Dick Vermeil, one of only six coaches to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl, was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Thursday.
Vermeil was this year’s former coach selected by the Senior Committee. To make the Hall of Fame, Vermeil needed at least 80 percent of the vote of the Hall of Fame’s 49-member selection committee.
Sam Mills, a Central Jersey native who played for the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL from 1983 through 1985 before a five-time Pro Bowl career with the Saints and Panthers, was also voted into the Hall.
Vermeil took the Eagles to Super Bowl XV against the Raiders at the Superdome in 1980 and 19 years later won Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams over the Titans at the Georgia Dome.
"It's just tremendous that he was finally recognized for his achievements as a head coach in the NFL," said Ron Jaworski, who quarterbacked the Eagles for the last six of Vermeil’s seven seasons here. "It is certainly a well-deserved honor. No question he did so many wonderful things for so many players.
“He was a compassionate, caring coach who, to this day, has a bond with his former players. He cared about people. A lot of coaches in today's NFL use players as disposable products. Coach cared. When players left the game, he reached out and showed that he cared about the players as people.
"That's special. Dick was a special coach, and he's a special man and there are a lot of people happy that he has been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Vermeil got his start in the NFL as George Allen’s special teams coach with the Rams in 1969. After coaching at UCLA for two years, Vermeil took over as head coach of the Eagles in 1976. The Eagles were coming off nine straight non-winning seasons and a stretch of one winning record in 14 seasons.
"Those were some tough years," Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael said. "We weren't a very good team. We had a history of losing and we had that mentality. Slowly, Dick turned it around.
“He made us accountable. That was the big thing. He made us understand that we were responsible for the wins and losses and that our actions were what would either help us win or lose games."
It wasn’t a quick fix. But after going 9-19 in Vermeil’s first two years, the Eagles went on a run of four straight playoff seasons, going 42-22 from 1978 through 1981 and reaching the Super Bowl in 1980. From 1978 through 1981, the Eagles had the 3rd-best record in the NFL.
Vermeil stepped down after the 1982 season citing burnout and didn’t coach again for 15 years. But he took the Rams job in 1997 and in his third year led the Greatest Show on Turf to a 13-3 record and their first championship since 1951.
He stepped down again after that season, then returned in 2001 to coach the Chiefs for five years, going 44-36.
“I always say that I wish I could be more like Dick Vermeil, because he did everything the right way,” five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bill Bergey said. “He instilled in us the hard work that we were going to go through and he had certain things that he commanded.
"He led by example and wasn't going to have anyone outwork him. He got rid of some of the bad guys on our team and we turned the corner from there. "I can honestly say that, to this day, he is one of my best friends. You don't hear that about many coaches.”
Vermeil is the fifth former Eagles head coach selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame but only the second to go for his coaching success.
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The first was Greasy Neale, who coached the Eagles from 1941 through 1950 and was inducted in 1969. He led the Eagles to the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championships (and also played outfield for the Phillies in 1921 alongside Casey Stengel).
Bert Bell, who coached the Eagles from 1936 through 1940, was inducted in 1963 for his work as owner of the Steelers and later NFL Commissioner. Mike McCormack, the Eagles’ coach from 1973 through 1975, was inducted in 1984 for his performance as an offensive lineman with the Browns in the 1950s and 1960s.
Also, Walt Kiessling, who coached the Steagles in 1943 with Neale, was inducted in 1966 as a lineman in the 1920s and 1930s. Wayne Millner, who replaced ailing Eagles head coach Bo McMillan two games into the 1951 season, also was enshrined as a player in the 1930s and 1940s.
"His passion and love for the game, his players, and our city are among the reasons he remains a beloved figure in Eagles history to this day,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in a statement.
“Dick's contributions to the game of football go far beyond his time in Philadelphia. His success as a head coach spanned more than three decades and included a Rose Bowl victory with UCLA and a Super Bowl Championship with the Rams.
"That is quite the resume and a testament to the type of man and leader he is. We could not be prouder of Dick.”
The 2022 Pro Football Enshrinement weekend will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio.