Six days and a wake up until Superbowl XLI and despite living in Chicago, I have to admit that I won't be pulling for the Bears (the fact that I'm not a Bears fan is irrelevant, y'all). I'll be pulling for the Colts not because I'm a Colts fan but because I'm a HUGE Tony Dungy fan. In fact, any homey familiar with his story (waiting a ridiculous amount of time as a defensive coordinator before getting a shot at head coach) and his impact on the integration of the head coaching ranks in the NFL should be pullin' for ol boy too...
Following their respective conference wins, most stories are focusing on the fact that Superbowl XLI will be the first featuring not only one southside head coach but two - Tony Dungy and Chicago's Lovie Smith. What most stories aren't focusing on is how instrumental Tony Dungy was in populating the NFL head coaching ranks with other southside coaches. Much is still made today over the prolific Green Bay staff that Mike Holmgren put together back in the day - one that produced current and former NFL head coaches, Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron and Andy Reid.
Once TD finally got his shot he also put together a powerhouse staff in Tampa Bay staff back in the day, one which produced southside head coaches Lovie Smith (heard of him?), Herm Edwards, newly minted Pittsburgh Steerlers coach Mike Tomlin and northside Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli (not to mention TB defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and former Alabama head coach Mike Shula). Clearly TD is not only a talent in his own right but he's also an excellent evaluator of talent. Tomlin's story of getting hired by both Dungy in TB and now as Pittgsburgh head coach is particularly impressive. Even more impressive is that 25% of the 12 teams in this years playoffs featured coaches from that Tampa Bay staff.
Dungy's coaching success and the work of the Fritz Pollard Alliance (Frederick Douglas 'Fritz' Pollard was the NFL's first southside coach back in the '20s.) - an alliance whose co-founders include the late Johnnie Cochran - helped forge the way for the groundbreaking (and extremely effective) Rooney Rule, which stipulates that NFL team's have to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring any head coach. It's impact (and TD's) are undeniable - a record 7 southside head coaches were in place when the 2006 season kicked off - Art Shell and Dennis Green have been subsequently drop kicked by the Raiders and Cardinals respectively (the Rule will only get you in the door - only your team's on-field performance will keep you there and rightly so). In 2006 - no one did it better than TD and Lovie Smith (Smith's Bears boasted the best record in the NFL this year).
So when Superbowl XLI kicks off I won't be hatin' on Lovie and the Bears as I feel Lovie will get his in due time. Instead ol Ty will be cheering for TD to finally realize the fruits of his hard fought (and won) labor and get the appropriate propers he's due.