(Tom Flores' photos courtesy of Oakland Raiders)
Talk of Fame Network
Tom Flores was the first Hispanic quarterback in the NFL. He was the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL. And he was the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl. In fact, he won two. And he won two more – one as a player and one as an assistant coach – to join Mike Ditka as the only persons in NFL history to touch all four bases.
So why isn’t Tom Flores in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Good question.
But don’t ask Flores. We did on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, and it's not just that he doesn't know; he doesn't understand, either, throwing up his hands when asked if he wonders what keeps him out.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “I have to be honest with you. I do wonder. Without mentioning names other people that are in the Hall, I felt I have accomplished a lot in my career. It’s been a long career. Winning two Super Bowls -- one in Oakland and one in L.A. -- and living in a hotel room for 14 months in doing so. Working for Al Davis alone I should be in the Hall of Fame.”
That last sentence was a joke. But Flores’ absence from Canton isn’t. He simply doesn’t get it, and, apparently, neither did Davis – who, incidentally, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Even when Al and I would get together – and he was my biggest backer – he said, ‘Maybe that’s the wrong thing for me to do … and that’s to back you, ‘ “ Flores said. “But I seem to get overshadowed in his shadow. Al was such a dynamic personality. It was always his team; it was never my team. And that’s just the way it was.
“I accepted that. But I don’t accept what the facts prove. It’s kind of confusing and frustrating at times, but what am I going to do? I’m not a voter. I coached with the Raiders, (and) I still do the radio broadcasts for the Raiders. A lot of first things that I did in this league were the first things in this league.”
What’s more puzzling than Flores’ failure to reach Canton is his failure to make it on the ballot as a finalist. He has never been one of the final 15 discussed by the Hall’s board of selectors.
Today, Flores serves as an analyst on Raiders’ broadcasts, and the job is more attractive now that Oakland seems be on track. OK, so the Raiders are 2-3. But they’re back on the map, taking Denver to the mat and getting nosed out by Chicago in the last minute.
More important, take a look at the standings, people. The Raiders are in second in the AFC West, and, as Flores noted, while that may not play in San Diego or Kansas City, having the Raiders competitive again is good for the NFL.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel for them,” he said, “and I think that’s really good. The Raiders need to be relevant again in the National Football League because we have so many fans all over the country – west coast, east coast. You need to be relevant again.”
And the difference? Well, it certainly helps that they’re out from under the salary cap and that general manger Reggie McKenzie is making smart personnel decisions. But Flores thinks it’s more than that. He thinks having a legitimate starter at quarterback – and we’re talking Derek Carr -- makes everything easier.
“If you don’t have that guy,” he said, “it doesn’t make a difference who the other guys are. He’s not going to get the job done for you. And the Raiders unfortunately in the last 10 years have made some dramatic mistakes drafting a quarterbacks -- Jamarcus Russell being one of them. When you make a mistake with your No. 1 draft choice, especially when it’s the first guy taken in the draft, you set your team back.
“The last three or four years the Raiders have done a better job drafting. Reggie McKenzie has done a good job; Jack Del Rio seems to have good control of this team and they’re young. It’s fun to see them learning how to win again, and Jack, when he came in, said, ‘We have to change the atmosphere around here.’ And he’s done a lot to do it, even though they don’t know where they’re going to be playing next year or the year after. But they do know they’re the Silver and Black again.”