Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: Path for next Tony Dungy still a rocky one

On Saturday, Tony Dungy will become the first African-American head coach in the modern era to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Raiders great Art Shell went in primarily as a player. Saturday will be history.

Just as it was history the night Dungy became the first African-American NFL coach to win Super Bowl XLI in 2007, when his Indianapolis Colts defeated his friend Lovie Smith's Chicago Bears.

"Just like I said at the Super Bowl, I'm happy, I'm proud," Dungy said. "But I also I know I shouldn't have been the first."

He thought of other men.

Men like Eddie Robinson and Florida A&M's Jake Gaither. Men like John Merritt and Willie Jeffries. Head coaches at historically black colleges who never got a shot at the NFL.

"This is basically a thank you," Dungy said. "These are the men who laid the foundation, who might already be here in Canton if they'd gotten the same opportunity to be a head coach in this league."

He thought of those who went before him. He thought of those who will follow him — and who will face numbers that still speak to a stark reality.

A recent article by ESPN's Mike Sando laid it out: Of the 22 first-time head coaches hired in the NFL over the past five years, only one has been a minority: Todd Bowles. Sando's story noted that the ratio was nearly identical two decades ago.

"The numbers didn't surprise me at all," Dungy said. "You kind of observe it. I'm going to talk a little bit about it in my speech."

Yes, there are six minority head coaches in the league.

"We've definitely come a long way from where we were," Dungy said. "But if you're an up-and-coming assistant coach, are you as likely to become a head coach for the first time if you're a minority? You look at the numbers and you'd have to say no, you're not."

When Dungy came into the league as a player in 1977 with the Steelers, "there were only 10 black assistant coaches in the whole league." And there was 1993. Dungy was working for the Vikings.

"We had the No. 1 defense in football," he said. "I was the (defensive) coordinator. That was the one year I was discouraged. There were seven head coach openings and I didn't get one call. I don't mean no interviews — not one phone call."

We've come a long way. But there is still more road to travel.

The Rooney Rule was created in 2002 to ensure that minority coaches would be interviewed. One reason the rule was created was because both Dungy and his friend and mentor, the late Dennis Green, had been fired despite all their winning.

"The Rooney Rule, the genius of it, is it made you slow down, think outside the box, take your time," Dungy said. "Lately, people haven't been doing that. It's, 'Let me interview a minority or two as fast as I can and get about the business of hiring people quick, the hot name.' I think we've missed the spirit of the rule. … The numbers pre-Rooney, post-Rooney, they're all the same."

Dungy blazed trails for others. It's a profound legacy. Herm Edwards, who coached under Dungy with the Bucs, became a head coach. Dungy brought Smith from college football to the Bucs in 1996. In 2001, Dungy added college coaches Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell to the Bucs staff. Smith, Tomlin and Caldwell are the only other black head coaches to have led teams to the Super Bowl. Dungy guys.

"What about Tony Dungy is not historic?" Tomlin said before Dungy was elected to the Hall. "For guys like me, he was a living, breathing role model. He really provided great clarity in terms of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it."

"I'm proud of the fact that I brought them into the league," Dungy said. "I'm way more proud of that than being first at anything."

Dungy thought of Chuck Noll. The Steelers' Hall of Fame coach hired Dungy as a defensive backs coach in 1981, when Dungy was 25. Three years later, Noll made Dungy the first black defensive coordinator in the NFL.

"I'll always be grateful to Coach Noll," Dungy said. "He thought I was a good, young guy who could help us. That was something that didn't happen for many African-American coaches at that time."

Saturday is a big night for Tony Dungy. It's history. That isn't lost on him.

Neither are those names.

Robinson, Gaither, Merritt, Jeffries …

"I know I shouldn't have been the first," Dungy said, "but I know I won't be the last."

 
Comments
NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

TAMPA — So much for needing a franchise quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.Sure, the Patriots Tom Brady is back in his seventh straight conference championship game and his 12th overall. But check out the other schlubs under center SundayIt's ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Fifteen years ago today, cornerback Ronde Barber made what's considered the greatest play in Bucs  history, returning an interception of Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb 92-yards for a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-10 win in the NFC Championship...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, only weeks removed from a disappointing 2017 season, had a relevant but larger message for teenagers on Friday morning: Don't let small setbacks keep you from your dreams."If you have a phone, if you have a pen and pa...
Published: 01/19/18
Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Happy Friday, Tampa Bay.Fifteen years ago today, Ronde Barber intercepted Donovan McNabb to shut down Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and send the Bucs to the Super Bowl. Times columnist Tom Jones and many others consider this the greatest moment in ...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones look back at last week’s playoff games to break down the upcoming conference championship games.Rick and Tom agree that New England should roll over Jacksonville but disagree on Minnesota-Philadelphi...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Rick Stroud that he cringed at some of the preseason expectations last season, and the outrage from some fans has been more than he expected.In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down what it a...
Published: 01/18/18
DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

Receiver DeSean Jackson stopped short of saying he regretted his decision to sign a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a free agent with the Bucs last March. But he certainly is disappointed in his lack of chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston...
Published: 01/17/18
Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Kwon Alexander is headed to the Pro Bowl.The third-year Bucs linebacker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, was announced Tuesday as an injury replacement for Seattle's Bobby Wagner.Alexander, 23, won't have to go far, as the game is back in...
Published: 01/16/18

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPJaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. Sunday TV: CBS Line/OU: Patriots by 7½; 45NFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPVikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. Sunday TV: Fox Line/OU: Vikings by 3; 38½Super Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18