(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Carl Peterson interview, click on the following link: Ep 64: Carl Peterson Talks Dick Vermeil And Much More (spreaker.com)
With the field narrow when the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s senior committee next month chooses its head-coaching finalist for the Class of 2022, the smart money is on one candidate.
That makes sense. As a two-time NFL champion and the last coach to make the Detroit Lions relevant (they went to three straight league championship games in 1952-54), Parker should’ve been one of the two choices for the Hall’s Centennial Class of 2020.
But he wasn’t. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher were.
Johnson won two Super Bowls. Cowher won one. Then, after the Hall created the coaches’ category, Parker this year was bypassed by former Raiders’ and Seahawks’ coach Tom Flores. He, too, won two Super Bowls.
So, now the question: When does Buddy Parker get enshrined? That could be answered in August.
In the meantime, he’ll be one of the names most often mentioned for consideration. So will the Chargers’ and Cardinals’ Don Coryell, a finalist more times (6) than any nominated head coach, as well as Mike Holmgren and Dick Vermeil.
The last two are considered longshots, though not according to former Kansas City president and GM Carl Peterson. Appearing on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com, he urged voters to consider Vermeil, who hired Peterson in Philadelphia in 1976 and joined him in Kansas City nearly three decades later as the Chiefs’ head coach.
“I think that Dick has checked every box that any deserving NFL head coach should check before they were selected as a Pro Football Hall-of-Fame coach,” he said. “The man has an unbelievable capacity to (rebuild) destroyed, down-in-the-mouth franchises.”
No argument there.
When Vermeil was hired to head the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976, the franchise was working on a streak of nine consecutive losing seasons and 15 straight non-playoff years. They were, as Peterson put it bluntly, “a mess.”
But then they weren’t. In Vermeil’s third season, they reached the playoffs. In his fourth, they lost a divisional playoff game. And in his fifth they reached Super Bowl XV, losing to the Raiders.
Two years later, he retired, citing occupational burnout.
In 1997, however, he reappeared with the St. Louis Rams, a franchise that hadn’t had a winning season its previous seven seasons. They won Super Bowl XXXIV in Vermeil’s third year there.
Then he retired again, only to be called back by Peterson to coach the Chiefs, a franchise that missed the playoffs four of the previous five years. By his third season there, Vermeil had Kansas City in the divisional round of the playoffs and in five seasons was 44-36 with two playoff appearances.
Today, he’s a member of the Eagles’ Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Football Ring of Honor.
“Here’s the thing with Dick,” said Peterson. “His NFL coaching record … his first two years he’s with the team is not exceptional. From the third year on, it is tremendously exceptional. It’s a 650-percent win-loss percentage (he was 88-49 in that span).
“He’s done something that only one other coach in the NFL has done, and that is take not one, not two, but three downtrodden teams -- if you want to call them that; turn the culture around, and in the third year start winning and by the fifth year put them in a division championship (game). Three different teams. All terrible. The only other coach that’s done that is Bill Parcells, and he is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“As we all know, Dick took two of those teams to conference championships and won; took two of them to the Super Bowl, and he won one. He’s been the Coach of the Year three, four or five times in the NFL (once as an Associated Press choice, and two each by The Sporting News, Maxwell Club and Pro Football Weekly). He’s done everything possible, I think, as a future Hall-of-Fame coach can do.”
Not quite. He first must be chosen as a finalist by the Hall’s senior committee, and, considering the competition, that will be a challenge. Vermeil’s 120 wins are 41 shy of Holmgren (161). His .524 winning percentage is short of Holmgren (.594), Parker (.581) and Coryell (.572). His six playoff wins are less than half of Holmgren’s (13), and his NFL titles are one shy of Parker.
Nevertheless, Peterson is undeterred.
“Certainly,” he said, “I know the other candidates are deserving, some more than others. But I will go back to the one distinguishing characteristic in regards to a record that I think stands out: No other coach except Bill Parcells has started with terrible, losing teams in the NFL – I mean losing and losing and losing – and come in and turned them around.
“To me, that’s the essence of coaching: Take what you have and make it better. And not only make them better, but make them champions. And I’ve seen him do that on three difference occasions.”