KANSAS CITY, Missouri. During a 30-year career as an NFL head coach, it was impossible to predict that Dick Vermeil would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Vermeil got his first NFL head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976, just after leading UCLA to a Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State.

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By the time of Vermeil’s arrival, the Eagles had gone nine consecutive seasons without a win. But Vermeil had them in the playoffs in their third year and in the Super Bowl in their fifth.

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It cost a lot.

The Eagles were winners with a coach who did long, physically demanding workouts, almost always in stocks. Vermeil had a hand in the Eagles’ game plans on offense, defense and special teams and worked hard to stay on top of it all.

“He used to frustrate all of us assistant coaches because he could survive if he got four hours of sleep a night,” said Carl Peterson, who coached Vermeil at UCLA and the Eagles and later hired Vermeil as general general. manager of the Chiefs. “The rest of us needed more. We all had pull out beds in our offices with the Eagles. We were forced. Meetings started early and continued until late.

“It was non-stop, intense training and learning. He lit the candle at both ends. He hates the word “burnout”. But he did. After a while, I saw how it collapsed.

Vermeil retired from coaching after seven seasons at the age of 46. He did not train for 14 seasons, and his main participation in the game during this stretch was as a TV presenter.

He entered the Hall of Fame by giving up some of his old habits when he returned to coaching. He returned in 1997 to lead the St. Louis Rams, which won six games, averaging 19 points per game the year before. He won the Super Bowl in his third season there with a scoring offense, nicknamed “The Greatest Turf Show”.

Vermeil’s last coaching act with the Chiefs did not lead to a Super Bowl in five seasons, but he had a better season winning percentage in Kansas City (.550) than in Philadelphia (.535) or St. Louis (.458).

“His coaching career has been truly unique,” said Brent Musburger, Vermeil’s longtime television partner and friend. “He has been successful at the Eagles, winning despite being there in an era where player movement was restricted. Then it took much more time to create a winning team.

“Then he comes back 14 years later and it’s a whole new world in the NFL with a salary cap and free agents. good teams with the Chiefs.”

All in all, Vermeil’s career has been very unusual, especially for a Hall of Famer coach. His retirement at an early age as a coach and his 14-year hiatus stand out. His long hiatus as a broadcaster spanned eras in the NFL, which was basically a current league when he left and mostly a transitional league when he returned.

His .524 regular season winning percentage is the second-highest of any Hall of Famer who has been cemented entirely by coaching (Weeb Eubank is in last place at .502, even though he has three titles). But Vermeil inherited three teams that were struggling when he arrived, and each left on his terms.


VERMEI TAKES THE EAGLES up to four consecutive playoff matches, including the Super Bowl. But everything came crashing down in 1982, when the Eagles led 3–6 in a season reduced to nine games due to a players’ strike.

He hit bottom. Vermeil announced his resignation, in a surprise to the footballing world, after the season in a tearful press conference before moving on to a lucrative television career.

“At that time it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” he said. “But I knew I had to. I knew that I was in a mess. Whatever you call it: burnout, depression, emotional exhaustion. I was ready to handle.

“I don’t regret what I did. I was my own worst enemy. I know that I should have left coaching. It allowed me to participate in the lives of my children. . That was cute. I participated in household chores. That was cute”.

Although his resignation came as a shock to the fans, not to his loved ones.

“As the season went on, you kind of anticipated it coming,” said Ron Jaworski, his Eagles quarterback. “In speeches to the team, you could say that it was a different guy. He was very emotional. He was always emotional, but those were different emotions. Usually, when he got emotional, there was a reason for it: pre-game speeches, post-game speeches. But it was the Saturday night before the game, and that’s what he did. It was just different.”

At the time, Vermeil had no idea if he would ever return to coaching. He just knew he had to get out.


NFL TEAMS TRIED to lure him back. He said he was approached for a job nearly every year he was away. At one point, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered Vermeil the head coach position on an unfilled contract, saying he could do whatever he wanted.

“Dick didn’t want to go back to coaching,” Musburger said. “He didn’t want to do it. Each defeat burned him out as a coach. He repeatedly told me that he would not return to coaching.

Vermeil remained close to the game, working as a television game analyst, mainly on college football.

“He was a workaholic as a coach and a workaholic as an analyst,” Musburger said. “I have never met anyone in any sport who prepared as much as Dick before a game. He showed up with these big boards full of notes. there’s not much free space left.”

What Vermeil did as a broadcaster, whether intentionally or not, prepared him for his return to coaching. He didn’t show up for Saturday’s game in time to start broadcasting. He arrived on Wednesday to watch training and talk about football with the coaches.

He took furious notes in training and drew plays that he saw worked, jotting everything down in a folder in case he ever wanted to use the information.

“I never stopped learning the game,” Vermeil said. “I never stopped talking to coaches. I never let my relationships with good coaches break down.

“The three best football coaches I have ever seen were Bill Snyder of Kansas State, Tom Coughlin of Boston College and Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. meeting, and I said to myself, “This is the best way to do it.” I watched Don Shula, Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells coach their teams and said, “I have a lot to learn.”

Musburger agreed that Vermeil’s years on the air and watching other coaches made Vermeil better when he returned to the touchline.

“The only thing Dick has acknowledged is someone who can coach,” Musburger said.


RAMS COME called in 1997 and Vermeil agreed, feeling that the time had come. When he arrived, he inherited a team with seven consecutive losing seasons.

He initially returned as the same coach he was prior to leaving the Eagles. The Rams had long training sessions, and Vermeil had a hand in offense, defense, and special teams.

“It was pretty easy for us in St. Louis,” wide receiver Eddie Kennison, who joined the Rams the year before Vermeil, said. “But that’s why we lost. Then Coach Vermeil comes in and we went from training sessions that lasted an hour and a half to training sessions that lasted two hours and 45 minutes. More than any other coach I’ve played with, he believed in training. for a long time if you were going to get better.”

Vermeil said, “I did it the old fashioned way. At the time, there were no rules about how long you worked out, how many times a day you could exercise, how many days you could wear pads… These kids worked.”

The Rams won five games in their first season and four in the next. Vermeil knew he would be fired if the Rams kept losing, so he applied the lessons he had learned during his time as a broadcaster.

He abandoned training, making it less physically demanding. He was also looking for a coordinator to step up the Rams’ lackluster offense.

He interviewed a candidate he watched and admired as a play designer and caller to the state of Arizona. His meeting with Mike Martz lasted eight hours, stopping only for a couple of bathroom breaks.

They hit it off, and Vermeil, for the first time as head coach, handed over full control of his offense to someone else.

“He tried to organize games, be the head coach and all that. His workload was significant,” Martz said. “He’s tired of it.”

Vermeil needed someone he could trust to take over this part of the job and allow him to become the head coach. When this happened, the weight of the world fell off his shoulders.

Before the 1999 Rams became the Greatest Turf Show and led the NFL in scoring, they experienced some quarterback drama. Starter Trent Green tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a preseason game.

Vermeil and Martz selected the untested Kurt Warner as their understudy and didn’t flinch when he became their starter, even after Warner threw two steals in the first half of the regular season opener. Warner eventually found his footing, leading Vermeil and the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV victory and launching his own Hall of Fame career.

Vermeil retired for the second time after a Super Bowl win over the Tennessee Titans, but returned to coaching for the last time in 2001 with the Chiefs. Vermeil failed to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, but for five seasons he had great and productive teams led by stars like Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes.

Peterson, Kansas City’s general manager at the time, saw a different Vermeil from the one he had worked with at UCLA and the Eagles.

“He delegated responsibility much more than what he did when I was with him and with …