Tony Dungy is ranked number 20 on the list of greatest NFL coaches, as compiled by ESPN. To me, that seems a little low. Dungy won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, but his greatest achievement was much more difficult: turning the perennially awful Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Ultimately, the fact that he couldn't get the Bucs to the Super Bowl doomed him, combined with a series of lackluster offenses. Former players regularly talk about Dungy in glowing terms. He changed the culture of a losing team in short order, going from a loser to a winner in less than a season. But he also failed to hold the offense accountable as much as he harped on defense, if we can believe those same former players. He's not a perfect coach -- but who is?
There's a really, really good Derrick Brooks quote in there, too.
"One criticism of Coach Dungy that always came up early in his career was the question of whether he was a true motivator. People thought he wasn't that because they think the louder you get, the more you're going after it. But Coach was motivated to win. He just channeled it in a different way.
"I can remember him sitting in the back of film rooms when I was in my second year and [former Bucs assistant coach] Lovie Smith would give me a negative mark on a tackle.
"When I complained that I made the play, Coach Dungy would say, 'That's not good enough. With your talent that play should be a tackle for a loss.' It got to the point that I actually met with him and asked him point-blank, 'Will I ever please you?' And he said, 'It's not about pleasing me. It's about maximizing your talent.'
"That was the last time I asked him that question because he taught me a lot about his philosophy in that moment."
I don't know if I can think of nineteen coaches who were better than Tony Dungy. And I'm very certain I can't think of nineteen coaches who could have lifted the Buccaneers out of the dumps the way Dungy did. He changed the Bucs' culture and built one of the best defenses in history
Dungy was a unique coach: stoic, calm, friendly and stern. Players constantly refer to him as a mentor and father figure, someone who didn't need to raise his voice to get their attention or respect. He is, without a doubt, one of the best coaches in NFL history. Does number 20 give him his dues, though?