Tom Flores, a true football pioneer and one of the most successful individuals in pro football history, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In pro football’s modern era, few people can approach the track record of success and the overall impact that Flores has had on the game. Flores was the first person to win Super Bowl championships as a player, assistant coach and head coach, capturing two of those world championships of professional football as head coach of the Raiders. His four Super Bowl rings set a standard for excellence that has rarely been approached.
Flores’ imprint on the history of the Silver and Black is deep, as he was the very first quarterback to take snaps under center as the Raiders played their inaugural game on Sept. 11, 1960, against the Houston Oilers at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. Under new franchise General Manager and Head Coach Al Davis in 1963, Flores helped the Silver and Black to a nine-win improvement over the previous season, at the time the greatest single-season turnaround in pro football history. Flores remains among the franchise passing leaders and is one of just 20 men to play all 10 years of the American Football League, playing for the Raiders, Bills and Chiefs, with whom he captured his first Super Bowl ring as a backup quarterback on Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV title team.
As an assistant coach, first with Buffalo and then as receivers coach with the Raiders under Hall of Famer John Madden, Flores tutored some of the greatest players in league history and was part of a historical run of success in the 1970s. Flores’ receiving corps included Pro Football Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch, two of most dynamic receivers of the modern era. Flores’ charges accounted for five Pro Bowl and four All-Pro selections in seven seasons as the Raiders claimed five AFC West titles (1972-76) and appeared in five-straight AFC Championship Games (1973-77). Flores earned his second Super Bowl championship with the Raiders’ victory in Super Bowl XI and Biletnikoff earned Super Bowl MVP honors.
Tom Flores recorded a remarkable .610 winning percentage (83-53) in nine seasons as head coach of the Silver and Black, a higher regular-season winning percentage than contemporary Hall of Fame coaches Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll.
Flores also garners an extraordinary all-time postseason winning percentage of .727. Only Vince Lombardi has a better record in the postseason (min. 10 games).
Named as successor to Madden ahead of the 1979 season, Flores further weaved his way into the fabric National Football League lore by becoming the first person to win a Super Bowl championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach. The 1980 Raiders, the first-ever Wild Card team to win a championship, reeled off an unprecedented four victories in the postseason, including at 27-10 win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XV, making Flores the first Latino head coach to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Silver and Black enjoyed a continued run of success in the 1980s. The 1982 Raiders posted a league-best 8-1 record in a strike-shortened season and saw Flores receive NFL Coach of the Year honors. The 1983 team posted a 12-4 record before embarking on a dominant postseason run that culminated in a 38-9 demolition of the heavily-favored Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, at the time the largest margin of victory (29 points) in Super Bowl history.
Flores’ winning track record extended throughout his tenure with the Silver and Black. As an assistant coach, Oakland teams posted a staggering 75-23-2 (.760) regular-season record. As a head coach, Flores recorded an 83-53 (.610) regular-season mark and a tremendous 8-3 (.727) record in postseason contests.
Flores wasn’t done blazing trails after his Raiders tenure was finished. In 1989, he joined the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the first minority President/General Manager in NFL history. He returned to the sideline as head coach of the Seahawks from 1992-94.
As head coach of the Silver and Black, Flores tutored 10 players who would go on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His players captured numerous individual honors, including MVP (Marcus Allen – 1985), Defensive Player of the Year (Lester Hayes – 1980 and Cortez Kennedy – 1992), Rookie of the Year (Marcus Allen – 1982) and Comeback Player of the Year (Jim Plunkett – 1980 and Lyle Alzado – 1982).
Among Flores’ numerous accomplishments is his track record against his most distinguished peers. Flores compiled favorable marks against such coaching luminaries as Don Shula (6-1), Don Coryell (11-5), Chuck Noll (2-1), Tom Landry (2-1) and Bill Walsh (2-1). In the postseason, Flores’ ledger includes victories over an impressive group that includes Noll, Dick Vermeil and Joe Gibbs.
Flores’ success spanned professional football’s decades of ascent, beginning in the upstart American Football League (AFL) and moving through two decades of dominance in the NFL. His imprint on the Raiders franchise is indelible and his overall impact on America’s greatest game is unmistakable.