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January 23, 2007

Dungy's true impact: Truly a great man and a great coach.

posted by livewire to football at 05:52 AM - 20 comments

That's not what they were saying in Tampa.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:00 AM on January 23

We've all read, time after time, about what a great guy Dungy is. He definitely is hugely respected and has done a great deal in NFL circles. I can't help thinking, though, that he'd trade all the impact he's had professionally to be able to spend more time possibly impacting the tragic life and ultimate death of his son. Football's great, but sometimes all that time away for years and years causes bigger problems on the homefront. And yes, I realize his son was around on the sidelines sometimes, and no, I don't know the breakdown of hours spent away versus with his son. But the kid developed some problems, and it's quite similar to kids I work with. Often the only thing that can turn around a kid before huge problems arise is the time and caring of a father. The kids that don't benefit from that can often go astray. My point is, a person's impact should be judged by family and more things outside of their chosen profession.

posted by dyams at 10:25 AM on January 23

That's not what they were saying in Tampa. Dungy turned around the Bucs. They were perennial losers with a coach after coach (Sam Wyche, Ray Perkins, et al.). The Bucs made the playoffs 4 out of his 6 years. People in Tampa were stunned at his dismissal and the embarrassing coaching search that followed. In addition, the team that Dungy created and put together was the team that won the Super Bowl and it was an ever present theme (with all due credit given to Gruden). Now the Bucs seem to be an inconsistent team again (no offense, and no help for the aging defense). Further, he contributed to the city of Tampa and has always been and continues to be hugely popular in Tampa. I am a lifelong Bucs fan, but I have cheered for the Colts ever since he joined them.

posted by bperk at 10:41 AM on January 23

Very good comments, dyams and bperk.

posted by mjkredliner at 11:08 AM on January 23

I agree with you dyams that more goes into being a man than having a successful career. However, would you agree that someone can be considered a great coach even if he was a jerk to his family? I think that you agree with me that he could. I guess that while i agree with you about the criteria for manhood, i hope that we can keep this thread from degenerating into idle speculation of Dungy's parenting skills. That doesn't seem very sports-related. All that being said, the headline up top opened the door here; should it be changed?

posted by brainofdtrain at 11:23 AM on January 23

I don't have a problem with people talking about Dungy's greatness within the confines of his NFL career, but when they extend it to his everyday life it always makes me wonder. A lot of NFL coaches are miserable obsessives who have trouble being married to a wife and the job at the same time. Jimmy Johnson once famously said that he didn't need a wife any more once he left college and didn't have to go to any more university functions. Dungy seems nice, grounded and thoughtful in the gauzy media portrayals, but most of them are by sportswriters angling for access. Who knows if he's really like that or what his son's suicide was all about.

posted by rcade at 12:05 PM on January 23

There are many ways one can be a great coach; same for being a great human being, and success at one has no bearing whatsoever on the success of the other. It's worthy to note that Dungy (and Smith, and a few others) seems to have succeeded at both, and perhaps yesterday's retirement of the prototypical coach of one generation only serves to highlight the different coaching and living style of, arguably, the prototypical coach of the next generation. People are always looking for hints on how to achieve great (or at least greater) things without sacrificing the rest of their lives and bleeding the people around them dry. Dungy could have turned out to be a pretty good life coach, but he's found himself a more high-profile and more lucrative career. Good on him. The discussion of Dungy's parenting skills, or his piety, or his community involvement, is going to be a short one. There's not much to question there (at least until the stories of his week-long spree with Greg Maddux and Dennis Hopper come out. But I didn't start that rumor.) We have two weeks of Super Bowl hype to come. If you're tired of hearing about what a great guy Tony Dungy is, you might want to go outside for a while.

posted by chicobangs at 12:14 PM on January 23

Having a child who commits suicide doesn't always indicate poor parenting. I've seen it both ways.

posted by ChiefsSuperFan at 12:23 PM on January 23

Was T.O. right when he said that Parcells is like a grandma and his coaching style too antiquated? If so, is the "We are a family" coaching demeanor of Smith and Dungy the wave of the future?

posted by ChiefsSuperFan at 12:27 PM on January 23

Dungy and Smith, class acts for sure. The article left out the coaching tree of Don Coryell, the winningest coach in the combo of college and pro football, passed over year after year for H of F....for all his quirkiness he too was/is a class guy.

