Tom Flores won 97 games as an NFL head coach. That’s more than Jimmy Johnson, Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi. He also coached the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins, the same number of rings as Johnson and Lombardi.
And yet we have to ask the question:
Why isn’t Tom Flores in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
After 25 years, Flores … whose nickname is The Iceman for his calm demeanor … is still waiting for his gold jacket. A group of football fans wanted to fix that. So, they went to Coors Light, who approached the Iceman for an unprecedented marketing push.
An advertising campaign with Flores’ picture on the can and a series of television and social media ads letting everyone know just how accomplished this man’s resume is. It also helps that he does, in fact, drink the beer.
“I have been drinking Coors Light since it came out … forever ago,” says Flores. “So, it is my alcoholic beverage of choice, one of them. (The ads) were fun to do.”
They’ve been running during the playoffs in hopes of swaying Hall of Fame voters. Working in Coach’s favor is he’s the only coaching nominee this year, giving him a good chance for induction. But, until that phone rings, he’s staying cautiously optimistic.
“Hopefully it’ll happen. Hopefully this thing will happen and we’ll get on with our lives and I’ll be there forever,” says Flores. “I’ll be very proud of it, my family and friends will, and we’ll get on.”
Part of the criteria for Hall of Fame induction is impact on the game. Flores is a trailblazer. He was the first Hispanic starting quarterback in league history, the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl, and the NFL’s first minority general manager.
His impact on the Hispanic community cannot be overstated but came as a bit of a surprise.
“I never thought about the ethnic value and the pride until years later,” says Flores. “I think it was after I won my first Super Bowl as a head coach in Oakland. I can’t remember which city I was in buy this young man came up to me and said my dad cried when you won the Super Bowl. I said, really? I didn’t know this guy so I asked why? He said he was so proud because of your background, your ethnic background, he was so proud that he cried. And I said, well I’ll be. That’s when I realized this is bigger than I think it is and a lot bigger than I ever considered it.”
Oh, and Flores is also one of just two people to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, an assistant coach and a player. The other is Mike Ditka, who is already enshrined in Canton.
Plus, remember those other head coaches mentioned at the top of this story? Lombardi had Hall of Famer Bart Starr at quarterback. Johnson had Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. Walsh coached Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Flores won his two Super Bowls with Jim Plunkett, their backup QB in both seasons.
“We dusted him off and signed him just to see,” says Flores. “We made him third string. He was physically fine. We wanted him to learn our offense and see if he could still play.”
In 1980, when Dan Pastorini suffered a broken leg, Flores put in Plunkett.
“We still didn’t know of Jim could handle the everyday, every week grind and pressures of an NFL quarterback and he came through for us,” says Flores.
The Raiders became the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl that year. In 1983, Plunkett again came off the bench to lead the Raiders to a championship.
Now, you want to talk about a great coaching job, winning a pair of titles with a backup quarterback when your contemporaries had some of the best to ever do it is a GREAT coaching job.
Some people become jaded when they’ve been snubbed for so long. That will not be the case for Tom Flores.
“The fact that I haven’t been selected to the Hall of Fame yet won’t matter if I’m selected on Saturday because it finally happened and there are a lot of guys still waiting.”
One of those guys is Tom’s late friend Don Coryell. Those two waged several sideline battles. Both have been kept out of Canton for far, far too long.
“He was the best,” says Flores. “He was really the true West Coast Offense. And he was also a fun guy to be around, he was a dear friend. He and I were finalists in Atlanta two years ago and all of a sudden last year we disappeared. Hopefully Don will join me in the race again and his name will start being mentioned.”
Tom Flores is a football icon. The Hall of Fame is incomplete without him. Here’s hoping that changes this weekend.