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Ex-Bucs coach Tony Dungy makes Hall of Fame

SAN FRANCISCO — Tony Dungy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

He will be right there in Canton, Ohio, with Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Don Shula and Vince Lombardi.

He didn't look like them, and in his quietude, he never sounded like them. But he won like them, managing to kick down a few color barriers along the way.

Nobody knew that when he started in Tampa Bay in 1996, after he had been passed over time and time again for head coaching jobs. Twice in Philadelphia. Once in Jacksonville.

He didn't interview well. He was too soft spoken. He was too black. Owners didn't say that, and it might not have been their thought process, but every time he interviewed and didn't get a job, his skin color became part of the story.

"I came in the league in 1977 and I think at that time there was seven or eight African-American assistant coaches, so it wasn't a situation where you had a lot of role models," Dungy said Saturday night. "But I had a lot of people that believed in me, and I'm very appreciative of them."

Dungy, 60, is part of an eight-member Hall of Fame class of 2016 that includes Packers quarterback Brett Favre, Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, Rams/Steelers defensive end Kevin Greene and Rams tackle Orlando Pace. Former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., 69, was elected as a contributor in the city where he celebrated five Super Bowl titles.

"It's unbelievable," DeBartolo, a Tampa resident, said. "It's almost like a script was written, having Super Bowl 50 here (in Santa Clara, the new home of the 49ers) and being back where we played and battled for so many years."

Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler and Lions offensive lineman Dick Stanfel were posthumously elected as senior candidates. Former Bucs and Broncos safety John Lynch made it to the final 10 nominees in his third straight year as a finalist.

The Bucs nearly overlooked Dungy in 1996 after first trying to land two much higher-profile coaches, Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson.

"We were not sure if Tony had enough confidence," Falcons president Rich McKay, who was the Bucs' general manager when Dungy was hired, said recently. "All these others guys were telling you how they almost reinvented water and why they should be head coach.

"When we rallied back (to discuss the candidates), he didn't rate that high on the list. I said, 'I'm not giving enough credit to Tony Dungy and what he had done and what he had achieved.' Every time he gets a chance, he doesn't just go to the top, it's the very top."

There are 22 Hall of Fame coaches. Dungy will become the 23rd, but the first African-American, just as he was the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl, with the Colts in the 2006 season.

"It's not hard to see why I'm here," Dungy said. "Warren Sapp went in a couple years ago, Derrick Brooks, Peyton (Manning) is going in in a few years, Marvin (Harrison) is going in.

"There's a reason you go in as a coach, it's those great players."

But for all the success Dungy had with the Colts, the job he did in Tampa Bay was likely his biggest accomplishment.

The Bucs were a rudderless franchise when Dungy arrived. They had had 13 straight losing seasons, 12 of those with double-digits in losses. The team did not have a stadium deal, and owner Malcolm Glazer had threatened to move the franchise.

"He gave you the sense that he could weather any storm," McKay said of Dungy.

Operating in a dilapidated training facility a punt away from a runway at Tampa International Airport, the Bucs eventually took flight. But it didn't happen right away. They lost their first five games under Dungy.

"It is pretty hard to believe," he said. "Twenty years ago this year and we lost our first five games, and it didn't look like it was headed in this direction at all."

By his second season, the Bucs finished 10-6 and earned a playoff berth. In 1999, they went 11-5 and clinched their first NFC division title since 1981. The Bucs made four trips to the playoffs in Dungy's six seasons, including the 1999 NFC Championship Game, where they lost 11-6 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.

Under Dungy, the Colts made the playoffs in each of his seven seasons. Indianapolis won 10 games his first year, 12 or more every season after.

HOF class of 2016

A closer look at the eight newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 4C

Ex-Bucs coach Tony Dungy makes Hall of Fame 02/06/16 [Last modified: Sunday, February 7, 2016 12:29am]
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