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Tony Dungy Analyzes Vick, NFL And Leadership

In a visit to a Columbia, S.C., prison, Tony Dungy told inmates that no matter their mistakes, they can gain redemption.
Mary Ann Chastain
In a visit to a Columbia, S.C., prison, Tony Dungy told inmates that no matter their mistakes, they can gain redemption.

Tony Dungy retired as coach of the Indianapolis Colts just two seasons after winning the Super Bowl. Since then, he's worked as an NFL analyst, a motivational speaker -- and now, as a writer. His new book is about the importance of mentoring, a task he took on with Michael Vick.

Asked about his work with Vick, the quarterback who returned to pro football last year after serving a prison term for charges related to dogfighting, Dungy says it's going well.

"Michael is a work in progress," he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "I think he really is wanting to do the right thing, I think the Philadelphia Eagles have been a great organization for him."

Earlier this summer, Vick attended a nightclub the same night a shooting took place. The Eagles say that Vick did nothing wrong, but that he shouldn't have been in such a place.

Despite that setback, Dungy says that Vick's "personal life is in much better shape than it was four years ago, and he is, I think, headed in the right direction."

The key now, Dungy says, is for Vick to "stay directed and stay on the right path. As a father of seven, kids, and being a kid myself at one point, I realize you don't always make the best decisions every time out. And life is a learning experience."

In his book, Dungy cites former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll as someone who taught him a lot. Dungy played briefly for the Steelers, and then coached under him until Noll's retirement.

"He knew how he could help people," Dungy says. "He was a teacher, he was a guy that was very good at selecting people, getting them to fit in -- he wasn't the guy that was going to sit there and motivate you intrinsically. That wasn't what he was best at. So he hired people that were good at that."

Noll even hired other, more motivational speakers to come in and address his team before games.

"That's part of being a good leader as well," Dungy says. "Recognizing your strengths and making sure you utilize them, but also recognizing your weaknesses and coming up with ways to overcome that."

When he retired from football, Dungy cited the all-consuming nature of being a head coach as one of the reasons for his departure. For the past few years, the NFL has been looking at ways to extend the NFL season.

Asked about a possible move from 16 games to 18 games -- and a corresponding two-game cut in the number of preseason games -- Dungy says, "I'm against it."

"The regular season games are much more intense," he says. "And also, I believe that in 16 games, some teams separate themselves. The good teams separate themselves from the not-so-good teams.

"The longer the season is, the bigger that separation will get."

As for which teams might contend for the 2011 Super Bowl, Dungy admits to being a Colts fan -- the team, which lost to the New Orleans Saints in last year's championship game, still has Peyton Manning as its quarterback, he notes.

But despite having "a great team," Dungy doesn't think the Saints can repeat as NFL champions -- due both to an offseason shortened by a playoff run and to the attention teams get after they win a Super Bowl.

"So I'm kind of leaning toward the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC," he says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff