It is not often that ESPN articles bring me close to tears. But this one was an exception. Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts and the reviver of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, retired this January. The article reflected on what made this coach one of the most respected in the business.

In 1997 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were off to an unheard of 5-0 season start. Then their kicker started missing easy field goals and even extra points. Their story-book season was collapsing and the entire football world (media and fans) were calling for the kicker, Mike Husted, to be benched. His performance was faltering, costing the team games, and it was time to give him three strikes and get him out of there, or risk ruining the season. An obvious no-brainer decision. The article explains:

It was obvious to everyone, it seemed, except Dungy. Week after week, he stood there with his arms folded on the sidelines, never showing the slightest emotion when Husted missed a kick. The Bucs lost three games in a row.

Any other coach would have simply brought in another kicker. But Dungy had laid out a philosophy that would end up applying to every player he ever coached and he had to stick to it. He knew something the rest of the world didn’t.

While media and fans were breaking down Husted’s kicking technique, Dungy knew what was in the kicker’s head and heart.

The real story here was Husted’s mother, Ann, was dying of cancer up in Virginia…

The next morning, Dungy called and Husted was sure he was being cut. Dungy’s words said something else.

“He just said, ‘You’re a Buccaneer. You’re part of our family. You’re our kicker,”’ Husted said.

Mission accomplished. The next Sunday, the Bucs went up to Indianapolis. Husted made a game-winning field goal that broke his slump. The season was saved and the Bucs went on to make the playoffs for the first time in a generation.

“What he did was relieve the pressure from me,” Husted said. “A lot of other coaches would have just let me go. I’m forever grateful to Tony for how he handled that. It speaks a lot about the type of individual he is and how he’s not going to let outside forces influence what he knows is right.”

“I think the biggest thing was you never wanted to disappoint coach Dungy because of how he treated you,” Husted said. “I think any player who ever played for him will tell you it was an honor to play for him.”

This is the power of the gospel, and foolishness to the world. All conventional wisdom said punish the failure in order to produce results. Tony Dungy (a Christian BTW) instead loved the failure and not only did it produce results, but it helped and comforted a sad and wounded human being.