Tony Dungy understands that a championship like the one his Indianapolis Colts seized on Sunday night is a collaborative accomplishment. But he also understands the social ramifications of becoming the first African-American to serve as head coach of a Super Bowl winner … and he knows that, too, is a collaborative accomplishment, one that happened because of the men who came before him and didn’t have the chance that he gained in 1996 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tapped him to reverse over a decade of dreary results.
And included in that lineage is one of the Broncos’ first stars, wide receiver Lionel Taylor, whose coaching career flourished in the 1970s, but ended up one step shy of his goal of manning an NFL sideline.
“This is for all the guys who came before me,” Dungy said. “When I came into this league in 1981, Jimmy Raye and Sherman Lewis and Lionel Taylor, those guys were in the league already and great coaches that I know could have done this if they would have been given the chance. The Lord gave me and (Chicago head coach) Lovie (Smith) the chance, but we’re certainly not the best, and certainly not the most qualified. I know there’s some other guys that could have done it if they’d been given the chance.”
Taylor was on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ staff in the mid-1970s as a part of two Super Bowl winners By the late ’70s, Taylor was offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, while Chuck Noll’s Steelers had procured a former college quarterback was trying to make the conversion to pro safety. That young player’s name? Tony Dungy.
Taylor was the Rams’ offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XIV, but two years later, he was dismissed, having never had the chance to interview for an NFL head-coaching position.
Eventually, Taylor would become a pro head coach … but had to do so across the Atlantic Ocean, for the England Monarchs of NFL Europe. Nevertheless, his sideline legacy became clear late Sunday night … and it’s one at least as noteworthy as the on-field kudos he earned with the Broncos in becoming the franchise’s leading receiver and establishing standards that wouldn’t be surpassed for three decades.
You can read more about Taylor and the esteem in which he is held in this story from the Palm Beach Post.