Consider this a shout-out to the man who seemingly never shouted.
Tony Dungy — infinite class, abundant grace, and of course, quiet dignity — exits to a lot more noise than he ever made. He didn’t yell like Halas, motivate like Lombardi, or intimidate like Belichick. When old-school methods ruled, Dungy offered a new-school approach, an uncommon calm in a coaching profession hardly known for it.
Dungy didn’t raise his voice, only the level of his team’s play.
Now Dungy is no longer a part of it. He walks away from the Colts, from the NFL, from the masses of men he influenced, to a higher purpose, to a greater calling, to an area he believes he is more needed. It is the ultimate sign of how rare he, and his methods, are. Few could leave behind a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, a Pro-Bowl-laden roster, a $5 million-a-year contract, and a new stadium that only recently was christened.
But Dungy, as his style proved, is unique. Now that he is gone, few that know him believe he will be back. He has insisted as much. Speculation about a potential return to football will not follow Dungy the way it has with men such as Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher. He is gone as surly as John Madden and one of Dungy’s mentors, Chuck Noll — men who shook the coaching addiction.
Dungy, too, is strong enough and balanced enough to do it. This is a part of his personality that allowed him to impact so many others.
Dungy planted a coaching tree that has branches still growing today. Four former assistants — Herman Edwards in Kansas City, Lovie Smith in Chicago, Rod Marinelli in Detroit and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh — went on to coach teams.
No matter how much success his coaching offspring produce, it will not match the mark Dungy left on history. He became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, providing hope in others in and beyond the NFL landscape. Just as Bill Willis once plowed open doors in football, and Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball, Dungy did it for men aspiring to wear a whistle. Like his style, Dungy’s legacy endures.
And in a way, it is as simple as this. Dungy brought about change long before our incoming president Barack Obama did. And now, he aims to inspire even more of it, with his whistle off.