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Superbowl XLI: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith

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Tony Dungy of Indianapolis Colts

Lovie Smith of Chicago Bears

African American coaches are a rare species in the National Football League. The hiring process may have been more discriminating than with the college football teams.

As far back as 2004 there have already been 5 African American football coaches hired, including Sylvester Croom, the first African American to be hired as football coach in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) which was known for its history of racial polarization. He was one of the African American coaches hired for the 117 school varsity teams in the NCAA division.

The NFL have also been doubling its efforts in diversifing its pool of head coaches. With the Rooney Rule in place, many minority candidates especially African Americans vying for head coach positions were given an opportunity to be considered for the job.

In 2003, NFL fined the Detroit Lions for failure to interview minority candidates for head coach after Marty Mornhinweg was fired and Steve Mariucci was immediately hired. The Lions claimed that they attempted to interview other candidates, but the minority candidates withdrew from interviews, as they believed Mariucci's hiring was inevitable.

Although this hiring policy is still being debated, since its implementation, many NFL teams have pushed for opportunities in interviewing minority candidates for head coach positions. There are currently 6 African American head coaches in the NFL. Three of them are leading candidates for coach of the year: Tony Dungy of Indianapolis Colts, Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati Bengals, and Lovie Smith of Chicago Bears.


Now it's basically down to Coach Smith versus Coach Dungy. Like generals directing their troops in battle, these two will be leading their respective teams as they battle it out at the Dolphin Stadium. The Bears are set to meet the Colts head on in Superbowl XLI, Sunday, February 4.

Lovie Smith is in his third season as the head coach of the Chicago Bears after being the 13th man named to that post in team history on January 15, 2004. Smith has directed the Bears to records of 5-11, 11-5 and 13-3, and Chicago has won the last two NFC North titles. In 2005, his eleven wins and the divisional title marked the best second-year performance by any Chicago head coach. Smith joined Chicago after spending 2001-03 as defensive coordinator with St. Louis. Smith was LB Coach at Tampa Bay 1996-00, including an NFC Championship Game appearance. Smith was a freshman LB at Tulsa before moving to SS. He was a two-time All-America choice. He served at Tulsa 1983-86, Wisconsin 1987, Arizona State 1988-91, Kentucky 1992, Tennessee 1993-94 and Ohio State 1995. Smith is a native of Gladewater, Texas.

Tony Dungy is 60-20 at the Colts' helm. Dungy joined the Colts on January 22, 2002, after serving as Tampa Bay's head coach for six seasons (1996-01). Dungy's career regular-season record is 114-62, and he has an overall record of 120-70. Dungy became the 35th coach in NFL history to earn 100 career victories with a 38-20 win at Houston on 10/23/05. Dungy became the 20th coach since entering the league in 1970 to win 100 career games.

Dungy produced some of the NFL's stingiest defenses during his years at Tampa Bay. His units ranked no lower than 11th during his stay and ranked 6th or higher in four of his last five years. Dungy also served 1981-88 with Pittsburgh, including 1984-88 as defensive coordinator. After serving 1989-91 as DB Coach at Kansas City, Dungy was the defensive coordinator at Minnesota from 1992-95. During his years in Minnesota, the Vikings intercepted an NFL-high 95 passes and made three playoff appearances. The Chiefs made two playoff appearances during Dungy's tenure. At Pittsburgh in 1984, he became the NFL's youngest coordinator (age 28). In five seasons as Pittsburgh's coordinator, the Steelers averaged 24 interceptions and 37 takeaways, while scoring 20 touchdowns. Dungy entered the coaching ranks in 1980 at his alma mater, Minnesota, where he was a quarterback (1973-76). He made the Steelers as a free agent in 1977 and was a member of the Super Bowl XIII title team, then was traded to San Francisco in 1979. Dungy is a native of Jackson, Michigan.

Some might see this event at a political angle, but for the rest of the African American football fans it's the turning point. Having an African American head coach leading a team into the Superbowl is a great achievement but having Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith leading their respective teams is a momentous occasion in Superbowl history and a point of pride among Black folks. It's normal to see African American athletes accepted into the NFL and now we have African American head coaches. Pretty soon, having an African American team owner may not be too far behind.

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