NFL: Colts’ Dungy ready to debate life in, out of football

INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Dungy still enjoys the challenge of coaching.

He just has to decide whether commuting from Indianapolis to see his wife and children in Florida is worth it.

Dungy will spend this week contemplating his future as coach of the Colts, continuing his annual ritual of heading home to Tampa, Fla., to determine whether he can adequately balance football life with family life.

A decision isn’t expected to be announced publicly until next week.

“There are family issues and other things you’d like to do,” Dungy said Sunday. “But the bottom line is we have a fun team to coach. We have some great players, we have a team I know can win, and I still enjoy it. So we’ll try to balance those two and see what happens.”

In Dungy’s 13 seasons as a head coach, seven in Indianapolis and six with Tampa Bay, he’s put together a sparkling resume.

He has 148 career wins, including playoffs, and ranks 19th all-time in victories. He’s the only black coach to win a Super Bowl, the first coach in league history to reach the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons and the only coach to preside over six straight seasons of 12 wins or more.

If Dungy returns next season and the Colts win 12 games again, he would pass former Vikings coach Bud Grant, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and tie Hall of Famer Paul Brown for 13th all-time.

But Dungy has never been the kind of coach who sleeps in his office, dwells on achievements or spends countless hours away from his family. A top priority is being a dedicated husband and father.

Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2006 season, Dungy has thought long and hard each offseason about how much longer he really wants to work in the NFL.

Two years ago, he acknowledged there was a temptation to retire after winning the Super Bowl. He pondered retirement again last January, but returned after Colts owner Jim Irsay agreed to make assistant coach Jim Caldwell the eventual successor and offered Dungy the use of a private jet to visit his family, which now lives year-round in Florida.

Clearly, many in the organization want Dungy back.

Team president Bill Polian has repeatedly said he hopes Dungy sticks around with the Colts longer than he does.

“He’s right now down at his home in Tampa and he’s mulling over things,” Polian said on Monday’s weekly radio show. “I bet he’s got a fishing line in the water; that’s when he does some of his best thinking. I think he’s wrestling with it.”

If Dungy needs a little push from the players, he could get it.

Middle linebacker Gary Brackett, the defensive captain, said he would even call Dungy this week to make the case.

“Definitely,” Brackett said. “But I don’t think that has nothing to do with it. He’s a family man, and he knows we’d love to have him back.”

The stakes, however, are getting increasingly tougher for Dungy, the dad.

His son, Eric, will be a high school senior in the fall and won a state championship at Plant High School in Florida, last month. Colleges reportedly showing interest in Dungy’s son include Stanford and Miami of Ohio, and Dungy, like most fathers, may want to spend a few Saturdays taking his son on college visits.

Then again, he might be able to do that and take care of business at the Colts complex, too.

Plus, if Dungy returns, there’s a good chance the Colts will be a Super Bowl contender again. So leaving now would be tough.

“I know how those guys (Colts players) feel about me, and I know how I feel about them,” Dungy said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m still here. Five years ago, I probably had the same feeling, but we have such a great group, it is hard to leave those guys and it would be hard.”

And finding hints about Dungy’s leanings are tougher yet.

On Sunday, Dungy spoke at length about what the Colts need to improve upon next season, repeatedly using words like ‘we.’ He also said he’d sit down with Polian during the next month to discuss personnel decisions heading into free agency.

Dungy also spoke about his post-football plans and his desire to work more with All-Pro Dads, the prison ministry and becoming a mentor to teenagers and young adults.

But there are other factors at play, too, and Dungy called this past year as rewarding a regular season as he’s had in more than three decades in the NFL.

“I enjoy it, had fun this year, had a great deal of fun,” he said. “I enjoy watching our young guys improve, and I enjoy everything that goes with being the head coach. You couldn’t have a better situation than I have here, better ownership. It’s not that (burnout) at all. You’re coaching the MVP of the league and a team that you know is going to be good, so we’ll see.”

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