Let Tom in.
He made history for an entire people group. He won Super Bowl rings at three different jobs. He worked for The Al for half a century, which just screams for a medal of honor.
Put Thomas Raymond Flores where he belongs, in a Canton room of bronzed busts.
My friends, former friends and can-I-borrow-ten-bucks friends on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee advanced Sanger’s favored son to the list of 15 modern-era finalists for the first time.
Now, what the 82-year-old former Raiders player and coach did in his first year of retirement to finally make the finals, we have no idea. Maybe he shot a great round at his home golf course in Palm Springs. Maybe he won his league in Madden 2018.
Who cares? All we know is this committee has got to do Flores – and the game – right, and elect him to the Hall of Fame during Super Bowl weekend.
To be clear, Flores is getting into Canton, one way or the other. The only question is, will they let him make his speech wearing that awful yellow coat, or wait until he’s wearing pine pajamas and have the Seniors Committee do him the post-mortem honor?
Elect him now. Pretty please. With sugared smelling salts on top.
Now, I know a few voters – for those who don’t care, I used to cover the NFL for the San Francisco Chronicle. I had a few of these arguments with them while choking on last week’s popcorn with them in the press box.
I say he’s one of two people to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach. I mention he’s won as a head coach twice. I throw in that he’s the fifth-leading passer in AFL history (Google it, kids, I don’t have time for a history lesson).
Know what they always say? “Yeah, but he was a backup quarterback on that Super Bowl Chiefs team and what about those lost years coaching in Seattle?”
Then, after we exchange throat punches and find a way to expense our hospital meals, I always come back to this. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is where people who made history go to live forever. And no one can deny Flores’ proper place in the land of remember when.
Flores is the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL. That’s a historic and meaningful fact.
Flores is the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl. That’s an essential advancement in the league narrative.
Then, Flores went and won a second Super Bowl in five years. That means he took the Mexican-American-ness he was born with it and did something unprecedented.
He remains the only Hispanic head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy. So his record remains.
That’s a lot of first evers. That’s some essential history.
In a sport where minorities still struggle to win the corner office with a view, Flores did it at a time when no minorities were running the ship.
He did it with class, he did it with respect to the game. He did it for an owner who never won another championship after booting Flores from the sideline. Which is to say, the Raiders still haven’t properly replaced Flores.
If you don’t want to put him in the room because of his overall resume, think about the social and racial meaning to his body of work. That means something, too. That means a lot, actually. Because, fame is so much more than wins and losses. It’s about doing things that no one else has ever done before or since.
That, my colleagues, would be Tom Flores.
1. Caught a UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion the other day. The Bruins stink. They just fired their coach. Their fans accept nothing less than Final Fours and title banners. And yet, they still found ways to get loud for the alma mater. No. 8 Nevada is coming to town Saturday, all you Bullpup fans. Take the hint.
2. Rams over Patriots in the Super Bowl. This matchup is where the Belichick/Brady dynasty began in 2001, this is where their all-world run comes to an end. Sorry, Pats. There is no Tuck Rule or Adam Vinatieri around to save you this time.
3. We want Clemson to beat Alabama for the confetti Monday night. Not because we like Clemson, but it’s just so fun to watch Nick Saban break.