Dungy, Packers have history


Nov 23, 2005
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Fontana, CA
Posted: Jan. 24, 2007

Bob Wolfley

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy was a 32-year-old defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 1988 when the Green Bay Packers were looking for a head coach to replace Forrest Gregg.

At the time Dungy was the youngest coordinator in the National Football League.

He was interested in and interviewed for the job with the Packers. The Packers' vice president of football operations, Tom Braatz, ran the coaching search for Green Bay and he interviewed a ton of candidates.

Dungy told the Chicago Tribune this week his encounter with the Packers during that interview was something less than ideal.

"He believed the Green Bay Packers once used him as no more than a token minority interview because they told him they were looking for an offensive guy with head-coaching experience," reports Don Pierson of the Tribune. "Dungy was a defensive specialist. 'I kind of scratched my head,' " he said.

At the time, it was reported in The Milwaukee Journal that Dungy was the third black coach to be interviewed by Braatz. The other two were Jimmy Raye, receivers coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and Dennis Green, receivers coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

A fourth black candidate was Johnny Roland, backfield coach of the Chicago Bears.

At the time Braatz was conducting his interviews in 1988, it was thought it was the first time in NFL history that more than one black candidate was interviewed for a head coaching job.

Until that time, only three black coaches were thought to have ever been interviewed for a head coaching job in modern football: Eddie Robinson of Grambling, Raye and Dungy.

From 1920-'25 Fritz Pollard coached in the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL.

According to a Journal report, at least 15 candidates were interviewed - or the Packers sought permission to interview them - to replace Gregg. Make it 16 if you count Joe Bugel, a Washington Redskins assistant who was seeking to be interviewed.

Dungy's puzzlement must have grown after he learned which of the candidates the Packers wound up offering the job.

First they offered it to Michigan State head coach George Perles, whose background was in defense. He coached defensive line and became the defensive coordinator for Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Spartans.

Perles turned the Packers down.

Then they went to Lindy Infante, the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, who had no experience as a head coach in the NFL.

Willie Davis, the Hall of Fame defensive end who played in Green Bay in the 1960s, said in an interview with The Journal published on Jan. 17, 1988 that it would be best if the first black head coach in the NFL went to a franchise other than Green Bay.

"I say that as not reflection on whether the community would accept him, but there is a tremendous amount of pressure there that even non-black coaches have not been able to overcome," Davis said.

In the 1989 season, Dungy left the Steelers to become the defensive backs coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for three seasons, and then was hired by Green to be the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator for four seasons.

In 1996 he became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in 2002 joined the Colts.

Greg C.

Jun 1, 2005
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Marquette, Michigan
This article is a reminder of the bad old days, when the Packer front office didn't seem to have much of a clue, and Green Bay may as well have been the North Pole as far as the rest of the league was concerned. It turns out that Dungy was lucky the Packers didn't hire him.