It’s time for Tom Flores to receive his bust in Canton.
There have been 31 head coaches to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the history of the National Football League. Of those 31 coaches, 13 have done so more than once. Tom Flores is one of those 13.
After the 1978 season, Raiders head coach John Madden announced he would be leaving the sideline to pursue a career in the broadcasting booth. Shortly thereafter, then-owner Al Davis announced that Madden’s successor would be none other than his offensive coordinator, Tom Flores.
Before his coaching tenure with the silver and black, Flores had spent six seasons as the team’s quarterback from 1960 to 1966, also carrying the pride of being the first Latinx quarterback in the history of professional football. After six seasons under center in Oakland, he went on to play for the Bills and the Chiefs and earned himself a Super Bowl ring as a backup quarterback with the latter.
When his playing career came to an end, Flores was hired as an assistant coach with the Bills. His tenure in Buffalo did not last long, though, as just one year later he came back to his old stomping grounds and joined Madden’s coaching staff. During his time under Madden, Flores led a high-powered offense that scored 32 points in the Raiders’ 1977 Super Bowl victory against the Minnesota Vikings.
After Madden’s retirement, Flores was named the first Latinx head coach in the history of the National Football League. It did not take long for the young coach and his team to find success, as they went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1981 Super Bowl. The road to this triumph was not unmet with adversity, though. In Week 5 of that historic season, Raiders quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg, and the team had to turn to its backup quarterback, Jim Plunkett. A former Heisman Trophy winner for the Stanford Cardinal, Plunkett signed with the Raiders in 1978 after five subpar years in New England and San Francisco. Under Flores’ guidance, however, Plunkett was able to return to his Heisman form and play a crucial role in the team’s championship journey.
The team’s success did not stop with that victory, as just two years later, Flores and the men in black found themselves on the big stage once again. Though head coach Joe Gibbs and the Redskins had finished atop the NFC with a 14-2 record that season, they posed no challenge for Flores and company. After a dominant four quarters of football, the Raiders claimed their second Lombardi Trophy in three years with a 38-9 victory.
As the Raiders’ head coach, Flores compiled a regular-season record of 83-53 and a postseason record of 8-3. Upon his retirement in 1994, he departed from football with a grand total of four Super Bowl rings as a player and coach.
Despite these achievements, Flores has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, there are individuals who have achieved far less and have been inducted. For example, former Bills head coach Marv Levy has a bust in the Hall of Fame despite having never won one Super Bowl. Bud Grant, who coached the Minnesota Vikings from 1967 to 1985, also never won a Super Bowl, yet he, too, has received Hall of Fame honors.
The fact that one of the select few to have coached their teams to multiple championships has not yet earned his bust in Canton is disrespectful to both Flores’ achievements and his legacy.
Flores has been selected as a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019. This is the umpteenth time the legendary coach has been nominated, but he has never made it to the final ballot.
The story of Tom Flores is integral to the story of professional football, and there is no one more deserving of Hall of Fame honors than the groundbreaking four-time Super Bowl champion.
Joey Patton covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].