Colts’ Dungy announces retirement

INDIANAPOLIS (TICKER) —Tony Dungy has contemplated retirement for the past three years but, finally, he knew the time had arrived.

On Monday, Dungy announced he was stepping down as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts after seven seasons with the club.

Colts owner Jim Irsay made the announcement at an early-evening news conference Monday night, calling Dungy’s decision a “bittersweet” moment for the franchise.

Dungy, however, viewed the moment purely as sweet.

“Don’t shed any tears for me,” Dungy said. “I’ve gotten to live a dream that most people don’t get to live.”

Dungy, 53, elevated Indianapolis to unprecedented heights during his tenure, guiding the team to seven consecutive playoffs appearances and Super Bowl championship following the 2006 season.

He also made history by becoming the first black coach to win a Super Bowl and leaves the franchise with a 92-33 mark.

“I have a real peace about it that this is the right time,” Dungy said.

Dungy became the first coach to lead a team to six consecutive 12-win seasons and set a league record by bringing his team to 10 straight postseason appearances, including his final three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Colts won five straight AFC South titles under Dungy, who posted double-digit victory totals in 10 of his 13 seasons.

But Dungy, a deeply religious man, said he was more proud of the manner in which his team won than the actual wins and losses.

“I think my legacy will be more how we did it,” Dungy said. “To show people you can do it - I don’t want to say the right way because there’s a lot of right ways - that you can treat people right, be professional, do it with class.”

Indianapolis already has a coach-in-waiting in associate head coach Jim Caldwell, who was designated as Dungy’s successor by Irsay a year ago.

A member of Dungy’s staff since 2002, Caldwell was the Colts’ quarterbacks and assistant head coach until he was elevated to his current position in January 2008.

“There’s no question in my mind he’s the best person for this job,” Dungy said. “He’s going to do a great job.

Another legacy of Dungy’s will be the number of his assistants who became head coaches in the league. Of the six current African-American head coaches in the NFL, four worked for Dungy - Caldwell, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, Herman Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He is one of the modern-day pioneers of our game,” Smith said. “His resume includes achievements no other NFL head coach has accomplished, which I’m sure will lead to a spot in the Hall of Fame. And as great of a coach as he is, he’s an even better person.”

Under Dungy, the Colts emerged as the strongest rival to the New England Patriots, who won three Super Bowls from 2001-2004 but lost four of the last five games to Indianapolis.

“People often say that teams reflect their head coach and that can be said of Tony Dungy’s teams, which are consistent winners every single year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Tony has been such a fixture in this league that his absence will take some getting used to. He may be leaving the sideline, but Tony will be remembered fondly for a long time.”

Dungy departs the game with a 139-69 regular-season record and a 9-10 mark in the postseason.

Dungy made a joking response when asked if he would consider coaching again.

“This really is a retirement, but I am smart enough to realize a lot of guys have said the same thing, so we’ll see,” he said.

Making decisions regarding his future has become an annual rite of winter for Dungy, who has mulled retirement for the past few seasons - most notably after the Super Bowl victory.

Despite entering the postseason as the league’s hottest team with a nine-game winning streak, the Colts were knocked out of the playoffs with 23-17 loss at San Diego on January 3.

Many expected Dungy to walk away following the victory in Super Bowl XLI, particularly since it came just over a year after his 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide.

“You don’t always go out on top and it’s hard to go out on top, because it’s so much fun winning you don’t want to stop,” said Dungy, who added that he feels a responsibility to be home more and spend time with his family.

“I haven’t exactly thought what path I will take,” Dungy said. “It’ll be somewhere where I hope I’m directing people.”

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Updated Monday, Jan 12, 2009