Tom Flores has the best kind of Super Bowl plans. The former Raiders quarterback, offensive coordinator and head coach will be in Atlanta before that game, as guest of honor.
Flores was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday afternoon for the first time in his 24 years of eligibility, a major feat for someone waiting so long without validation for a career well spent.
The NFL’s first Latino head coach, who won two Super Bowls as a head coach and another as a coordinator, was never even a semifinalist before this induction cycle.
Now he’s on the cusp of something truly special.
“It was exciting to make the semifinals, but I knew how rare it was to make the final 15. This is much bigger,” Flores said Thursday night in a phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’m going to be in Atlanta for the Super Bowl when they knock on doors. I’m probably going to be biting my fingernails off, if I have any by then.
"It’s another step, and a great honor. It’s about as big as it can get in my lifetime, if I can accomplish this while I’m still around and be able to celebrate with my friends and family, it will be monumental for me. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am to be in this position.”
There is one complication he expressed while speaking with Hall of Fame president David Baker Thursday night.
“I am going to enjoy this month,” Flores said. “It’s going to drive me crazy waiting so long.”
The Hall of Fame can only elect a maximum of five of the 15 modern-era finalists, and there’s a large contingent of worthy candidates this year. There’s a buzz around Flores this year, and the selection committee will discuss him openly on the eve of the Super Bowl.
It took a long time to make it this far, but Flores isn’t bitter about the wait. He understood that Al Davis was the star of the show, and was okay with that. It is gratifying, however, to see his career honored in such a way.
“I appreciate the committee acknowledging that part of my career and how important it is and how hard it is,” Flores said. “This is a tough business. I’m not a loud guy. I didn’t scream and yell on the sidelines. I didn’t create much of a stir. I was kind of boring, and I also worked for Al Davis.
"He got all the accolades, and I understood that. He understood that. And he said, ‘I’m the last guy who should push for you, because nobody will listen to me.’"