By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 22, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 21 -- On the night before the Indianapolis Colts played the Kansas City Chiefs in a first-round AFC playoff game here two weeks ago, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith went to dinner, along with Herman Edwards. It was, in one way, a reunion for the three NFL head coaches who once had worked together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith, the coach of the Chicago Bears, was able to travel here because his team had a first-round playoff bye and he wanted to see Dungy's Colts and Edwards's Chiefs play each other. But the dinner also was a precursor to the history that Dungy and Smith were about to make. On Sunday, they ensured that a black coach will win the Super Bowl for the first time when the Colts and Bears won their respective conference championship games.
Edwards and Smith were assistants to Dungy when he was the head coach of the Buccaneers, and the three have remained close. While Smith and Dungy preferred to focus on their teams' victories Sunday, Smith did address the possibility of making Super Bowl history with Dungy last Monday.
"We realize the position we're in. . . . This is the first time that two black men have led their teams to the final four," Smith said. "You have to acknowledge that. I realize the responsibility that comes with that. . . . We have an opportunity to do something special. . . . I hope for a day when it is unnoticed, but that day isn't here."
They were three of the seven black head coaches in the NFL this season, a record high for a league that has pushed in recent years to improve its minority hiring record. Two of the seven, the Oakland Raiders' Art Shell and the Arizona Cardinals' Dennis Green, were fired recently. But the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, reached a tentative contract agreement Sunday with Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin to hire him as their coach. Tomlin is black.
Staff writer Michael Wilbon contributed to this report.