20. Tony Dungy: Quiet inspiration

No. 20 - Tony Dungy (1:24)

Peyton Manning, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Doug Williams discuss why Tony Dungy is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. (1:24)

ESPN celebrates the 100th anniversary of Vince Lombardi's birth with the "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" series, saluting the finest innovators, motivators, tacticians, teachers and champions ever to stalk the sidelines. Follow along as we reveal our list of the top 20 coaches of all time and document the lineage of the league's most influential coaching trees.

Tony Dungy turned the perennially bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers into consistent winners before a dominant run with the Indianapolis Colts, with whom he became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.

He also helped popularize the Tampa 2 defense. Despite the name, Dungy said the scheme was derived from the defense run by Chuck Noll's 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers. Dungy was heavily influenced by Noll. He played defensive back for him in Pittsburgh (1977-78) and got his start as an NFL coach there, too. He was an assistant for Noll's Steelers from 1981-88, including five seasons as defensive coordinator.

Dungy, in turn, had a strong influence on the careers of other African-American coaches. Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell and Leslie Frazier all worked under Dungy before becoming head coaches.

After his time in Pittsburgh, Dungy spent three seasons (1989-91) as the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive backs coach under Marty Schottenheimer. He then returned to a defensive coordinator role, this time with Dennis Green's Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota ranked among the league's top 10 in turnovers and interceptions each season Dungy was there (1992-95).

The Buccaneers, who hadn't reached the playoffs since 1982, made Dungy their head coach in 1996. One of Dungy's first moves in Tampa Bay was to hire Monte Kiffin, who had been linebackers coach with Dungy in Minnesota, as the Bucs' defensive coordinator. Dungy and Kiffin implemented their version of the Cover 2 defense to combat the West Coast offenses of the day. The Bucs' defense ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed in five of Dungy's six seasons.

Dungy led Tampa Bay to the playoffs four times, including a trip to the 1999 NFC Championship Game. The Bucs fired Dungy after back-to-back first-round playoff losses, and the team he left behind won Super Bowl XXXVII the following season.

Indianapolis wasted no time in hiring Dungy and became a perennial championship contender. In Dungy's seven seasons, the Colts earned five division titles, won 76 percent of their regular-season games and registered double-digit victories each year. They went to two AFC Championship Games, winning in the 2006 season on their way to a Super Bowl XLI victory over Chicago. The Bears were coached by Smith, whose first NFL job was as linebackers coach for Dungy's Buccaneers.

Dungy retired after the 2008 season and embarked on a TV analyst career.

Dungy played quarterback at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s, where his backup was future Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Dungy transitioned into a defensive back after joining Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent in 1976. He was pressed into action as an emergency quarterback once in 1977 for the Steelers, going 3-for-8 with two interceptions in a loss to the Houston Oilers.

-- Kevin Stone


One criticism of Coach Dungy that always came up early in his career was the question of whether he was a true motivator. People thought he wasn't that because they think the louder you get, the more you're going after it. But Coach was motivated to win. He just channeled it in a different way.

I can remember him sitting in the back of film rooms when I was in my second year and [former Bucs assistant coach] Lovie Smith would give me a negative mark on a tackle.

When I complained that I made the play, Coach Dungy would say, "That's not good enough. With your talent that play should be a tackle for a loss." It got to the point that I actually met with him and asked him point-blank, "Will I ever please you?" And he said, "It's not about pleasing me. It's about maximizing your talent."

That was the last time I asked him that question because he taught me a lot about his philosophy in that moment.

Even when he left Tampa [after the 2001 season], he was still challenging me. It was hard to see him go, but he told me I had to move on to have success, and he had to do the same to succeed with his new team. When I asked what he meant, he said I was the leader and people would follow my example. He was excited for me because he felt our team was on the brink and the team he was going to [the Colts] was in the same position.

I kept thinking that this guy was amazing. He was getting fired and he was still wanting the best for the [Bucs]. That's why I was jealous when he went to Indianapolis. I didn't want any other team to have the relationship that we had with him. He was more than a coach by that point. He was a mentor.

-- Former Buccaneers All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks, as told to Jeffri Chadiha

ESPN "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" voting panel: Chris Berman, Jeffri Chadiha, John Clayton, Colin Cowherd, Mike Ditka, Gregg Easterbrook, Herm Edwards, David Fleming, Ashley Fox, Greg Garber, Mike Golic, Suzy Kolber, Eric Mangini, Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio, Bill Polian, Rick Reilly, Mike Sando, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, Seth Wickersham, Trey Wingo.