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After weighing over his options during the previous week, Tony Dungy announced on Monday he will return for his seventh season as Indianapolis Colts head coach.
The highest profile Black coach in the National Football League, Dungy had considered retiring after this season to spend more time with his family in Tampa, Florida or pursue his dream of going into the prison ministry.
But after meeting with his family and his pastor, the 52-year-old Dungy was ready to give football at least one more year of his heart.
“We’re on board and we look forward to ‘08, look forward to putting together a winner,” Dungy said with his trademark calmness.
Last season, Dungy became the first Black coach to win the Super Bowl after beating the Chicago Bears, coached by his friend Lovie Smith. This year, the Colts fell short in the AFC divisional playoffs, losing to the San Diego Chargers 28-24.
He had considered retirement after the previous two seasons but with his family’s move to Tampa earlier this month and his 16-year-old son Eric playing high school football, the decision was not easy this time. He had previously mentioned not wanting to be an NFL “lifer” and retiring by age 50.
As someone who strongly values his family as much as - if not more - than football, he made the decision knowing he could equally commit to both.
“I wouldn’t shortchange my family,” he said. “I wouldn’t come back if my wife or my children were not for it.”
Had he retired, longtime assistant Jim Caldwell had been hand-picked by him as his replacement. Caldwell, who has been an assistant for seven years since the two were in Tampa Bay, will serve this year as the associate head coach to prepare him to be the eventual successor.
Over his twelve year career as a head coach, Dungy has arguably shown Hall-of-Fame credentials as a coach who has made two franchises better than when he got there.
In his six years with the Colts, he has gone 73-23 and has won five division titles. He has gone 7-5 in the playoffs, including three trips to the AFC championship, and his 80 overall wins are a franchise record. He currently has the second highest winning percentage for coaches with one team (.760).
Prior to that, he spent six years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turning that franchise from one of the league’s worst to a perennial playoff contender. While earning a reputation as a tough, defensive-minded coach, he helped the Bucs to a division title and an NFC championship appearance while becoming the franchise leader in career victories with 54.
It was strongly hinted by Colts owner Jim Irsay that Dungy would remain possibly beyond this season and Dungy, known for his faith, admitted that being a coach gives him the platform to carry his out personal ministry.
While it is unsure whether or not this will be his farewell tour, one thing is for sure: Tony Dungy is back as a head coach in 2008 and football fans everywhere are better off watching a man of his character and gifts live out his life’s work.