What Will Dungy Do? 2009 Edition

After a disappointing loss to the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy is once again contemplating retirement. Inside, Eric Hartz rounds up the latest rumors, reveals the opinion of the ColtPower faithful and gives his own prediction on Dungy's future.

Click here to read last year's "What Will Dungy Do?"

Many seem to assume that Dungy's career with the Colts — and likely, in professional football — will end this week when Dungy reaches a decision.

The Indianapolis Star has all but predicted Dungy's departure, and columnist Bob Kravitz suggested that not only should Dungy step aside, but team president Bill Polian, as well.

Dungy was reportedly back in Indianapolis Sunday and meeting with Colts owner Jim Irsay. He's expected to announce his decision early this week.

Dungy-watching after the Colts are eliminated from the playoffs is fast becoming a popular pastime in Indianapolis, as the coach has publicly considered stepping away after each of the past four seasons, beginning with the death of his son Jamie in 2005. The Colts have already named associate head coach Jim Caldwell as Dungy's successor.

If Dungy steps aside, Jim Caldwell will replace him
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

"If his decision is to come back, we'll welcome him back with open arms and I can't wait to get ready for (2009)," Polian said last week. "If he decides not to come back — if he decides that's the best situation for he and his family — then we'll respect that and move on to Jim Caldwell in a seamless transition. We'll have, I'm confident, the same kind of program and the same kind of team and the same kind of excellence that (fans are) used to."

While the fact that Dungy has returned to Indianapolis may seem telling that Dungy has decided to retire, others aren't so sure. Quarterback and league MVP Peyton Manning reportedly told his father, NFL Hall of Famer Archie Manning, that he believes Dungy will return.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to faith and family, as all things do for the coach of the Colts. He has stated in the past that after football, he would like to continue in faith-based teaching.

"There are some other things, yes, that I would like to do," he said last week. "If anything, if there was any one thing, it's just probably doing something more hands on with young men. We have such a crisis right now. I get to talk to young guys occasionally and I just think there's some more things I could do hands on to help. But the other side of the coin is you have a great platform as the head coach of an NFL team. So you have to balance that out."

Dungy's family also moved back to Tampa last winter, which could be a factor in his decision, although Dungy also said last week it wasn't determinative.

"It was good. This year went well and I had fun doing it," Dungy said. "I had fun watching my son play. They spent a lot of time up here on the weekends. It was actually probably time-wise better than the first two years I was here. So that part of it I know is doable, and that really wasn't a problem."

Here at ColtPower.com, 66 percent of voters who responded to the poll question "All things considered, would you like to see Dungy back as the Colts' coach next year?" favored the coach returning to the team in 2009.

A selection of comments from that thread:

. . . "So should he return? Sure, if he wants to do so I'm fine with him. He's a winner and he is head and shoulders ahead of 90 percent of the other prospects out there currently."

. . . "I was ready for a change last year, so of course after this year, i'm even more ready for a change. Four 1 and dones is concerning. Plus, im tired of having this question of whether he is retiring or not hanging over this team every single year. I would bet privately some players are tired of it too."

. . . "I've always been a Dungy supporter, but I think it's time for him to step down. I don't want this to turn into a Brett Favre situation where we have to wonder every year whether or not Dungy is going to retire or not. You're either in 100% or you're out. I envisioned him going out on top in Tampa this year, but realistically knew there was a better chance of ending this way with no running game."

HARTZ'S HUNCH: This is no more than a guess, but something tells me that Dungy has decided to stay on as coach. The argument that he could just as easily make that announcement from Tampa is compelling, but it's important to face the media, particularly when the circus is partly your creation.

Why would he stay? Well, the defense he has spent so much time building is young and has lots of potential. If not for a lot of injuries, the unexpected retirement of Quinn Pitcock and the release of Ed Johnson, this defense would have been much better this season. Given another year, they could be powerhouse along the lines of the 2005 team.

Second, there's once again a sense of unfinished business, particularly with two teams the Colts beat this season in the AFC Championship game. Winning is addictive, and Dungy knows the Colts will be on the short list of Super Bowl favorites again next season.

We'll know soon enough. In the meantime, we end this edition the same way we did last year:

Stay tuned.

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