Even though he is retired, and he has likely coached his last game, Tony Dungy is still very much in the news. In fact, whenever Tony Dungy opens his mouth to talk about anything, people stop and listen. The man has, quite amazingly, transcending his legendary NFL coaching status. Dungy is now becoming more of a social and cultural icon, not just a great football head coach and game innovator.
One of the side effects of Dungy's new-found status is how we, as Colts fans, focus on our team while Dungy uses his impressive credentials to champion social causes he believes in. In many ways, his speeches and efforts to bring awareness will distract from what we really come here to talk about: Football. So, just because everyone else jumps up and raises an eyebrow when Dungy talks doesn't mean I will.
I love Tony Dungy. I think he is a great coach, person, and an important individual in the grand tapestry that is NFL lore. However, he is no longer coach of the Colts, and my personal preference at this time is to listen to what Jim Caldwell talks about, not Tony Dungy.
So, all that said, the one post-Colts Tony Dungy adventure I will comment on a bit is his recently penned Sports Illustrated article regarding Michael Vick. As many of you know, Coach Dungy visited Vick in prison, and has made efforts to reach and and help him transition from prison life to the sure-to-be media circus that will surround him post-prison. One segment from Dungy's article caught my attention:
In the two hours we spent together, Michael and I learned a lot about each other, and we made a commitment to stay in touch after he is released. When I left the prison, I found myself thinking: What if Michael, who says his father was not a positive influence on his household when he grew up, had had the same family support system that [Tampa Bay rookie QB] Josh [Freeman] had? Would he have ended up in this situation? I really don't think so.
That's one of the reasons I left the Colts a few months ago. People ask me all the time why I retired, and it wasn't from stress or burnout. In my mind I didn't retire from football as much as I was moving to something else. I wanted to do something to help the next generation of young people realize their potential. As a coach I was blessed to have developed a bond with many of my players. But I always felt that those who made it to the NFL were, for the most part, men who had gotten some good mentoring along the way. I wanted to reach out to young men who hadn't had the benefit of college and NFL environments.
Dungy seems to now be taking on the role of NFL mentor in his post-coaching career. As the article states, he is "keeping on eye on" Tampa Bay rookie Josh Freeman at the request of Freeman's parents. He's working to help Michael Vick. Don't be surprised if you see Dungy work with other troubled players (Pacman Jones?).
What Dungy seems to be doing is providing a "father figure" type role for many troubled young adults. As many have said, when you take a kid with no discipline but loads of talent and give him millions of dollars, bad things can happen. The road is littered with the dead bodies of many an NFL franchise as a result of talented but troubled players busting their pro careers. For many, they often lacked a mentor; someone to help them deal with the life stresses that come with working in the NFL and, in many cases, being in the limelight.
Enter, Tony Dungy.
So, from that perspective, I almost think Coach Dungy should have retired sooner, because this kind of work is, in many way, much more important than winning football games.
And, if you give a rat's ass what I think about Michael Vick, I'll tell you that I think what Vick did was both barbaric and near-unforgivable. You have to have something wrong with you mentally to enjoy watching two animals fight each other to death. I know some cultures celebrate it. Seriously, such cultures are bankrupt. No civilized, intelligent culture enjoys watching living things KILL each other for sport. If that offends people, I'm not sorry. There is a reason football is popular now and not human sacrifice or gladiatorial cage matches to the death.
We've evolved, both socially and intellectually. To what degree we have evolved is a different debate.
Still, despite his crimes, Michael Vick does indeed deserve a second chance to play in the NFL. Unlike last time, he will need to earn his keep. It will not be handed to him on a silver platter. Vick is, without question, one of THE most talented people this NFL has ever seen. Can you imagine him playing in the wildcat Offense! Holy crap!
With Dungy mentoring him, Vick might have a chance. I don't root for Vick, but I would not be upset if he returned to the NFL. I'm not so sure others feel the same.