The Conference Champions are set as the Broncos and Panthers head to Super Bowl 50. In so doing, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera joins a very exclusive fraternity. But he has a long way to go to catch the one man with whom he shares the honor.
The honor he now shares is that of Hispanic head coach in a Super Bowl. He now shares that honor with only former Raiders head coach Tom Flores.
Should Rivera's Panthers beat the Broncos in Santa Clara in two weeks, he would also join Flores as the first Hispanic head coach to win a Super Bowl -- an accomplishment Flores reached twice in his illustrious career with the Raiders.
Reaching a Super Bowl is never enough. Sure, it is an accomplishment, otherwise they wouldn't hand a trophy to the Conference Champions. But, no one celebrates teams that reach the big game without finishing the job.
Tom Flores was named head coach of the Raiders in 1979, taking over for John Madden after his retirement. In Flores's second season at the helm, the Raiders were Super Bowl Champions. In doing so, he became the first ever minority head coach to win a Super Bowl. Three years later, he led the Raiders to another Super Bowl -- his second as head coach, third with the Raiders (Assistant coach under Madden). Yet, somehow, he is not in the Hall of Fame. Go figure.
As with any record or milestone, now is the time when the name of the person who leads that category, or in this case is the ONLY person to ever do it (let alone twice), should be mentioned for his accomplishment anytime the subject is broached. And over the next two weeks, that should come up quite a few times. It's how we honor the person from whom the torch is passed. For Flores, it's a torch he has carried without rival for 35 years.
When Ken Stabler passed away last year, the outpouring of support and reflection on his greatness was incredible. Within a couple months, he was a Senior Committee nominee. That's unfortunately how it has to happen sometimes. The accomplishments are not fully realized, then brushed under other new candidates until they are minimized and/or forgotten.
The Raiders and their fans don't forget. I have no doubt Ron Rivera respects the trail Tom Flores blazed upon which he now treads. That's a conversation that must be had several times in the next two weeks and beyond.