posted by jazzdog at 12:33 PM on January 23

You know, if we are going to praise coaches who are first family men, then the top of the list has to be . . . Steve Spurrier. A bit part of the reason that he wasn't very successful in Washington was that he held family to be a higher value than his career. He did the same thing at Florida, and passed it on to his assistents (eg Bob Stoops). In Washington he was out the door on his way home pretty early everyday compared to most coaches. I think it's kind of funny how many people get high and mighty about how a coach is too obsessive about his job and is a jerk for not taking care of his family, and then later on make fun of what a "joke" spurrier was in Washington. Maybe having your coaching ability questioned or belittled for the sake of loving your family is a true testament to someone who doesn't pay "lip-service" to caring about those he loves. While i'm not naive enough to think that this decision of Spurrier's was the only reason for his failure in Washington, it is food for thought.

posted by brainofdtrain at 12:38 PM on January 23

Is Lovie Smith a great head coach? He seems to be a hell of a D coordinator. As a game manager, I'm not sure he's "great".

posted by yerfatma at 12:48 PM on January 23

I, for one, haven't seen any details about the reasons for his son's suicide nor would I want to. I think it's completely out of place for anyone to speculate on whether the coach's working hours contributed to it. My husband is an active duty military member who is currently deployed overseas. He is seeing far less of his children right now than a football coach would and that doesn't make him a bad father.

posted by Sophie St. Lucie at 02:53 PM on January 23

His son was college aged and off at school in another state, with his own apartment and all that independent jazz. It's not like he would've been seeing a whole lot of his dad even if he wasn't coaching. Anyway, that kind of speculation is both unfounded and untrue. He makes family a priority over football. That has always been a stated goal of his.

posted by Bernreuther at 03:33 PM on January 23

Anyway, that kind of speculation is both unfounded and untrue. He makes family a priority over football. I don't follow him around and know enough of the details to say what's true and untrue. My point is not to make any man out to be, as the initial post reads, "Truly a great man," based on what he does with a football team. My post above wasn't meant to insinuate Dungy isn't a good family man, or that he could have changed what happened to his son. It's the fact NFL coaching, and life in the NFL period, involves year after year after year of long hours, days, and weeks away. I will never, ever believe Dungy himself hasn't racked his brains about these same issues in the aftermath of this tragedy. And the fact his son was college-aged really has nothing to do with it. People who commit suicide don't generally do it as a spur of the moment reaction. It's usually due to a long history of problems mounting and mounting until it becomes too much. I think back to Vince Lombardi's life (as described in his biography that came out a few years ago), and how the man synonymous with coaching greatness and the NFL in general had a very dysfunctional family, with his wife struggling with many emotional problems, and his children, too. I don't really think any of this was ever publicized when he was coach, because it was during a different era. But the biography painted the picture of a man who didn't see his family for the majority of his life. If you could look at the schedule a NFL head coach keeps, even those who aren't considered workaholics, it's something that takes up practically all their time, all year long, for years straight. NFL success isn't the measure of a "Truly great man." My own choice of career was made so I could spend the utmost time with my children and family. Obviously I'll never make the kind of money Tony Dungy or Bill Cowher will. I'm OK with that trade-off. I do know if any of my children ever take their own life at a young age (God forbid), I'm not sure I'd be able to go on. My children and their happiness and stability are what make me, in my mind, great, not my job.

posted by dyams at 04:45 PM on January 23

Understood. I actually do know the kind of schedule NFL coaches (one in particular) keep, and while some are certainly workaholics, that's one thing that often gets overblown in the media. Michael Smith's article here actually points out that Dungy spent the night before the Pats game at the mall with his family. So it's not all work. Pretty good article, by the way. Focuses not on the fact that they're black, but that they're good guys, and that's the reason we should look up to them. I definitely agree.

posted by Bernreuther at 05:29 PM on January 23

I fully believe Dungy is a very good guy, and my comments aren't meant to pass judgment. Perspective is my real point.

posted by dyams at 06:07 PM on January 23

When i said great man in the post i was refering more to the way he treats his players and all those arround him rather than his family life.

posted by livewire at 06:23 PM on January 23

Dave Zirin has an interesting take on the praise heaped on Dungy and Smith as of late in an article in The Nation.

posted by Spitztengle at 07:39 PM on January 23

It will be interesting how this superbowl plays out Lovie Smith was Dungy's understudy at Tampa Bay I wish them both the best of luck and as far as anyone knocking on the first African American coaches in the superbowl It is a big deal!

posted by luther70 at 08:56 PM on January 23

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