Tony Dungy persevered through rough start with Bucs on road to Hall of Fame

Tony Dungy endured an inauspicious beginning to his first NFL head coaching job, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996.

"It's pretty hard to believe 20 years ago we lost our first five games," Dungy said Saturday night after being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2016. "It didn't look like we were headed in this direction at all."

The Bucs went on to lose eight of their first nine games that season. But general manager Rich McKay didn't lose faith -- "such tremendous support from McKay," Dungy said -- and the Bucs were 53-34 over the next 5½ years under Dungy. They reached the NFC Championship Game in 1999.

Dungy was fired after the 2001 season when the Bucs were unable to advance past the wild-card round of the playoffs.

"I got fired in Tampa, and you don't know what's going to happen and where you're going to go, if you're going to go anywhere," he said Saturday.

It would take him just eight days to find a new job, as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

He described how Colts owner Jim Irsay "left a message on my answering machine and he said, 'We want to build a team the right way in Indianapolis. We want to connect with our fans. We want to have a team that represents our city well.' He didn't talk about championships or any of that -- he just talked about how he wanted to do it, and he said, 'You're the man I want to lead this.'"

The Bucs won the Super Bowl the season after Dungy's departure. He enjoyed great success with the Colts, compiling a .759 winning percentage (85-27) over seven seasons and in 2006 he became the first African-American head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship.

"I just thank [Irsay] for choosing me and wanting me to be part of it," Dungy said. "It was a special, special seven years."