I picked the title for this article by using the first three words that came to mind when thinking of Tom Flores: Stoic, Pride and Poise. I believe that it describes him perfectly. Tom Flores is a man who few remember even though he was the first minority in Professional Football history to be a starting Quarterback, Head Coach and General Manager. He is only one of two coaches to win a Super Bowl as a Player, Assistant Coach, and Head Coach.
Tom Flores played Quarterback for two seasons at the University of the Pacific where he graduated in 1958. After college, Flores was cut in 1958 by the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. The next year, he was cut in camp by the Washington Redskins. He finally made it in 1960, when he was signed by the Oakland Raiders of the brand new American Football League and became the first Hispanic starting quarterback in professional football history. Flores was traded from the Raiders in 1967 to the Buffalo Bills where he became the backup to Quarterback Jack Kemp but was then released after the season. Flores would go on to finish his career as the backup quarterback in Kansas City behind future Hall of Famer Len Dawson. Flores’ final game as a player was the Chiefs’ upset win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Flores began his coaching career the next year as an assistant coach to the great Hall of Fame coach, Sid Gillman, Gillman was one of the most innovative coaches in professional football history. After his short stint there he moved on to become an assistant coach with his old team in Oakland. He was a part of John Madden’s staff during their Super Bowl XI win, and two years later, in 1979, became the first Hispanic Head Coach in history when he took over for the retired Madden.
Flores would go on to lead the Raiders to two Super Bowls and accumulate a career record of 83 wins and 53 losses. What hurt Flores, in my view, was the large shadow that Raiders Owner Al Davis cast over every coach the Raiders had during his tenure. It was assumed that Davis pulled the strings from the owner’s box. If that were true then why have the Raiders won nothing since Flores led them to the Super Bowl XVIII Championship over 30 years ago? Flores went on to be the General Manager and Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-1995 albeit with little success.
Tom Flores is one of only three coaches with two Super Bowl championships not in the Hall of Fame. John Madden was inducted into the Hall of Fame with only one Super Bowl win. I believe the main contributing factor in this is Flores demeanor. He was a quietly confident leader who did not need to put his ego before his players. Reporters didn’t get great sound bites from him, and he didn’t guarantee winning games or do anything else that would call attention to himself.
Also, Flores was one of only twenty players who were in the AFL for its entire ten-year existence and finished as the 5th leading passer in AFL history. He was a trailblazer for minorities, an excellent player, a multi-championship coach, and should be in the Hall of Fame. If someone like Marv Levy gets in, how can you leave Tom Flores out?
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