Marcus Allen

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The Case for Tom Flores to Enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Perhaps the most widely known coach in the history of the NFL is John Madden. The former leader of the Oakland Raiders established a virtually unsurpassed record of regular season success during his brief ten-year tenure. Madden won more than 76% of his games. His closest active pursuer, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, has managed only a .672 winning percentage. John Madden also coached the Raiders to an impressive, physical victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, 32-14. After leaving the sidelines, Madden carved out the most unique, imposing and meaningful niche in the history of sports broadcasting. And, if that was not sufficient, he also established the premiere video gaming series that has redefined how our society views, plays, and understands football. Simply, John Madden’s football legacy is incomparable. In 2006, John Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2nd in Playoff Win Percentage Behind Vince Lombardi (10 games, min.)

Madden’s successor in Oakland and Los Angeles was the man pictured above, Tom Flores. Back in 1960, Flores shared passing duties with George Blanda and Babe Parilli, but he did most of the heavy lifting in the Raiders first season and over the next 6 seasons. The Raiders laid the foundation for one of the greatest offensive machines in league history. In the popular mind, the preeminent offensive teams were Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins of Dan Marino. However, Al Davis’ Raiders ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense every year but 1 from their inception in 1960 until 1984. No team in the league has enjoyed a similar run of offensive prowess…not even the San Francisco 49ers during the era of Walsh and Seifert.

During this run, Tom Flores was the leading passer on the team for five of their first 7 seasons. And, he won two Super Bowls as head coach – one in Oakland and one in Los Angeles.

Time doesn’t permit a full exploration of all that Tom Flores achieved on the sidelines, but the recent nominations of Bill Cowher and Bill Parcells for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, suggest a few bullets may be in order.

Flores and Plunkett Defeat the Eagles in Super Bowl XV

 Consider these facts:

  • Tom Flores coached the Raiders for 9 seasons and won 2 Super Bowls. John Madden coached the Raiders for 10 seasons and won 1 Super Bowl.
  • Tom Flores amassed an 83-53 record with the Raiders, and a winning percentage of .610. Bill Walsh’s career winning percentage is .609. Marty Schottenheimer, another nominee for induction to Canton, has a .613 winning percentage.
  • Tom Flores ranks 2nd all-time in playoff win percentage (10 games minimum) behind Vince Lombardi. Bill Parcells has an 11-8 career playoff record. Bill Cowher has a 12-9 career playoff record. Marty Schottenheimer has a 5-13 playoff record. Tom Flores is 8-3.
  • After the 4th Super Bowl title of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1979-80, Tom Flores’ Raiders were the only AFC teams to win the Super Bowl until 1997. The NFC dominated the Super Bowl for two decades with powerhouse teams in larger markets like New York, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, and northern California.
  • Tom Flores won 2 Super Bowls in 4 years, and in 1983 he handed Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs his only loss in a Super Bowl.

Perhaps the thing that has kept Tom Flores out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame these many years, aside from a bias against Latino excellence and a league-wide contempt for the Raiders, is the fact that he coached in Seattle. The Great Northwest has been the equivalent of a Black Hole for talented football players. It’s where careers go to die. Flores coached the Seahawks for 3 years. His teams had a combined record of 14-34.

Flores went from being a coach with a sterling 83-53 record to a rather pedestrian 97-87 (At .527, he’s tied with the recently fired Brad Childress…but he’s still ranked higher than Dick Vermeil). However, this should not undo the greatness that he achieved in Oakland and Los Angeles for the Silver & Black. Did a stint in Seattle keep Franco Harris from induction? Of course not. Did two 8-8 seasons in Seattle keep Warren Moon out of Canton? Of course not. The remoteness of Seattle and the irrelevance of many of their games may have shattered our collective memory of players like Cortez Kennedy, Kenny Easley and Curt Warner (with a C), but Flores should be teflon in this regard.

Mike Holmgren is still regarded highly even though he’s only managed to win one Super Bowl and lost two. Holmgren has a 13-11 playoff record and, unlike Flores, he had prized QB’s at the helm in each of his playoff games. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells are still revered though neither has been able to ameliorate the morass or mend the mess that is the Miami Dolphins.

And, Tom Flores’ quarterbacks in Seattle were Stan Gelbaugh and Rick Mirer!! That he managed to win as many as 14 games in 3 years with these passers qualifies as a minor miracle.

