Aug 2, 2014; Canton, OH, USA; Los Angeles Raiders former coach Tom Flores at the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Tom Flores
Tom Flores, a Central California native, began his Raider career as the team’s second-ever starting quarterback early in the 1960 season, becoming the first Latino starting quarterback in the AFL and in professional football history. He was an AFL All-Star in 1966, and threw 92 TD’s in his six years in Oakland. He spent time as a backup with the Bills and Chiefs, finishing his career with a Super Bowl title as a backup to Len Dawson in Kansas City. He remains the fifth-leading passer in AFL history. After some time in Buffalo as an assistant, he joined John Madden’s staff in Oakland and won another ring as an assistant coach. In 1979, after Madden retired, Flores was named the Raiders head coach, and a year later coached a team led by a backup QB named Jim Plunkett to a historic run through the playoffs as a Wild Card, culminating in the second Super Bowl title in franchise history. Three years later, a year removed from a tumultuous move from Oakland to Los Angeles, Flores led the Raiders to another title, a 38-9 blowout over the favored defending champion Washington Redskins. Flores coached the Raiders until after the 1987 season, then returned to coaching briefly with the Seahawks in the early 90’s, and is now back in the fold along side Greg Papa on the Raiders radio broadcast team.
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Flores was the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl, and remains the only Latino head coach with a Super Bowl ring. He is also one of three head coaches to win two Super Bowls and not have been named to the Hall of Fame, along with George Siefert of the 49ers and Jimmy Johnson of the Cowboys. He has a 97-87 record as a head coach, and has more wins as a Raider coach than anyone aside from John Madden. He won 61% of the games he coached with the Raiders, leading the team to six winning seasons and only two losing seasons and an 8-3 playoff record. Between 1980 and 1985 the Raiders made the playoffs five times in six years and won three division titles to go along with the two Super Bowl championships.
So why isn’t Flores in the Hall of Fame? Some would point to his short career with the Raiders (nine seasons as head coach) or his disappointing stint in Seattle. Others would point to his relatively unimpressive winning percentage as a head coach. Some might suggest he won his championships with John Madden’s team or that he was simply a warm body to fill a job while Al Davis truly ran the team. The latter two – matters of perception – are probably closest to the actual reason: George Siefert is probably overlooked because he won a ring with Bill Walsh’s roster, and Jimmy Johnson is overlooked because he simply executed Jerry Jones’ vision (and Barry Switzer stepped right in and won a ring with the same team two years after Johnson left). While very few people outside of the Raider organization will ever know exactly how much control Al had over play-calling, practice, and other aspects of coaching throughout Flores’ tenure, the argument that he won with Madden’s squad rings very hollow. Flores turned Heisman bust Jim Plunkett into a championship quarterback, and put together a team that featured some of the most famous names in Raider history: Marcus Allen, Howie Long, Lyle Alzado, Matt Millen, Todd Christensen (just to name a few). While Madden is the winningest coach in Raiders history, Flores is the only coach to deliver two titles, including the only title won in Los Angeles. If you are writing the history of professional football, certainly the only head coach to deliver a Super Bowl title to the City of Los Angeles, the first and only Latino head coach to win a Super Bowl, and the only coach to deliver two rings to one of the NFL’s pillar franchises is certainly a name you have to write about.