The fact that Tom Flores does not get more credit for being the pioneer that he was is a disappointing state of affairs. Flores, along with Mike Ditka, is the only two people in NFL history to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Flores was the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl.
As a player, Flores played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. In a time when being a minority quarterback was uncommon; Flores played the position and helped open doors for future players. He played with numerous future Hall of Famers including Fred Biletnikoff, Len Dawson and Willie Lanier. As a member of the Chiefs in 1969, Flores won Super Bowl IV.
After his playing career, Flores got into coaching. He spent one season as the quarterbacks’ coach in Buffalo under head coach Harvey Johnson. Then in 1972, he got a job on John Madden’s coaching staff as the receivers coach for the Oakland Raiders. With the Raiders he had the opportunity to coach former teammate Fred Biletnikoff and speedster Cliff Branch.
Eventually, he got his opportunity to be a head coach for the Raiders. In his nine seasons with the Raiders, he compiled an 83 – 53 record and won two Super Bowls. Most importantly, he gave opportunities to other minorities opportunities to be his assistant coaches. Art Shell and Terry Robiskie were two of Flores’ assistants who would go on to be head coaches in the NFL.
After finishing the 1987 season with a 5 – 10 record, Flores moved from the sidelines to the front office. Then in 1989, he became the President and General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks. In 1990 Flores drafted defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy in the first round and running back Chris Warren in the fourth round, two players who had a major impact on the team in the ‘90s. In 1992 Flores became the head coach of the Seahawks and in his three seasons at the helm, he compiled a 14 – 34 record.
The positions of quarterback and head coach have historically had a small number of minorities. Tom Flores was both and he did both well. There is a backlog of former NFL head coaches who belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Flores is one of them. Hopefully, the Hall of Fame can do the right thing so that the myriad of deserving coaches get their opportunity to be enshrined in Canton.