(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Mark Davis interview, just go to 25:00 of the above attachment)
Thirty-five years ago last week the then-Los Angeles Raiders beat Washington in Super Bowl XVIII, and Raiders’ owner Mark Davis thinks it appropriate that the Pro Football Hall of Fame do something to recognize the victory.
Something like enshrine former Raiders’ coach Tom Flores.
Flores is one of 15 finalists for the Hall’s modern-era Class of 2019, which isn’t surprising. He won four Super Bowl rings – one as a player (a backup quarterback with Kansas City), one as an assistant coach (with the Raiders) and two as a head coach (also with the Raiders).
“All of his qualifications are out there to be known,” Davis said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “(So) it’s not a surprise, but it’s overdue. And I believe he deserves it.”
No argument there. At 81, Flores is making his first appearance as a finalist … or semifinalist … with the Hall’s board of selectors, and if that seems like a long time it’s only because it is. He retired as a player 49 years ago and as a head coach 24 years ago.
Yet he's one of 15 modern-era candidates and one of two coaches to be considered when the Hall’s board of selectors meets Saturday, Feb. 2, to choose the Class of 2019. And while Flores is considered a long shot, he does have a couple of things going for him: 1) He won two Super Bowls as a head coach, and 2) he was the first Hispanic quarterback, the first Hispanic head coach and first minority, period, to coach a Super Bowl winner.
“I don’t know if those are the things that get you in the Hall of Fame,” said Davis, “but he certainly does represent a large portion of the American population … His whole resume is what I look at, as well as the two Super Bowls as a head coach. He's touched a lot of people throughout his (career). I think what Tom has done in the overall resume is pretty much untouchable.”
Flores was 83-53 with the Raiders as a head coach, including 8-3 in the playoffs, and in nine years endured only two losing seasons.
"So what was his greatest strength?" we asked Davis.
“I think it was his measured approach to everything,” he said. “He wasn’t too high, and he wasn’t too low. It was a wild group of guys that he was coaching.
“As you know, he coached with coach Madden -- as coach Madden’s assistant coach (he was a receivers coach), he kept the wide receivers in line. But then when he took over as the head coach it was a wild group, and he was able to take all those different personalities and get them together on Sunday afternoons and dominate.”
But it’s not just Flores that Davis would like to see enshrined in Canton. It’s former wide receiver Cliff Branch, too. While Branch is not a finalist this year, he played on three Super Bowl champions, played for Flores and could be considered in the future as a senior candidate.
Which Davis thinks should happen.
“Every defensive coordinator had to scheme for Cliff Branch,” he said. “I think the closest thing I’ve seen to Cliff is this kid Tyreek Hill with Kansas City. And you see how he opens up the whole field for everybody else. You have to be aware of it. He puts the fear of God into people.
“And Cliff was the first to actually to really be able to do that. Bob Hayes did a good job. But Cliff was really a true receiver. He learned to run the routes – Tom helped him learn to run routes, but so did Freddy Biletnikoff. But once Cliff put on a little bit of weight … he had such powerful legs, and he had that second and third gear to go after the deep ball.
“There’s never been anybody like him. There really hasn’t. He dominated the field. He opened up so many different things for all the other players … for the tight ends and the seams and everything else. He was a one-of-a-kind player, and I think he deserves his due. And I hope he’s going to get it soon.”