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Tuesday, January 22
Updated: January 23, 5:56 PM ET
 
Dungy accepts five-year offer to coach Colts

ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy didn't need much time to get a new job.

Eight days after being fired in Tampa Bay, Dungy reached an agreement in principle to coach the Indianapolis Colts and a formal introduction is expected Wednesday during a 5 p.m. ET news conference.

Tuesday, Jan. 22
The Colts' hiring of Tony Dungy reunites two coaches, Dungy and offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who worked well together in both Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Dungy gives the Colts the edge they have lacked for the last few years and allows them to keep the offense intact under Moore, a coach who has no objective other than to win games and championships.

With Moore running the offense, Dungy will be able to work his defensive magic, bringing that side up to match the offense. It looks like an early recipe for a Super Bowl.

Now the Colts need to get the players who best suit Dungy's defensive philosophy. It is likely to take at least two years to acquire and draft the right players and get them to play and understand the philosophy. With eight new starters, however, the Rams were able to turn around their defense in one year, so it can be done. Don't short-change what Dungy could do in the short term.

"Colts president Bill Polian and Ray Anderson, coach Dungy's representative, are working out the final details," Polian said in a statement.

"Both parties expect things will go smoothly."

Polian was not available to take questions and a phone message left on Dungy's home answering machine in Tampa, Fla., was not immediately returned. Dungy had returned home after being in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl earlier Tuesday, Anderson said.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said the team had reached a five-year contract with Dungy.

The contract, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reported, is worth about $12.5 million. That is between $4 million and $5 million more than the Carolina Panthers offered on a five-year deal. The Panthers' proposal was also severely backloaded.

Irsay said the Colts had engaged in a bidding war for Dungy with the Panthers.

"We weren't going to be outbid for Tony Dungy. He was going to be a Colt for sure," Irsay said.

The decision between the Panthers and the Colts, sources told ESPN.com, was more difficult than some felt it would be. Although the Colts are a more talented team, and could contend immediately for a spot in the playoffs if Dungy can enact a quick-fix on the defensive side of the ball, he liked the city of Charlotte and the challenge the Panthers represent.

"There was a lot more deliberation here than people probably think," one source said. "The folks in Carolina, the ownership and management there, were impressive."

"He was by far the best candidate out there," Irsay said. "Tony is a proven winner and an ideal type leader who we want to represent the horseshoe."

Dungy will join the New York Jets' Herman Edwards as the only black head coaches in the NFL. It also puts blacks in charge of four of Indiana's most prominent teams -- the Colts, the Indiana Pacers, Notre Dame football and Indiana men's basketball. Isiah Thomas is the Pacers coach and Mike Davis the Hoosiers' coach, while Notre Dame hired Tyrone Willingham earlier this month.

Irsay said he thought it was significant that negotiations with Dungy ended Monday, while Dungy attended White House ceremonies to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration.

"What a great thing for that to happen on Martin Luther King Day because he is the reality of Dr. King's dreams," Irsay said of Dungy. "I knew we had a coach when he started asking about Pacers tickets."

Dungy, 46, was fired by Tampa Bay last week. The Colts fired coach Jim Mora on Jan. 8, primarily because he refused to get rid of former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio has since accepted the coordinator's post with the expansion Houston Texans.

Mora went 32-34 and took Indianapolis to the playoffs twice in four seasons. The Colts went 6-10 this season.

Dungy was the most successful coach in Buccaneers history, going 54-42 in six seasons and leading the team to the playoffs four times. The Bucs were 9-8 this season, including a loss to Philadelphia in the wild-card round.

But Dungy also fit the profile Polian wanted -- a defensive-minded coach whose system would work with young players. Polian believed Fangio's system was too complex for the Colts young defense, which had six first-time starters last season could have four or five more new starters next season.

Irsay thought Dungy's defensive background, which included five years as the Pittsburgh Steelers coordinator and four years as the Minnesota Vikings coordinator, was perfect for the Colts.

"He is a simplistic genius," Irsay said. "There is no question that this is the piece of the puzzle that I think is the final piece."

Dungy's defenses ranked among the league's best throughout his tenure with the Buccaneers, including No. 1 rankings in 1998 and 2000.

Polian also interviewed Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and was reportedly interested in Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Cottrell also has interviewed with the Panthers and spent five hours in meetings with San Diego Chargers on Monday night, his agent, Joe Linta, said Tuesday.

Dungy, however, was Irsay's top choice.

"There were a lot of other good candidates out there," Irsay said. "But this was a sure thing."

Dungy's assistants in Tampa are reportedly interested in joining him in Indianapolis, but a Buccaneers spokesman would not confirm if Dungy or someone from the Colts requested permission to speak with them.

Dungy might also retain some Colts assistants.

Irsay alluded to keeping both offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd so that the Colts could keep the league's No. 2 ranked offense in tact.

Dungy worked with Moore on the Minnesota Vikings' staff in 1992-93, and he played for Moore when he was a quarterback at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1970s.

"I think with Tom and Howard, you have that side taken care of," Irsay said. "But he wants to finalize his staff.

"We're just excited to announce Tony Dungy as the new coach."

ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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