For years, football fans who saw Tony Dungy on NBC’s NFL coverage had one question: when would Dungy return to the sidelines?
Dungy was a successful head coach during that part of his life. Perhaps best known for leading the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in February 2007, Dungy left the sport less than two years later.
So why didn’t Dungy, who turns 65 on October 6, ever take another head coaching job? The answer is both simple and heartwarming.
Tony Dungy had a historic NFL career
A Super Bowl-winning safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late 1970s, Tony Dungy started coaching at the University of Minnesota in 1980.
Five years after his final NFL game, Dungy was named Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator in 1984. By 1996, Dungy — then only 41 — was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach.
The defensive-minded duo of Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin turned the miserable Buccaneers around. Dungy guided the Buccaneers to four playoff appearances in six years and built the core that won Super Bowl under Jon Gruden in January 2003.
Dungy thrived with the Indianapolis Colts
Dungy, along with quarterback Peyton Manning, went 85-27 in those seven years and made the playoffs each season. Although Indianapolis only went 7-6 in the playoffs, four of those wins came in early-2007, when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl 41.
The images of Dungy and Manning hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in a downpour at then-Dolphins Stadium is a lasting sight for NFL fans. Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, solidified his case as one of the best quarterbacks in league history under Dungy’s tutelage.
Dungy retired in January 2009, just days after the Colts’ AFC wild-card round loss to Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Jim Caldwell, Dungy’s long-time assistant coach, replaced Dungy on the sidelines.
Dungy joined NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage in June 2009 and has been with the network since. Dungy entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Tony Dungy chose his family over returning to coaching
Tony Dungy, along with former Steelers coach and CBS analyst Bill Cowher, was seemingly always linked to the head coaching jobs which became available each year.
Neither left the broadcast studio, though. For Dungy, the decision was simple — and it had nothing to do with taking over rebuilding teams or going through the NFL grind again.
In a 2013 interview with the Indianapolis Star, Dungy explained his family and his devotion to religion was enough to satisfy him in his departure from football.
“I do feel like the Lord gave me a platform. Not many people get to coach in the NFL. Not many people get to the position of head coach. So I had an opportunity to say things and people would listen. I could say something in a press conference and it would go all across the country.”
Dungy never returned to coaching or an NFL front office after the 2008 season. He has written several books and uses his social media to spread love and religious messages.