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Tony Dungy’s Legacy Extends Far Beyond Mentoring Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been under attack and steadily criticized by a football community that seems to lack an appreciation for his accomplishments as a coach. Other than Bill Belichick, Tomlin is the winningest coach in the NFL, having made the playoffs 8 out of 11 years, reaching two Super Bowls and winning one. 

Its really all about perception. The Steelers are 1-1-1 after defeating the Tampa Bay Bucs on Monday night despite the absence of their top playmaker LeVeon Bell. But folks would rather say the team is dysfunctional and criticize the coach for not having control of his players off the field, rather than credit him for not panicking and keeping the team together despite some of his superstars having personal riffs with the front office.   

While Steelers fans and other misinformed football people call for Tomlins head, the Steelers organization refuses to listen because they know the caliber of coach they have in him. 

He is a product of Tony Dungy’s distinguished coaching tree, which affords any candidate of color some credibility as soon as they enter through an organization’s door for a coaching gig. 

Baron Flenory on Twitter

Tony Dungy’s coaching tree is sick!!

Thanks to Dungy, Tomlin got his feet wet as a defensive backs coach, learned the coaching game and etiquette, and was given an opportunity to excel in a space that has traditionally excluded and undervalued men of color. Under Tomlins leadership Pittsburgh has lost just 61 of 177 regular season games and despite unwarranted criticism, Tomlin has displayed the championship coaching prowess and life skills that Dungy instilled in him and so many others coaches.  

Dungy was inducted into the Tampa Bay Bucs Ring of Honor during halftime of last night’s game for his contributions to the organization from 1996-2001. 

Mike Tomlin reflects on Tony Dungy, former Steeler’s influence

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reflects on the influence of Tony Dungy, the former Steeler and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, who will be honored Monday night.

Tomlin was Dungys Defensive backs coach from 2001-2005 in Tampa. Dungy says he knew in Tomlins first week of work that he was destined to become a head coach. 

It took 20 minutes to have him come in here, he was very confident without being cocky, ” Dungy said in a sideline interview last night. “We had All-Pros like Ronde Barber and John Lynch, we had young rookies. Mike had command of that room and you could just tell right away he was going to be something special.”

Many of Dungys former players were in attendance at Raymond James Stadium,  to honor a man who can be considered the greatest mentor and teacher, humanitarian and social activist in the history of the NFL. 

If not for Dungy, the entire Tampa Bay organization and current Raiders coach Jon Gruden would still be ringless. 

Dungy built that Super Bowl-winning team that Gruden benefited from in 2002, after Dungy left for the Colts, eventually becoming the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007. 

Gruden capitalized on Dungys foundation building in a similar fashion to the way Steve Kerr did when Mark Jackson laid the foundation for the Golden State Warriors Dynasty — building the unbeatable car —  and Kerr stepped in and drove it off the lot. 

Dungy knows how hard it is to succeed in any sport as an African-American head coach and he made it a priority that although he wasnt the first Black coach in the NFL , he certainly wasn’t going to be the last . Opening the door for other Black coaches became a personal mission for him throughout his illustrious career.

CoachTube.com on Twitter

“We wanted to win a Super Bowl, but more than that – we wanted to do it with the right kind of young men who would be role models for our community & people that our young folks could look up too.” – Tony Dungy https://t.co/DzhqXZsaBn

When I came into the league as a player in 1977, there were 10 African-American assistant coaches in the entire NFL and the toughest thing for aspiring Black coaches was getting that chance that first step, Dungy said on the sideline last night. So I really made a commitment that I was going to help those guys take that first step. So bringing people like Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell and Herm Edwards (and former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier) into the league was important to me and I knew what those guys could do if given the opportunity.”

As of 2016, Dungy’s hires accounted for 43 percent of minority head-coaching hires over the previous 20 years, including 39 percent since the Rooney Rule took effect in 2003. Each of those coaches has led an NFL team to the playoffs and Smith, Tomlin and Caldwell have all been to Super Bowls. 

Dungy was just paying it forward in the same way that the late great pioneer Dennis Green did for him many years ago. 

FanSided on Twitter

Green’s coaching tree includes Super Bowl winners Tony Dungy and Brian Billick. #RIP https://t.co/SeNeMFUTZQ

Dungys always had a pulse on the needs of the African-American community and has used his power, influence and respected character, intelligence, and virtue to create a pipeline of diverse coaching talent as impressive as any head coach to ever work in the NFL. 

Hes also left a body of work that transcends the game. 

From mentoring and negotiating Michael Vicks NFL return and executing an image rebuild of the ages after Vick served time in prison for dogfighting, to his various works with family organizations, his public speaking, religious missions and community involvement, Dungy is a crowned jewel 

Many of Dungys former Bucs players and coaches were in attendance on Monday night to see him receive the honor. But when asked, Dungy deflected his greatness and attributed his success to them. 

Tony Dungy on Twitter

This has been an awesome night for me so far. Very emotional and we aren’t even close to the Ring of Honor ceremony yet.

I think it is those young men who made things happen. We talked about a belief and what we were trying to do in a system and they believed in that. But more than anything they got involved in their community and that was my No. 1 goal.

That insight, bravery and understanding of his obligation as an African-American with a rare opportunity to change the face of football and diversify the coaching ranks is what makes Dungy on of the most influential people in NFL history. 

The accolades as a head coach speak for themselves. 

1. Dungy orchestrated a miraculous turnaround after the Bucs had suffered 13 consecutive losing seasons. 

2. He took over a Buccaneers team in 1996 that had lost 10 or more games in 12 of the previous 13 seasons. He proceeded to make the playoffs in four of his six seasons. Tampa had just three playoff appearances in 20 NFL seasons prior to Dungy’s arrival

3. After laying a winning foundation in Tampa, Dungy never won less than 10 games in any of his seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and won five division titles with Peyton Manning at the helm. 

4. He was the first African -American head coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016

Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Twitter

Live: Tony Dungy Ring of Honor Ceremony https://t.co/VGOtVUqI7S

Dungys Super Bowl XLIX win over his protege Lovie Smith was an All-Black coaching affair and a significant moment in NFL history. It gave us a glimpse into a league that was changing, but still somewhat resistant to hiring Black coaches as the number of head coaches of color has never exceeded eight. 

If not for Dungys influence, those numbers would be even lower.  Hes the epitome of class, consistency and consciousness. The type of man that all young men should strive to be. 

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