Dungy an asset to Bucs’ Ring of Honor

by Gary Shelton on May 9, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

He is not the most accomplished coach in Bucs' history. Tony Dungy never won a Super Bowl here. With the offensive staff he had, I'm not sure he ever would have. Only Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl here.

He was not the funniest coach in Bucs' history. He couldn't crack you up by suggesting that his offense deserved execution, or that Capece was Kaput. Dungy was quiet, maddeningly so.

He is not the first coach, or the most recent one. He is not Sgt. Hulka, old Greg Schiano. He does not have the blank-faced stare of Ray Perkins or the "everyone's my buddy" atmosphere of Raheem Morris. He is a not a collection of personalities like Sam Wyche.

No. all Dungy was is this:

The most important coach the Bucs ever had.

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He conquered the beast. He ended the losing. He made the Bucs matter. He lined his players up in the best possible positions, and he unleashed a decade of the best defense you could imagine. His teams made four playoffs in five years, the best run of anyone (John McKay made three in four years; Gruden made three in six).

And now Dungy enters the Bucs' Ring of Honor (or will on Sept. 24 when the Bucs play Pittsburgh, the team for which Dungy played.). Of course he does. It should be said again that the Bucs' Ring of Honor isn't the equivalent of some teams'. It isn't chocked full of champions and Hall of Famers. But it's an assortment of players and coaches who were important to the local fans, and so it is a good thing. I've said before that there is room for Ronde Barber and Hardy Nickerson, for Simeon Rice and Batman Wood, for James Wilder and Monte Kiffin.

Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer said: “Tony Dungy’s impact on the Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay community is not measured in terms of wins and losses. Tony transformed our entire organization and established a winning culture that set the foundation for the most successful era in our franchise’s history. Through his exceptional leadership, Tony set a new benchmark for excellence on and off the field that we still strive to achieve to this day.”

Sure, Dungy deserves it. There was some controversy when he made the Hall of Fame (just one Super Bowl). There shouldn't be to a Ring of Honor.

People forget just how bad things were for the Bucs when Dungy came in 1995. There had been 14 straight losing seasons, 13 of them in double-figures. The team had finished in fifth place in the division eight times. The Bucs kept drafting in the top 10, and they kept missing, and they turned into a punch line. Warren Sapp says "it was like the third world here."

Dungy changed that. He created expectations. He created standards. He might not have satisfied his critics with his record, but for this franchise, he won plenty. Again, I never thought he had an NFL-quality offensive coordinator (Mike Shula? Les Steckel? Clyde Christiensen?)

You want to know Dungy's truest gift? He could see what kind of player a player could be. The previous administration was not happy with Derrick Brooks. They lined him up over the opposing tight end, in effect taking away his speed.  He convinced Sapp to lose weight and regain his quickness. After a delay, he inserted John Lynch into the lineup. Eventually, Barber joined them. And Simeon Rice. And Greg Spires. And Shelton Quarles.

After that, he trusted his system. Oh, a lot of us outsiders would doubt, but he would stress the basics. He believed. Even to the day the Glazers fired him, he believed.

Oh, Dungy didn't belong to the Bucs alone. He was the Colts' coach for seven years, one more than he was in Tampa. He won a Super Bowl there. He's been in the Colts' Ring of Honor since 2010.

Again, however, if you're talking about impact personalities, Dungy is up there with Lee Roy Selmon, Brooks and Sapp. You cannot write the history of this franchise without getting to his name very, very soon.

He was a quiet man, never confrontational. I told him once that I was open to his criticism if he felt I was wrong. "It's not my job," he said. Once, he said the team won because it was responding to criticism. I laughed and said "I should get a game ball." He looked at me and said "You got some votes."

We talked about a lot of things. Black history. The responsibilities of fatherhood. His own father. The death of his son. The responsibilities of athletes toward the communities in which they live. Adoption.

Always, he was a good man.

The Ring of Honor is more honorable with him in it.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Brownlee May 10, 2018 at 7:10 am

You said it BEST when you wrote “There shouldn’t be a Ring of Honor” unless Dungy comes aboard and put the Bucs on the world sports map. Until he was hired, our “ring of honor” consisted of Selmon,and McKay (okay, I knew they included Jimmie Giles and Doug Williams later on but vital Buc careers to create a “Ring” for to begin with, they were not). If he wasn’t so stubborn and had hired a real O-Coordinator (or had a Peyton Manning at QB rather than Shaun King, Trent Dilfer, or Eric Zeier) we may never have hired Gruden and had let Dungy coached here until he was ready to call it a career like the Colts did.

Great column there Gary !!

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Bill Myers May 9, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Amen to that Gary!

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