Class of 2022: Dick Vermeil — No tears, just smiles and thank-yous on way to Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Barry Wilner 
Special to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 

The one sure thing about Dick Vermeil’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday seemed to be that the Super Bowl-winning coach would shed a tear.  

Never happened. It was all smiles and thank-yous. 

Known almost as much for his propensity to weep when extraordinary things happen to him as for his coaching skills, Vermeil managed to get through his speech at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium without breaking down.  

Vermeil, who led the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” to the 1999 NFL Championship and also guided the 1980 Eagles into the Super Bowl, deflected much of the credit elsewhere. He cited former coaches and mentors, players, his broadcast co-workers when he was at CBS and ABC, and his family for their help and support. 

“I was so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with three great owners, three great administrative staffs, three great personnel departments,” he said of the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs, “and most importantly, three outstanding coaching staffs and players. 

“I have been fortunate in my career to have had the opportunity to coach 10 Hall of Fame football players as a head coach and five Hall of Famers as an assistant coach. And I coached, worked with, three NFL Hall of Fame coaches in George Allen, Sid Gillman and the great Bill Walsh, as well as had the opportunity to coach against 12 of the NFL head coaches that are already in this Hall of Fame. 

“And to now be selected to join these fine players and coaches as the 28th head coach, to be put in this position to be a Hall of Fame coach, is an honor that reaches far beyond any personal expectations.” 

That career included 15 years as an NFL head coach and a successful run at UCLA. 

Vermeil even thanked legendary Bruins basketball coach John Wooden during his speech. 

In 1969, Vermeil became the NFL’s first designated special teams coach as a member of Allen’s staff with the Los Angeles Rams. He mastered the three-year turnaround when in charge of the full team, leading the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs to the postseason after years – nearly two decades for Philadelphia – of falling short.  

The 1999 NFL Coach of the Year – he stuck by an untested backup quarterback named Kurt Warner after starter Trent Green went down to a preseason knee injury – and did that ever pay off. Warner was the league MVP and eventually made the Hall of Fame. 

Vermeil posted an overall record of 126-114-0. He won top coaching honors in high school, junior college, college and the NFL. 

In thanking his family, Vermeil saved for last his tribute to wife, Carol. That was the only time he seemed on the verge of tears, which nearly everyone told him they were expecting. 

“When I talk about Carol Vermeil,” he said with a smile about his wife of 66 years, “(not crying) ain’t going to work. As a coach’s wife, Carol Vermeil had NO equal. No one that I know of has ever done it better than you, and you still don’t have an equal.” 

And Vermeil’s eyes stayed dry.