Colts coach stands alone in history

MIAMI -- As he stood on the podium, amid the swirling confetti in the middle of Dolphin Stadium, Colts head coach Tony Dungy thought of NFL assistant coaches such as Jimmy Ray, Sherman Lewis, Lionel Taylor and all the others who preceded him.

"Great coaches," Dungy said later, "that I know could have done this if they'd been given the opportunity. I feel good I was the first one to do it and represent the guys who came before me. I dedicate the game to them."

In the 40 previous Super Bowls, there was not a single African-American head coach among the 80 leadership slots. That's 0-for-80. On Sunday, in Super Bowl XLI, there were two. After his Colts dispatched Lovie Smith's Bears 29-17, Dungy stood alone in history.

During the presentation of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Dungy said he and Smith valued their faith more than their social accomplishment.

"I'll tell you what," Dungy said. "I'm proud to represent the African-American coaches. It means an awful lot to this country. [But] we're more proud of that."

Fritz Pollard was the first African-American head coach, in 1921. Fast-forward to Art Shell, who was hired to be the Raiders' coach by owner Al Davis in 1989, making him the first black head coach of the modern era.

In 1996, Dungy was named coach of the Buccaneers. He created a championship team -- it was just that he got fired the year before they won the Super Bowl. After losing in the playoffs for four straight seasons, these Colts won all four of their playoff games.

After the game, Dungy talked about Smith, whom he hired from Ohio State for his first staff in Tampa Bay.

"I told him how proud I was of this moment," Dungy said. "They're going to get their championship soon."

"I think Lovie runs his program the same way [as Dungy], with respect for his players, with the idea he wants his players to be part of their city," Dungy said. "You want to do things the right way.

"I can coach with no profanity, no violations of the rules, anything like that. And I hope that gets across to owners, maybe athletic directors in college football, that, hey, look at maybe a different set of people than you always looked at.

"There's a lot of African-American men that can do the job."

Last week, when former African-American coaches talked about this precedent-setting Super Bowl, they acknowledged the magnitude of the moment, but also hoped that Dungy and Smith's ascension would end the need to discuss the issue.

Doug Williams, the first African-American quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, was the MVP of Super Bowl XXII and, 19 years later, no one makes an issue of the color of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick or Vince Young.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," Smith said last week. "Excited about the step that we're taking. Excited about the progress we're making right now. I talk about the day when we're not talking about the day when we're the first African-American coaches to lead their team to the Super Bowl.

"That day is coming."

That day has come.

Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.