State Your Case: Dick Vermeil


Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis Rams

(Dick Vermeil photos courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs and L.A. Rams)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

If nothing else, Dick Vermeil should be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of this: He’s the only guy to hold three head-coaching jobs in the NFL … and never get fired.

Honest.

He resigned from the Philadelphia Eagles after the 1982 season, citing burnout. He resigned from the St. Louis Rams following the 1999 season when his Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. And he resigned from the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2005 season.

Of course, Dick Vermeil qualifies for Hall-of-Fame consideration for doing more … much more … than simply beating the odds or becoming a Trivial Pursuit answer. He led the only three franchises he coached to the playoffs, took two of them to Super Bowls and won Super Bowl XXXIV with an offense that was so good it was called “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

OK, so his overall record is barely above .500 at 120-109. But that’s what happens when you take over bottom feeders or long shots and try to turn them into winners. Only Vermeil DID turn them into winners. In Philadelphia he had the Eagles in the playoffs in his third year, the first of four straight postseason appearances. In St. Louis, he put the woebegone Rams in the Super Bowl his third year. And in Kansas City he had the Chiefs in the playoffs in his third season there.

Good? He was the NFL Coach of the Year. He won more games than Bill Walsh, John Madden, Vince Lombardi or George Allen. I know, I know, his win percentage pales by comparison, but follow me here. He has more playoff wins (6) than Allen, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown or Hank Stram. And he has one more league championships than Marv Levy, Allen and Bud Grant.

OK, so does Barry Switzer, but Switzer didn’t resuscitate the dead. Vermeil did.

His greatest achievement was not raising the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles and putting them in the Super Bowl. Nope, it was picking up the 1999 St. Louis Rams – a team that won a combined nine games the previous two years, lost 17 straight to division rival San Francisco and was forced to play an Arena League quarterback with no NFL starts.

So what happened? What happened is he launched them to Super Bowl XXXIV. And then they won there.

I’m not saying Dick Vermeil belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I’m saying he deserves to have his case heard … just as Tom Flores and Don Coryell and Dan Reeves do. At least Coryell has made into the room as a finalist. Three times no less. Moreover, he moved into the Top 10 this year, and there’s a sense that maybe, just maybe, he might one day cross the finish line.

But I’d like to hear what people have to say about Flores, Reeves and Vermeil, too. They haven’t made it as finalists. Heck, they haven’t made it to the top 25, and that’s wrong. Flores won two Super Bowls as a head coach. Vermeil won one. And while Reeves didn’t win any, he took the Broncos and Falcons to four.

I know why these guys deserve to be in the conversation. What I want to hear is why they don’t. And the only way to do that is to get them in front of all 46 Hall of Fame voters once and for all.

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6 Comments

  1. Scott Dochterman
    April 26, 2016
    Reply

    I covered the Vermeil era in Kansas City before working the Iowa/Big Ten beat the last 10 years. If the Hall of Fame was about people, he’s a shoo-in. He was a true gentlemen and few were better with which to deal. His credentials are somewhat ambiguous, but I think he’s got a case.

    Vermeil is one of only three coaches (Don Shula, George Halas) to take teams to the playoffs in four different decades. Every team he resurrected was several years removed from the playoffs (Philadelphia 15; Rams 7; Kansas City 3), and he took all three to the postseason in his third year as head coach. The Rams were tied for the worst record of the 1990s before he presided over the 1999 Super Bowl team. The Eagles had one winning season from 1962-1975 (9-5 in 1966) and were 39-81-6 in the nine years previous to his arrival.

    Vermeil also guided each team to success in different ways. The Eagles led the NFL in points allowed in 1980 (222 — second-best 251) and 1981 (221 — second-best 250), passing yards allowed in 1981 (2,696 — second-best 2,727) and total yards allowed in 1981 (4,447 — second-best was 4,763). He also coached the Bert Bell Player of the Year in 1980 with Ron Jaworski.

    The Rams had an all-world offense in 1999, which we all know, but also led the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 1,189 (the vaunted Baltimore Ravens were second at 1,231) and gave up just four rushing touchdowns. The 1999 Rams scored 526 points and allowed 242, an astounding point differential of 284.

    Vermeil’s Chiefs, which were 13-3 in 2003, led the NFL in points scored in 2002 and 2003, and in total yards in 2004 and 2005. His 2003 squad had nine Pro Bowlers and only one, TE Tony Gonzalez, was a first-round pick of the Chiefs. Trent Green and Priest Holmes began their career as undrafted free agents and Dante Hall was a fifth-round pick. Holmes scored 27 touchdowns that year, then a league record. You can make a case that with Hall of Famers Willie Roaf and Will Shields, plus perennial Pro Bowler Brian Waters, iron man Casey Wiegmann, 10-year vet John Tait (plus Gonzalez), Vermeil’s Chiefs had the best offensive line in NFL history.

    Vermeil was an incredible motivator and adapted his coaching style as well as his strategy to the era in which he coached. All three of his starting QBs went to Pro Bowls under his tutelage, two of which he acquired via trade (Trent Green, Ron Jaworski) and the other was Kurt Warner (whose story we all know). His players swear by him. I believe Vermeil’s overall accomplishments belie his modest win-loss record and his reclamation projects should be taken into consideration.

  2. Sports Fan
    April 26, 2016
    Reply

    Mr Judge
    Great read as always!
    You reference here:
    “he moved into the Top 10 this year”
    &
    “top 25”
    Which “Top 10…Top 25” list are you referring too?
    Thank you

    • Rick Gosselin
      April 26, 2016
      Reply

      There are several cutdowns for the Hall. The cutdown to 25 makes you a semifinalist. The cutdown to 15 makes you a finalist and gets you into the room for discussion. On selection day we have two more cuts — from 15 to 10 and then from 10 to 5. Those five are then voted on a yes/no basis for induction by the 46-member selection committee.

  3. Steve
    April 27, 2016
    Reply

    I agree Vermeil should be in the conversation. As for Flores, he beat Vermeil and the great Joe Gibbs by a combined score of 65-19 in the big game. He should be in, and the fact that he’s never made the final 15 is an embarrassment. He took over Madden’s team but a bunch of players turned over early in his tenure, many of them Hall of Famers. Flores put his own stamp on the Raider legacy.

  4. bachslunch
    April 27, 2016
    Reply

    Good article and good reply from Scott. Not so sure Dick Vermeil has the best HoF case — W-L percentage is just okay, won one title, and has minimal credit for innovation or assistant coaching. Would probably rank him behind Buddy Parker, Don Coryell, and George Seifert among eligible coaches.

  5. Bobby
    May 4, 2016
    Reply

    A case could be made for all of them but my vote would be for Dan Reeves who took three different teams to playoff wins and two teams to the Super Bowl while amassing almost 200 wins.

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