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Tony Dungy: 'It's fitting' Gruden, Glazer go in Bucs' Ring of Honor together

Tony Dungy, shown here with owner Malcolm Glazer before a Aug. 4, 2000 preseason against Washington, said Tuesday that it is fitting that his replacement, Jon Gruden, is being inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor this season with Glazer. [Times files]
Tony Dungy, shown here with owner Malcolm Glazer before a Aug. 4, 2000 preseason against Washington, said Tuesday that it is fitting that his replacement, Jon Gruden, is being inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor this season with Glazer. [Times files]
Published May 30, 2017

It's the most indelible image in Bucs history. Jon Gruden, raising the Lombardi Trophy in his right hand while embracing owner Malcolm Glazer after winning Super Bowl XXXVII. The confetti had fallen and Gruden had thoroughly thrashed his former Oakland Raiders team 48-21 on a cool evening in San Diego.

Less than a year earlier, Glazer had paid an enormous bounty to the Raiders to trade for Gruden — two first round picks, two second round picks and $8-million. Now here they stood, the kings of the NFL, an improbable season ending when the impossible happened.

Like any picture, it's worth 1,000 words. But here are a few more.

The Bucs made the right decision by announcing that Glazer, who died in 2014 at age 85, and Gruden will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor this year.

And many of you are thinking: why not Tony Dungy?

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Dungy is more than worthy, and it's a matter of when, not if, he joins Gruden and John McKay as the Bucs' only coaches in the Ring of Honor.

It could be as soon as next season.

Many have said what Dungy did was more of an accomplishment. "Tony baked the cake and Jon put the frosting on it,'' is how Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp is fond of saying it.

The Bucs were a disgrace, a laughingstock, with more than a decade of double-digit losing seasons when Dungy arrived. He took them to four playoff appearances in six seasons, including a loss to the St. Louis Rams in the NFC Championship game.

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He built one of the best defenses in the NFL for a decade, and what was the No. 1 overall defense in the 2002 season when Gruden won the Super Bowl.

It's been said, over and over and incorrectly, that Gruden won the Super Bowl with Dungy's team. He didn't.

Twenty-seven players were on the championship team that did not finish the 2001 season with Dungy. Players such as Michael Pittman, Joe Jurevicius, Keenan McCardell and others.

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You know who isn't upset by this decision? Tony Dungy.

"I am thrilled for Mr. Glazer and for Jon,'' Dungy told the Tampa Bay Times. "I think it's very fitting they go in the Ring of Honor together. Fifteen years after the championship is special.

"Malcolm was so special to me as you know. I would not be where I am today without him making the decision to hire me. He was such a mentor to me and my older boys.

"I couldn't be happier. I'm glad they are going to do the ceremony on Thursday night so I can be there."

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Make no mistake, Dungy would've loved to have been inducted in the Ring of Honor with Malcolm Glazer because he meant so much to him.

Without Glazer, Dungy would not have enjoyed a career that ended in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after winning his won Super Bowl title with the Indianapolis Colts.

"I think it's fitting for Jon to go in with (Glazer),'' Dungy said. "The only Super Bowl championship in franchise history should be honored.''

Contact Rick Stroud at stroudbuc@aol.com. Follow >@mjfennelly.