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The Quiet Leader
Nunyo Demasio
February 13, 2007
WITH HIS SUPER BOWL VICTORY, TONY DUNGY HAS JOINED THE RANKS OF THE NFL'S GREATEST COACHES--AND HE HAS DONE IT SLOWLY, SURELY AND ON HIS OWN TERMS
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February 13, 2007

The Quiet Leader

WITH HIS SUPER BOWL VICTORY, TONY DUNGY HAS JOINED THE RANKS OF THE NFL'S GREATEST COACHES--AND HE HAS DONE IT SLOWLY, SURELY AND ON HIS OWN TERMS

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BEFORE Tony Dungy was interviewed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head-coaching job in January 1996, a screw from his eyeglasses fell out and was lost. It left him without use of the left sidepiece, which hooked over his ear. ? Dungy didn't intend to wear the spectacles when he went to meet general manager Rick McKay at his Santa Clara Marriott suite. But at the start of the interview, because his eyesight is so poor, Dungy put on the busted glasses to avoid squinting.

Soon, the spectacles were askew--the nosepiece was diagonal, instead of on the bridge of Dungy's nose. The coach appeared to be oblivious, locking eyes with his interviewer. But roughly 30 minutes into the session, McKay stopped Dungy mid-sentence.

"Coach, you have to take those glasses off," McKay implored. "They are driving me nuts."

Tony Dungy doesn't fit the profile of an NFL head coach. He is a genteel fellow with a strong faith and is unapologetic about football's being secondary in his life. The 51-year-old has never adhered to conventional coach-think. So having his glasses askew during a make-or-break interview certainly didn't make him, well, blink.

"It was typical Tony," McKay--now Atlanta's general manager--recalls, laughing. "He wasn't worried about how he appeared. He was just going to tell you how he operated."

Dungy's vision was affirmed on Feb. 4 at Dolphin Stadium with Indy's victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI. Dungy and his former Tampa assistant, Lovie Smith, were the first black coaches to reach the championship game in 87 NFL seasons.

By guiding the Colts to their first Super Bowl since 1971, Dungy has refuted the notion that his mild-mannered approach doesn't win championships. Instead, the victory enhances Dungy's place among coaching giants. This season Dungy supplanted Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs for the best record among active coaches: 114--62. Overall, Dungy's .648 winning percentage is surpassed only by those of John Madden, Vince Lombardi, George Allen, George Halas and Don Shula. In 11 NFL seasons (six in Tampa, five in Indianapolis) Dungy's teams have made the playoffs nine times, including eight straight. The only coach with a longer streak is Tom Landry at nine.

During his Tampa tenure (1996--2001) Dungy engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history while revolutionizing the Cover Two defense before it became all the rage. He has also made an impact by nurturing a blue-chip coaching tree that has substantially boosted the NFL's number of black head coaches. Dungy and his former assistants account for four of the league's six black coaches.

Yet one of Dungy's most impressive accomplishments simply has been winning without amending his contrarian ways. Dungy is the opposite of the irascible, militaristic coach who has no life while overseeing a clandestine operation. He is outspoken about social issues; he's heavily involved in charities, particularly Christian groups.

"I never thought about changing, never felt the need to change," says Dungy, who once considered quitting to work in prison ministry. "I knew we could win this way."

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