Some other thoughts to consider on Tom Flores:

  •  In 1980, the Raiders won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card. Statistically, the Eagles were “better” than the Raiders on both sides of the ball, but Flores and his staff and team figured out a way to win that game.
  • Since 1980, Eagles QB Ron Jaworski has become nationally known as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN. Perhaps he could take up the mantle on behalf of Tom Flores. It’s long overdue.
  • In 1983, the Raiders beat a team with one of the largest statistical advantages in league history entering a Super Bowl. The Redskins were defending champions and were perceived to be a juggernaut. Jack Squirek did to Joe Theismann what Rod Martin did to Ron Jaworksi. And Marcus Allen did to the Redskins defense what Kenny King had done to the Eagles only three years prior.
  • Since 1983, Redskins QB Joe Theismann has become nationally known as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN and the NFL Network. Perhaps he could take up the mantle on behalf of Tom Flores. It’s long overdue.
  • Tom Flores won two Super Bowls with an over-the-hill, washed up, washed out quarterback named Jim Plunkett. He beat long odds twice and still stands in the record book — right next to Vince Lombardi as the second-winningest coach in the post-season with an astounding .727 winning percentage.

It’s time for Flores to make his speech and be heard…for perhaps the first time.

NFL: 1 Team, 1 Game – Life or Death

If you could pick a team of NFL players to play one game for all of your marbles, who would you pick? If you could run one offense which one would you pick and who would coach? What about for defense? I suppose this is merely a variation on the question of “Who’s Number 1?” In this variation of the question, I’m not talking about who had the best career or who has the best stats or even the player whose star shone brightest. I’m talking about just one game – just 60 minutes.

A bit more context first…I will assume that every player will be in their prime and performing at their optimal level. So, for one game, imagine everyone at their absolute best. I imagine this game will be played in typical fall weather – 50 to 60 degrees, moderate wind, no rain. (A nasty December game might change a few things for me – and for you.) All right, that’s it. Here’s my squad:

QB: Peyton Manning

RB (2): Earl Campbell and Marcus Allen

H-Back: Todd Christensen

WR 1: Jerry Rice

WR 2: Randy Moss

WR 3: Steve Smith

TE: Shannon Sharpe

TE 2: Kellen Winslow (the Original)

LT: Orlando Pace

LG: Alan Faneca

C: Dermontti Dawson

RG: Bruce Matthews

RT: Anthony Munoz

K: Adam Vinatieri

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Offense – Joe Gibbs’ Motion, Multiple TE Offense (Pre-Al Saunders). I prefer this offense because it allows for an attacking passing game – and a power running game. Gibbs often featured three wide receiver sets and three tight end sets in the same game. It’s not easy to get the personnel to run this well, but when you have them, the results can’t be beat. Even though the “West Coast offense” is most frequently associated with the San Francisco 49ers and Bill Walsh, the roots are deeper and organically connected to Joe Gibbs.

Gibb’s offense emphasized the ability to attack deep, run with power and utilize motion to keep defenses off balance. With respect to “style of play,” I’ve always preferred teams who could throw deep and run with power. Speed kills – that’s always there…unless the weather is bad and the defense decides to sit back in coverage. Teams that run with power don’t care what the weather is – and they dictate terms to defenses, usually. I’d like my chances with this team – against most defenses, except the one I’d line up against them.

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DE – Reggie White

DE – Charles Haley

DT – Vince Wilfork

RLB – Lawrence Taylor

ILB1 – Levon Kirkland

ILB2 – Ray Lewis

LLB – Derrick Brooks

RCB – Deion Sanders

LCB – Rod Woodson

Nickel – Darrell Green

FS – Troy Polamalu

SS – Ronnie Lott

P – Ray Guy

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Well, that’s the defense. There are some serious legends of the game here. I believe in stuffing the run and making teams one dimensional. I also believe that if there is such a thing as a shut down corner, I’d like to have one – if not two. Perhaps as important as stopping the run with your front 7 is the ability to get pressure without blitzing. This team could get pressure against most teams without blitzing – and if they did, look out! Champ Bailey probably would have made this team if Ben Watson hadn’t tracked him down in the playoffs a few years back. Darrell Green and Woodson would have been waiting for Watson in the end zone with buttered popcorn and a frosty beverage.

In looking over this roster, I can’t imagine the defensive huddles. I can imagine the sheer terror this group would inspire. I decided to go with the 3-4 because so many of my favorite players have excelled in this particular formation. This team also has more than its fair share of nastiness. A friend calls it, “Grrrrh!!” From Lewis to Lloyd to Haley this team has it. It also has a nice balance of players with sterling on/off field reputations – White, Lott, Woodson, Polamalu, Green and Derrick Brooks. That’s enough character to save a city, if not a nation. If has resilience and fortitude. Look no further than Vince Wilfork. And, it has the best punter to ever lace up a pair of cleats.

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I’d like the defensive coach to be Belichick – just because he came up with (to the best of my knowledge) that funky 1-5-5 defense. The Super Bowl rings are nice – but he clearly knows something most other folks don’t know. Since I don’t know what he knows that other folks don’t know, I’ll go with him. My next option would be Dick LeBeau – defensive coordinator Pittsburgh Steelers or Bud Carson, creator of the Zone Blitz.

That’s the squad.