The rumor mill kicked into full gear last week, when reports that Dungy's son transferred from Indianapolis Park Tudor to a school in Tampa. And speculation has run amok since the Colts surprising loss in the AFC playoffs Sunday.
Wednesday, ProFootballTalk.com posted in its rumor mill that Dungy was leaving the team and assistant head coach Jim Caldwell was set to take over. PFT.com gets a lot of inside information, and posts a lot of it, but this rumor appears to be just that for the time being.
Before the afternoon was over, Dungy had denied the report to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and said he was sticking to his original plan — to consider his future this week and make an announcement by Monday.
"Believe it or not, I'm going to go through the process just like I said I would," Dungy told Mortensen. "[Owner] Jim Irsay and I, along with [team president] Bill Polian, have have been talking about this for the last couple of days in Indianapolis. Jim wants me to open the new stadium. I'm not opposed to it, my wife is not opposed to it. I'm going to go through this process to make sure that I should do it."
Jim Caldwell talks to an official in 2005
Otto Greule/Getty Images
Later Wednesday, Caldwell, who has interviewed for the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens head coaching jobs, withdrew himself from consideration for both jobs. That likely means that Caldwell has been selected to take over when Dungy leaves. But whether that's next week or next year remains to be seen.
The fact that he told Mortensen "I'm not opposed to it, my wife is not opposed to it" offers a ray of hope for Colts fans who hope the popular coach will stick around for the inaugural season at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008. But both Dungy and his wife, Lauren, have strong ties to Tampa, where Tony coached the Buccaneers for six years before being fired.
A very religious man, he was involved in prison ministry in Florida and thought his time in football had come to a close. Then Jim Irsay called and left a message that Dungy said was a "mission statement."
In his memoir, Quiet Strength, Dungy recalled his initial conversation with Irsay, and his reaction.
"... none of it was about football. We talked about the Colts family, about values, about community. He said that he wanted to win, but he wanted to win the right way ... I'm not sure I would have been interested in coaching at all if Jim hadn't left that message with his ideas about my role as the new head coach of the Colts."
Clearly, Dungy is different than most NFL coaches that eat, breath and sleep football. He considered retirement after the 2005 season after the death of his oldest son, James. The next year, Dungy and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, and America noticed the way the dignified coach carried himself on football's biggest stage. He again considered leaving the game, but decided to return to help the Colts try to defend their title.
This time, however, it appears Dungy may finally decide to hang up his whistle. But he won't do it without some serious contemplation this week. As he also said in his memoir, "I don't have the strength or wisdom to get through a single day without guidance and grace from God."
Dungy is a man that has turned his life over to his faith, but he also knows that being a football coach gives him the widest platform him to testify to that faith. And even though he doesn't want to be a football "lifer," he's been in the NFL for nearly 30 years, and 52 is a relatively young age for retirement, especially from a competitive world like pro football. Since Dungy has said he won't take another job after the Colts, he'll have to think long and hard about giving up the game he loves.
Dungy congratulates LaDainian Tomlinson after Sunday's game
The shocking loss to the Chargers may have left the coach with a sense of "unfinished business" this season, and it sounds like the coach wants to open the new stadium with the team. And Irsay will do what he can to keep the coach, offering his private jet and more time off to travel to Tampa. If he does leave, he'll leave the Colts in excellent shape. All but five of the starters are signed through next season, and the Colts have won 12 or more games for five straight years.
Until Dungy reveals his decision, all Colts fans can do is speculate — which many of you are already doing in our forums — about the coach's future.
But whoever is the coach of the Indianapolis Colts next season, whether it's Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, or someone else, the team should be in position to challenge for the Super Bowl once again. But with the players, to a man, lobbying for Dungy's return, it may be better for the team for Dungy to come back for one more year to groom Caldwell and break in the new stadium. Whether Dungy feels the same way remains to be seen, however.