Tony Dungy was the first coach to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers onto their new home field at Raymond James Stadium. Now Dungy's name will be added to that stadium's façade for all future Buccaneers and fans to see, and to remember the role he played in achieving a remarkable franchise turnaround.
On September 24, 2018, Dungy will be inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. The honor will come via a halftime ceremony during the Buccaneers Week Three Monday Night Football game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Tony Dungy’s impact on the Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay community is not measured in terms of wins and losses," said Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. "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."
Dungy will become the 12th member of the Ring of Honor, and the third former head coach to have his name placed among the franchise's all-time greats. Founding Head Coach John McKay was the second person inducted into the Ring, in 2010; he was joined last year by former Head Coach Jon Gruden, who succeeded Dungy at the helm and led the 2002 Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl title.
Named the sixth head coach in franchise history on January 22, 1996, Dungy has the best winning percentage among all Buccaneer head coaches. He guided the Buccaneers to a 54-42 regular-season record, with four of those six campaigns resulting in playoff appearances. Dungy's 1996 squad started the season 0-5 but famously followed its patient head coach, stuck to the plan and began to see results by season's end.
The '96 Buccaneers finished 6-10 but won five of their last seven games; the '97 Buccaneers won 10 games and broke a 15-year franchise playoff drought. That was the team's first winning record since a 5-4 finish in the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. Dungy's next five teams would all finish .500 or better.
Tampa Bay also record its first playoff victory in 18 years at the end of that 1997 season, beating the Detroit Lions, 20-10, in the final game played at Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium. The Buccaneers lost to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round to bring their 1997 run to an end, but they were on the verge of another milestone with Raymond James Stadium due to open in 1998.
Dungy's Buccaneers won the first game in their new home, rallying from a 15-0 first-half deficit to beat the visiting Chicago Bears on September 20, 1998. That team failed to make it back to the postseason, eliminated on the final weekend despite a season-capping 35-0 blowout of the Bengals in Cincinnati, but it did deal the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings their only regular-season loss of the year.
Dungy got his first head coaching job in Tampa after four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Vikings. (Coincidentally, his first win as the Bucs' coach in 1996 also came against Minnesota.) After bringing former New Orleans Saints coach Monte Kiffin on board to serve as his defensive coordinator, Dungy fashioned one of the greatest defenses in NFL history over the next half-dozen years. Dungy and Kiffin so thoroughly mastered the implementation of the Cover Two defense that it is now widely referred to as the "Tampa Two."
After improving from 27th in the NFL in defense in 1995 to 11th in Dungy's first season, the Buccaneers began a streak of nine straight seasons in which they finished in the 10 in those rankings, including two number-one rankings and seven top-five landings. The first five years of that streak came with Dungy at the helm. His 1999 squad, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Warren Sapp, carried the Buccaneers to a then-franchise record 11 wins and a trip to the NFC Championship Game. The St. Louis Rams, playing on their home turf and coming off one of the most prolific offensive seasons in league history, were heavily favored in that conference championship match, but the Buccaneers' defense ruled most of the night. Though the Rams averaged more than 30 points per game during the 1999 regular season, Sapp and the Buccaneers had a 6-5 lead late in the third quarter before a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and a controversial no-catch ruling against the visitors led to an 11-6 win for the home team.
The Buccaneers went back to the playoffs after the 2000 and 2001 seasons, marking the first time in team history that they had made three straight trips to the postseason. Unfortunately, both of those seasons ended in playoff losses at Philadelphia, and Dungy's' tenure at the Bucs' helm came to an end at the conclusion of the 2001 campaign. The Buccaneers would go on to win the Super Bowl the following season, with the defense Dungy constructed playing a big role.
Dungy would go directly from the Buccaneers to the Colts and would go on to guide Indianapolis through seven highly successful seasons. The Colts compiled an 85-27 regular-season record with Dungy at the helm and went to the playoffs after each of those seven seasons. The 2006 campaign ended with a trip to Super Bowl XLI, in which Indianapolis beat Chicago, 29-17, making Dungy the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Those achievements in Indianapolis led to his induction into the Colts' Ring of Honor in 2010. The Buccaneers, of course, have chosen Dungy for their own franchise honors based on his trailblazing time in Tampa. Dungy was the first head coach hired by Malcolm Glazer, who purchased the team in 1995 and made the first seminal move in reviving the moribund franchise by bringing in this new leader. The Buccaneers got new uniforms in 1997, their new playing home in 1998 and a trip to the verge of their first Super Bowl berth in 1999.
"I will always be grateful to the Glazer family for giving me my first opportunity to coach a team," said Dungy. "It was an awesome time for me and my family as we encountered so many special players, staff members, and fans. This induction into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor puts a bow on all those great memories."
Dungy's role in turning the franchise around made him a popular man among Buccaneer fans who had been starving for a successful team to support. However, he also was – and remains – beloved in the Bay area for his civic involvement and service to the community. In 1997 he helped found the Tampa-based non-profit organization All Pro Dad, which uses NFL players and coaches to stress the importance of being a good father. Later, after his tenure with the Buccaneers, Dungy was appointed by George W. Bush to the President's Council on Service and Civic participation.
That Dungy's induction into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor will take place with the Steelers in the house is a sweet coincidence. Dungy played the first two seasons of his NFL career in Pittsburgh, winning a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers following the 1978 season. A running back in college at Minnesota, he converted to defensive back in Pittsburgh and was the Steelers' leading interceptor in the Super Bowl season. After a trade to the 49ers in 1979, Dungy finished his playing career with one year in San Francisco and one with the New York Giants.
Dungy went immediately into coaching after his final season as a player, spending one year at his college alma mater before Steelers' Head Coach Chuck Noll brought him back to Pittsburgh. He rose to defensive coordinator by 1984 and held that role for five years before going to the Kansas City Chiefs as a defensive backs coach in 1989, then to the Vikings as their coordinator in 1992. During those years, he used what he had learned under Noll to put his own spin on the Cover Two defense. The Vikings quickly developed into a defensive powerhouse under his guidance, and that led to his first head coaching opportunity in Tampa.
Dungy is now a broadcaster for NBC, but he continues to have an impact on the game on the field, largely through the fruits of his coaching tree. Among those who have coached on his staffs and gone on to NFL head coaching jobs of their own are Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, Leslie Frazier, Herm Edwards and Rod Marinelli. Smith, Tomlin and Marinelli all began their NFL careers when Dungy hired them from the NCAA ranks as assistants on his staff.