Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- Very bad things happen to very good people. That's all I can make of the death of James Dungy and its impact on the family of Tony and Lauren Dungy. We're all trying to make some sense of something that makes no sense.
This is what I thought of over the weekend: A couple of weeks ago, Cris Carter, my partner at HBO's Inside the NFL, was in the midst of a career dilemma. An assistant on the high school football team at nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Carter's been thinking about his future a lot recently. He's been offered the chance to be a high school head coach in Florida. He loves coaching and he's trying to decide if it's something he wants to do with the rest of his life.
"You got Tony's number?'' he asked me in the studio one day. "I'm going to call him. See what he thinks.''
I gave him Dungy's phone number and he called. On Thursday, after the unthinkable happened, I asked Carter what Dungy had said to him in the phone call.
"He said 'You've got to follow your heart,''' Carter said. "He said when he talks to prospects at the Scouting Combine every year and asks them who the most influential person in their life was, most of them don't say their mom or their dad. It's their high school football coach. He said it's been one of his regrets that he wasn't a high school coach.''
How incredibly poignant those words seem now. Imagine what Tony Dungy is thinking. Why wasn't I there for my son more? That's what I would be thinking if one of my children died the way James Dungy apparently did. Suicide is the initial finding of the cause of death of 18-year-old James Dungy at his apartment in a Tampa suburb.
First, I have to say what I've said on so many occasions this season, and in prior seasons, about Tony Dungy. He is the most human, family-oriented, real person among NFL coaches I've met in 21 years covering the league. All the long conversations we've had at owners' meetings, in locker rooms, at training camps, over the phone -- going back and forth this season on the merits of going for the perfect season -- and now this. I can't think of a better role model in the NFL. I mean, his own players go to him for fathering advice.
I wrote about Dungy for Sports Illustrated this week. The story hit your mailbox the same day the news hit that James Dungy had died. The genesis of the story: I was asked by one of my editors to write about something that was good in the NFL in 2005. I thought about a few things -- the enduring quality of the Patriots (overwritten), the fun-loving charm of Chad Johnson (a bit of a reach, though I believe it), Andy Reid standing up to Terrell Owens (America's so sick of that story), the resurgent Colts (it'll by written in January) and Tony Dungy. Now that one felt just right. Early this month, he was handling the perfect-season stuff with aplomb, he'd conquered Mount New England, he had his team poised for history, he drove one of his younger kids to school at least once a week and he led the league in one significant category: Times Home For Dinner, Weekly, In-Season.