At long last, Tom Flores will get his day in the sun this summer. This year’s NFL Hall of Fame inductees were announced over Super Bowl weekend, and the journey to Canton, Ohio will be a day to remember for the Fresno, California native. Unfortunately, it took over half a century for the league’s first Latino quarterback to be honored with a bronze bust.
“Tom was a powerful trailblazer,” noted Tony Dungy, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. “This honor is significant and well deserved.”
Ironically, Tom Flores was the first and only Hispanic head coach to chalk up a Super Bowl victory, and he did it twice. Flores guided his Oakland Raiders to glory in games XV and XVIII. He was also on John Madden’s staff earlier in Super Bowl XI, and brought home the bacon as a player with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969, giving him a total of four rings. But Tom is best recognized as a Raider “lifer,” beginning his career as the team’s starting signal caller in 1960. As a player, Flores was steady and consistent for the Silver and Black, and Oakland’s late owner Al Davis treated him like a son. As a coach however, Tom would turn out to be exceptional. Davis, who had amazing instincts for the game, knew that and sought to bring Flores back into the fold. And from that point, it was “Just Win Baby.”
Flores did exactly that, but he was never a flamboyant type like his boss. Tom was always mild-mannered as well as savvy, and would shy away from taking credit for his success, preferring to praise his players. Perhaps that’s why he was passed over for so long by the HOF voters. Yet, his statistics as a head coach could not be ignored forever. Tom’s career winning percentage with the Raiders was .610, not jaw dropping but better than rivals Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll, all who are currently enshrined in Canton. His post season mark is an even more impressive .729, second only to the legendary Vince Lombardi.
Prior to permanent retirement in 2018, Flores served as the Raiders radio color commentator for 20 years. And in 2011, he received the Roberto Clemente Award by the National Council of La Raza for his contributions to society within the Latino community.
The always humble Tom Flores, now 83, said he felt “pretty good” about being selected to the HOF this year, but never took anything for granted.
“I felt confident that I had a chance the last couple of years,” he laughed, “but it didn’t happen.”
Now, the wait is finally over.