KANSAS CITY (Mo. It was impossible to predict Dick Vermeil's entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during his 30-year career as an NFL head coach.
Vermeil was hired as the NFL's first head coach.Just after leading UCLA to a Rose Bowl win over Ohio State in 1976,
Vermeil came to the Eagles having lost nine consecutive seasons. Vermeil managed to get them into the playoffs his third season and the Super Bowl his fifth.
It was not without cost.
The Eagles had won with a coach who was physically demanding and held long practices in pads almost all the time. Vermeil worked long hours to ensure that he was fully involved in the Eagles' offensive, special and defensive game plans.
“He used be a troublemaker for all of us assistant coaches, because he could live on just four hours of sleep per night,” Carl Peterson said. He coached Vermeil with UCLA Eagles and UCLA Bears. Vermeil was hired later as the Chiefs' general manager. “The rest needed more. Each of us had pullout bed in our Eagles offices. It was necessary. The meetings started early and lasted until the end.
“It was intense coaching and teaching. He burnt the candle at both ends. He detests the term burnout. But he did. After a while I could see him slowly deteriorating.”
At 46, Vermeil quit coaching after seven seasons. He was absent for 14 seasons. His main exposure to the sport during that period was as a TV broadcaster.
After shedding some of his old-school coaching methods, he made it to the Hall of Fame. In 1997, he returned to St. Louis Rams where he took over a team that had won six of its previous games and averaged 19 points per game. In his third season, he won the Super Bowl with a high scoring offense nicknamed “The Best Show On Turf.”
Vermeil's last coaching stint with the Chiefs did not produce a Super Bowl in five years, but he had better season winning percentages in Kansas City (.550), than in Philadelphia (.535) and St. Louis (.458).
Brent Musburger (Vermeil's long-time partner in broadcasting and friend) said that “His coaching career had been really unique.” He was a successful coach with the Eagles and won despite being in an era of limited player movement. Building a winning team took much longer.
He returns 14 years later, and the NFL is a new place with a salary cap. However, he won a Super Bowl with the Rams in his third season and then went on to play for some very good teams with Chiefs.
Vermeil's entire career is remarkable, especially for a Hall of Fame coach. His 14-year absence and early retirement as a coach are notable. His long career as a broadcaster spans several eras of the NFL, which was largely an operating league at his departure and a passing league upon his return.
His regular-season winning percentage of 0.524 is the lowest among Hall of Fame members who were enshrined entirely because of coaching. Weeb Elbank ranks last at.502, although he has three titles. Vermeil, however, inherited three teams that were in trouble when he arrived. He then left each team on his terms.
VERMEIL TOOK THE EARLIES Four consecutive playoff appearances including a Super Bowl. In 1982, however, everything was thrown out of control when the Eagles fell to 3-6 after a nine-game season due to a strike by players.
He reached the bottom. Vermeil announced his resignation after the season, shocking the football world. He then moved on to a successful broadcasting career.
He stated, “It was probably my hardest task in my entire life.” “But I knew I had. I knew that I was a mess. It could be burnout, depression or emotionally draining, whatever you choose. I was so passionate and intense about my work that it was more than I could handle.
“I'm not regretful of what I did. I was my worst enemy. I knew I had to quit coaching. It allowed me to be involved in the lives of my children. From making $75,000 per year, I was able to make $150,000 by working 16 weekends. It was great. I took part in activities at home. It was great.”
Although his resignation shocked many, it was not surprising to those closest to him.
Ron Jaworski was the Eagles' quarterback. “You could tell it wasn’t the same guy when he gave speeches to the team. He was extremely emotional. Although he was always emotionally charged, this was a different type of emotion. He was usually emotional because he had a reason. This could be pregame speeches or postgame speeches. He would feel the same way on Saturday night, just before a game. It was quite different.”
Vermeil did not know that he would return to coaching at the time. He knew that he had to go.
NFL TEAMS TRIED He was able to attract him back. He claimed that almost every year that he was out, he was approached about a job. The one year was theVermeil was offered the head coaching job with a contract that could be filled in as he pleased.
Musburger stated, “Dick didn't want the return to coaching.” He didn't want it. He was a terrible coach and lost every loss. He kept telling me over and over that he wouldn't be returning to coaching.
Vermeil was a game analyst for TV, mostly college football.
Musburger said, “He was an addict as a coach and as an analyst. I have never known anyone in any sport that prepared as Dick leading up to a match. He would arrive with huge boards stuffed full of notes. These large boards were filled with notes about each player and team. There was very little white space.
