By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
TAMPA, Feb. 2 -- Two years ago the question was everywhere, and while Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy endured the queries well, he never seemed to want to make the fact he was the first black coach to win a Super Bowl the main discussion in the days after the Colts' victory in Super Bowl XLI.
On Monday, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, the second African American coach to win a Super Bowl, heard the question only once. And it came at the end of the news conference at which Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes was handed the Super Bowl XLIII most valuable player award. Even then, Tomlin was asked if he considered it a sign of progress that the topic was not being discussed anymore.
"I do," he said. "Like in a lot of instances to me guys like Dungy have paved that road. I just got to walk down it. I benefit from the sacrifices and the challenges met of those that have come before me, he being one of them. It makes it all sweeter that I consider him a personal friend of mine. It's really great, it's beautiful."
Tomlin seemed happier to talk about the joy he felt watching his players mature over the season, especially Holmes, whom Tomlin suspended for a game earlier in the year after police found marijuana in his car.
"That's the business of coaching really," he said. "You're a life coach in a lot of ways. You care about them, you do. You wear many hats in this business. I embrace that as much as I do the X's and O's. I probably get more enjoyment out of watching people grow than I do preparing and winning football games. It is a beautiful thing. I believe that's what we are all called to do."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said he was happy to see the discussion go away from a black coach winning a Super Bowl. With the promotion of Jim Caldwell to the Colts head coaching job replacing Dungy and the recent selections of Mike Singletary as head coach in San Francisco and Raheem Morris as head coach in Tampa, there are now six African American head coaches in the NFL. In 2004 there were four.
"I think it is very significant," Goodell said. "People aren't looking at Mike Tomlin as an African American coach. They are looking at him as a football coach. That's tremendous progress."