, so it seems.
"People of all races are attracted to him. He represents achievement and integrity. You are a better person for having been around him. That's the ultimate definition of a Hall-of-Famer. All of that is valuable for the NFL and has made it a better place."
Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin said of Dungy:
"He wins. That's why you hire a coach - to win games and compete for championships. He built two Super Bowl champions - one with a quarterback (Indianapolis) and one without (Tampa Bay). He only suffered one losing season in his 13 as a head coach, and that was his first season.
"Of all the coaches who have won 100 games in NFL history, he has the sixth-best winning percentage. The five coaches ahead of him are all in the Hall of Fame. You judge coaches on winning. Tony Dungy was one of the most consistent and best winners ever to walk an NFL sideline."
Tony Dungy won wherever he went and is one of the winningest coaches in the history of the National Football League. He won a Super Bowl and in doing so became the first African-American head coach to ever do so. There is no one in the NFL community more respected than Tony Dungy.
That said, Dungy's case is far from certain. Only 5 of the 15 finalists can get in and being stacked against 13 players makes the case for Dungy difficult. Only 22 coaches have ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The positive is that Dungy stacks up well against those other coaches and it seems likely that his time will come. But will it be this year, in the first year that Dungy is eligible? That is much less certain, and Dungy will probably have to wait. That said, I wouldn't be too surprised if he made it, either, because I think Dungy is accomplished enough.
Tony Dungy's time will come, I'm sure of that. I'm just not sure if it will come this weekend or not.
To read Josh Wilson's thoughts on former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison's chances at making the Hall of Fame this year, head here.