Black History Month: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith coaching in Super Bowl XLI inspired a generation of players

sb-41 Lovie Smith Tony Dungy Super Bowl 41
CBS Sports

Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is the only active African-American head coach in the NFL despite 70% of the league’s players being Black. Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ suit against the NFL for racial discrimination in hiring practices highlights that disparity.   

But African-American coaches have enjoyed major success in the NFL, most notably when Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears met Tony Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts in Miami for Super Bowl XLI.  It was the first Super Bowl featuring a Black head coach — and just so happened to feature two. CBS Sports football analysts Bryant McFadden, London Fletcher and Kevin Carter were all playing in the NFL at the time and this Black History Month, shared their experiences as players during such an historic moment. 

McFadden, a two-time Super Bowl champion said the moment “meant everything” and “especially if you’re African American.” 

“It didn’t matter who won that game,” said Fletcher, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker. “We were ensured that there would be an African American head coach to win that game, and for us as African Americans it was just a moment and something that I will never forget.”

Dungy’s Colts defeated Smith’s Bears, 29-17, behind a dominant defensive performance. Indianapolis held Chicago to a mere 265 total yards and intercepted Rex Grossman twice, including a fourth-quarter pick-six from Kelvin Hayden to seal the game. 

Carter, a former All-Pro defensive lineman, said the game was “monumental” because it showed African Americans – and everyone else – they can lead a team to the very highest level if given the opportunity.   

“You see yourself in all these pioneers that have come before you, and it’s a reality,” said Carter, a CBS Sports analyst. “It’s something you as a young man are able to wrap your mind around. What a powerful benchmark just to mark time in our lives and to show us how far we’ve come and still how far we still have to go.”

Dungy was the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl, and the aforementioned Tomlin became the second after his Steelers topped the Arizona Cardinals just a couple years later in Super Bowl XLIII.  

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