The Silenced Legacy of Tom Flores Must Be Awakened in Canton

(AP)

Tom Flores airs one out in the wide open Raiders attack, a hallmark in the former AFL.

Tom Flores is a groundbreaking NFL figure. In 1960, Flores became the first Hispanic quarterback to start as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Two decades later, Flores led the Raiders to a pair of Super Bowl victories (XV, XVIII) as a head coach, becoming the first Latino coach to do so. He was an assistant under John Madden when the Raiders won Super Bowl XI.

As of today, Tom Flores remains only Hall of Fame eligible.

Tom Flores replaced beloved Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden in 1979. Flores’ personality unlike Madden’s didn’t fit the traditional Raider mold. Flores was the quiet general in the midst of madmen — his will to win was the one requirement to lead an Al Davis franchise.

Flores was the backup to Len Dawson when the Kansas City Chiefs won the 1969 AFL-NFL World Championship Game (Super Bowl IV). Flores retired as one of only twenty players to play during the entire existence of the AFL.

It would be in Oakland and Los Angeles where Flores solidified his legacy. The Raiders entered the playoffs as a wild-card in 1980. Oakland marched into Super Bowl XV against a favored finesse Philadelphia Eagles team deemed better by the experts. The Raiders dominated the Eagles 27-10 — giving Flores his first Super Bowl victory as a head coach.

Three years later in Super Bowl XVIII, Flores and the Raiders were once again underdogs against the high-powered offense of the Washington Redskins. Led by Joe Theismann, bruising tailback John Riggins, a talented group of receivers and a legendary offensive line, the Redskins were the most prolific offense in NFL. The Raiders, now residents of Los Angeles, stifled the vaunted Redskins attack with a dogged defensive effort in a stunning 38-9 victory.

At the forefront of the Raiders Super Bowl victories was the No.1 overall pick in 1971, Jim Plunkett. After failed stints in New England and San Francisco, Plunkett was written off by everyone. This instantly qualified the 1970 Heisman Trophy winner for a shot with the Silver and Black. Flores, who was given the opportunity to play in the AFL by Al Davis, reached out to Plunkett who is of Native American decent. Neither are in the Hall of Fame despite each spearheading two improbable Super Bowl victories.

(AP)

Tom Flores 83 wins are second in Raider history.

Flores career record (97-87) is not as gaudy as Bill Parcells and others, but his playoff winning percentage of 73 percent (8-3 record) is second only to Vince Lombardi (minimum 10 games). Flores is one of two men to have Super Bowl victories as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Mike Ditka is the other. His 83 wins as coach of the Raiders is second only to Madden (103).

There is no greater time than now to elect Flores into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jimmy Johnson and George Seifert are the only coaches other than Flores with two Super Bowl victories and not in the Hall of Fame.

The ethnic backgrounds of Flores and Plunkett seemed hidden during their days as player and coach. The longer they’re ignored, the more questions will arise as to why two men with such exceptional credentials are still on the outside looking in.

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