When the Panthers won the NFC Championship two weeks ago, Ron Rivera became the first Hispanic American to coach an NFL team in the Super Bowl since Tom Flores led the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins in 1980 and 1983. As of tonight, on the eve of the Super Bowl, Rivera added another piece of hardware -- he was named NFL Coach of the Year.
This week, Rivera has made a point to bring Tom Flores into the conversation.
"Don't forget about Tom Flores," Rivera said this week via CSN Bay Area. "He's a pioneer."
As the Super Bowl approaches, the greats of Super Bowls past often comes up. The 2-time Super Bowl winning head coach Flores should absolutely be counted among them.
Rivera grew up Seaside California, which is just South of San Francisco and attended Cal as a linebacker. He was attending Cal right up the road from Oakland Coliseum as Flores lifted the first of his two Super Bowl trophies as Raiders head coach in the 80s.
In 1984, the year after Flores won his second Super Bowl, Rivera entered the NFL as a second round pick by the Chicago Bears. He would win a Super Bowl of his own as a player in just his second season as part of that vaunted 1985 Bears defense.
After his playing days were done, Rivera joined the NFL ranks as a coach, eventually becoming head coach of the Panthers in 2011. He says he has grown to really appreciate Flores as an NFL head coach and sees no reason why Flores shouldn't have already been inducted.
"Oh yeah," Rivera said. "If you coach this game and have the level of success he had, you should have that opportunity. He really should."
Despite the feeling of Rivera and others that Flores is Hall of Fame worthy, he continues to be passed up. He has never even been a finalist. Meanwhile, you watch as Tony Dungy gets the nod with one less Super Bowl ring and who was barely above a .500 head coach (.563) before inheriting Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
Having this conversation is getting tiresome, but it is one that must be had every year until the Hall of Fame committee gets a clue. Even if it takes the Senior Comittee as with Ken Stabler this year and Ray Guy two years ago.