Super Bowl Coaches Value Family, Faith

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 4, 2007; 1:42 PM

MIAMI -- Nice guys can finish first. This year's Super Bowl proves it.

Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears made it a historic meeting because they are the first black head coaches to oppose each other in the NFL title game.

They also made it notable by proving it can be done without shouting, intimidating, bullying or humiliating players to get there.

"I really wanted to show people that you can win all kinds of ways," Dungy said in the leadup to Sunday's game. "It's a good thing to see guys have success when it maybe goes against the grain, against the culture."

They are soft-spoken, churchgoing, kindhearted men who coach players that, more or less, have followed their lead in the buildup to America's biggest sporting event.

The Colts had solid citizen Peyton Manning as their quarterback, trying to win the Super Bowl for the first time in his record-setting career. His counterpart on the Bears was Rex Grossman, who patiently answered questions all week about how his team had excelled despite his faults.

Hardly any fireworks there.

Asked what it's like to play for Dungy, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett told a story about a boy who walked past two dogs on his way home from school every day. One dog barked every time he passed; the other, only on rare occasions.

Brackett compared the second dog to Dungy.

When that dog barks, "You know it's the real deal," he said.

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said Smith is "not capable of yelling."

"But one-on-one, he'll grill you pretty hard," he said. "Lovie, I don't think he feels he needs to say a whole lot. He feels like we understand what he's saying."

Taking cues from their coaches, the pregame revelry went off without a hitch despite the temptations that before have turned Miami and other Super Bowl cities into minefields.

As Super Bowl Sunday dawned, there had been no repeats of Cincinnati running back Stanley Wilson's cocaine binge 20 years ago in a Miami hotel on the eve of the game _ or of Atlanta defensive back Eugene Robinson's arrest on sex solicitation charges 10 years ago, also in Miami, just hours before kickoff.

Nor did Smith's Bears remind anyone of the last Chicago team to make the Super Bowl.

That wildly eccentric '85 group was one-of-a-kind _ the team that gave us "The Super Bowl Shuffle," to say nothing of massive defensive lineman William "Refrigerator" Perry, punky quarterback Jim McMahon and the bombastic coach he fought with, Mike Ditka.

"It was a team of characters that had character that played for a crazy man, who let them be crazy and had fun doing it and won't apologize for it ever," Ditka said. "I wouldn't want to be one of these suits walking around on the sideline today."

But it's hard to call either Dungy or Smith a "suit." They hardly fit that mold.

Dungy hired Smith when he was head coach at Tampa Bay. He was looking for people like him _ not only for the color of their skin but for their beliefs and values.

Dungy recalled an owner asking him in an earlier interview if the job would be the most important thing in his life.

He said, "No."

"I didn't think I'd get that job and I didn't," Dungy said. "But I think for your faith to be more important than your job, for your family to be more important than your job, it's things we all talk about and we all know that's the way it should be, but we're kind of afraid to say that sometimes."

Dungy, whose 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide last season, wasn't afraid to trade in football time for family time before and after that tragedy _ and certainly still isn't now.

Smith, too, values faith and family more than football. He probably would've been just as happy had the Super Bowl been played in his one-stoplight hometown of Big Sandy, Texas, instead of South Florida.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't dance," he said. "When my family shows up later in the week, we'll probably go to dinner. What else really is there to do?"

This is a far cry from some Super Bowls past, where the game simply marked the end of the party for some teams. Ditka's Bears and the renegade Raiders of '80s tore through New Orleans on their way to the title. "Broadway Joe" Namath made his famous prediction that his New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 title game while lounging poolside in Miami.

Coaching styles have changed over the years, too. The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi, the great Green Bay Packers coach who rarely minced words, spoke most of them rather loudly and embraced the my-way-or-the-highway philosophy.

Other greats _ Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Ditka _ have used different versions of the Lombardi method to win their own league championships.

But it's not the only way that works.

Dungy credits longtime Steelers coach Chuck Noll, known as a quiet motivator, for the low-key approach he uses today.

Smith, of course, learned from Dungy.

The Bears coach explained it this way: "Once you are upset, I think guys know, and if they don't know, you tell them. I don't think you have to yell and scream to tell them. They are real men. They understand."

© 2007 The Associated Press