Vermeil's broadcasting skills prepared him to return to coaching. He didn't arrive for Saturday's game in time to work on the broadcast. He was there Wednesday to observe practice and discuss football with coaches.
He made furious notes during practice, and then he drew plays that he saw working. He kept all of the information in a file for future reference.
Vermeil said, “I never stopped studying football.” “I never stopped talking about coaches. My relationship with great coaches never ended. This kept me informed as much as possible, even if I wasn't there every day.
“The three most outstanding football coaches I've ever witnessed were Bill Snyder at Kansas State; Tom Coughlin from Boston College; and Don Shula of the University of Minnesota.. … There were many times when I walked off the field or out of meetings and thought, “This is a better method.” I watched Joe Gibbs, Don Shula, and Bill Parcells coaching their teams. I thought I had a lot to learn.
Musburger agreed that Vermeil's years spent broadcasting and watching other coaches helped him to be better when he returned from the sidelines.
Musburger stated, “The only thing Dick recognized was someone who can coach.”
THE RAMS CAME Vermeil accepted the call in 1997, believing it was the right time. He arrived to a team that had been losing seven straight seasons.
Vermeil initially returned to the Eagles as the same coach that he was before he left. Vermeil was involved in special teams, offense and defense during long practice sessions.
Eddie Kennison (wide receiver), who joined the Rams one year before Vermeil arrived, said that “We had it pretty simple in St. Louis.” “But that was why we were losing. Coach Vermeil came in, and we went from practicing for an hour and a quarter to practice that lasted two hours and forty-five minutes. I learned more from him than any other coach that I had ever played for that you must practice hard if you want your skills to improve.
Vermeil stated that he was still doing it the old-fashioned method. There were no rules at the time about how long you could practice, how many times you could have two-a-days, or how many days you could wear pads. … These kids worked.”
In their first season, the Rams won five and then four games. Vermeil was aware that he would be fired if the Rams lost more than he won, so he applied the lessons he had learned as a broadcaster to his job.
He decided to backtrack on the practice, making them less demanding. He began to search for a coordinator to help the Rams get off to a good start.
He interviewed a candidate he had admired as a play designer at Arizona State and as a caller. Mike Martz and he met with him for eight hours. The two of them stopped only for a couple of bathroom breaks.
They found common ground and Vermeil, his first head coach, gave total control to Vermeil's offense to another person.
Martz said that he had tried to be the head coach, call plays and all that other stuff. Martz stated that his workload was substantial. Martz stated, “He was tired of doing it.”
Vermeil needed someone to trust to do that part, so he appointed him the head coach. The world fell off Vermeil's shoulders when that happened.
They had some quarterback drama before the 1999 Rams became The Greatest Show on Turf, and led the NFL in scoring. Preseason game: Trent Green, the starter, tore his ACL in his left leg.
Martz and Vermeil had picked Kurt Warner, a rookie, as their backup. They didn't hesitate to make Warner their starter after he threw two interceptions in their first regular season game. Warner finally found his feet, leading Vermeil and his Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV win and igniting his Hall of Fame career.
Vermeil retired for the second consecutive time following the Super Bowl win.But, he was able to return to coaching with the Chiefs in 2001. Vermeil didn't manage to get the Chiefs into a Super Bowl. However, he managed five exciting seasons with high-scoring teams that were led by stars like Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez.
Peterson, Kansas City's then general manager, noticed a Vermeil different to the one he had previously worked with at UCLA or the Eagles.
Peterson stated that Peterson delegated more responsibility than he did with UCLA and the Eagles. He let his coordinators organize it, call it and run it.
Peterson stated that Vermeil spent most of his nights at the office. While Vermeil might have been there for a few nights, it was not Philadelphia.
Jaworski's story is the best example of Vermeil’s evolution. Jaworski was working in television at the time and attended the Rams' Super Bowl match against the Titans. A few hours before the game, Jaworski met his coach and they had a pleasant conversation.
Vermeil then excused himself and said that he wanted a hello to his wife whom he had spotted at the stands.
Jaworski stated, “That's how much his life had changed.” “In Super Bowl XV [with the Eagles]He was so focused that he didn't notice anything else. He was unsure of where his wife was or if she was at the game.
“But this was a time when he had it all together to a greater extent. He knew his team was in a good spot and that he appreciated it. He could just relax. He could relax. Perhaps that's the reason his team won.”