(Photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks)
Talk of Fame Network
by Ron Borges
Some have claimed a critical question of any Hall of Famer is “Can you write the history of pro football without him?” In the case of Tom Flores you cannot, yet he has never come close to Hall-of-Fame consideration.
Flores was the first Hispanic starting quarterback in pro football history, the first Hispanic head coach to win a Super Bowl (which he did twice) and the first Hispanic to serve as a club president and general manager. Much has been made about Charles Haley’s five Super Bowl rings and rightly so. But what of Flores, who has four Super Bowl rings and an AFL championship ring?
In fact, Flores and Mike Ditka are the only men in NFL history to have won Super Bowl championships as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Other than that, what have you done, Tom Flores?
Well, how about being the fifth-leading passer in American Football League history and one of only 20 players to have played in the full 10 years of the AFL’s existence? Known as “The Iceman” when quietly running his teams, Flores set a record with 11 touchdown passes in a two-game span that stood for 51 years, before Ben Roethlisberger broke it in 2014 with 12.
After backing up Len Dawson on the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs team that defeated Minnesota in Super Bowl IV to even the AFL’s record at 2-2 against the older NFL, Flores retired and became an assistant coach — first in Buffalo and then Oakland, where he served as quarterback coach of their Super Bowl XI championship team.
He replaced Hall-of-Fame head coach John Madden in 1979 and a year later took the Raiders back to the Super Bowl, becoming the first coach to win the Lombardi Trophy with a wild-card playoff entry. Flores led the Raiders to four road victories that year and three years later proved it was no fluke when he coached the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XVIII.
Four years later, Flores moved into the Raiders’ front office for a season, then left for Seattle, where he became the first Hispanic to serve as club president and general manager of an NFL team. After several years of struggle, he came out of retirement to coach the Seahawks. It was a disastrous decision.
Seattle went 14-34 in three seasons before he was fired, retiring from coaching with an overall record of 105-90, including an 8-3 playoff record. His playoff winning percentage of .727 ranks second all-time behind Vince Lombardi and his 83 victories with the Raiders are second only to Madden’s 103.
Only Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs have more Super Bowl victories than Tom Flores, a groundbreaker as a player and a coach. He has been eligible to have his credentials debated for 20 years but has yet to ever be discussed.
Only three coaches — Flores, Jimmy Johnson and George Seifert — have won two Super Bowls without reaching the Hall of Fame, with Johnson a finalist this year. Perhaps if he can break through, there may one day be a place in Canton for someone who did more than win championships. Tom Flores opened doors for Hispanic players and coaches and, along the way, won championships in every job he ever held: player, assistant and head coach.
Shouldn’t that be enough to have your credentials debated a time or two among the Hall’s 46 voters?