There is plenty of support for former Raiders coach Tom Flores to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
Then again, it’s been like that for the Fresno native who has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for 24 years but hadn’t reached the final round until this year.
Flores is hoping some changes and an old friend might help secure a coveted gold jacket.
He talked about his Hall of Fame chances and the start to the Raiders’ season in a telephone interview with The Bee from his Palm Springs home.
Hall of Fame
“I’m not getting any younger, unfortunately.” the former Sanger High and Fresno City College standout quarterback said. “I’m going the other way.”
Flores, 82, was a first-time finalist this year for Hall of Fame induction. Eight of the 15 finalists received the necessary 80% vote for induction.
The change is that this year’s centennial class grows to 20 members. The list will include five modern-era players, 10 seniors (players retired for more than 25 seasons), three contributors and two coaches. (Last year’s finalists included two coaches, Flores and Don Coryell.)
The list of seniors, contributors and coaches finalists will be determined by a 25-person panel of Hall of Fame selectors, Hall of Famers, media members, football historians and industry experts.
One of the panel members will be former Raiders coach John Madden, Hall of Fame Class of 2006.
“John has status and when he talks, people listen,” Flores said. “There is always a couple guys in there that are my supporters, but you have to have guys that know how to present and hopefully John will add to that, not just for the Raiders guys but for other deserving guys from other teams.”
Flores certainly has the credentials. He won 97 games as an NFL coach, including an 83-53 run with the Raiders from 1979 to 1987. But he was even better in the postseason, where his 8-3 record for a .727 winning percentage ranks second to Vince Lombardi among those who have coached 10 or more playoff games.
Under Flores, the Raiders became the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl, beating the Philadelphia Eagles in 1980. They won again under Flores in 1983, holding offensive-minded Washington in check in a 38-9 victory.
He doesn’t wish to dwell on his chances, but ...
“Pretty hard not to think about it when it’s brought up all the time.,” he said. “When I’m home, I don’t sit here and think about it. If it happens, it happens. I came close last year. I’ll probably come close again this year. With the new format our chances increase a little bit for us old-timers.”
Big win in London
Flores shared thoughts about this year’s Raiders, who are 3-2 and on a bye week after beating the Chicago Bears 24-21 in London.
“When you look at their schedule of where they have to play you see the first two at home, that was a plus because you had a chance to win one or two of those games and we won and that was against a division team.” Flores said of the season-opening win against Denver.
“Those are the important games. I think the big push for them is that they did it the hard way. They had to go all the way across the world and they hadn’t won in London (the last two times). That was a big win for the team and for the morale, and big for the fans, as well.”
Jacobs reminds Flores of a certain great
For many seasons, Flores coached Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. Flores saw it all in Allen, including his leap to the end zone for a touchdown against Chicago.
In Sunday’s game against the Bears, rookie Josh Jacobs’ play reminded Flores of Allen.
“He’s got the ability to see and make the right cuts,” Flores said. “I know he’s not very tall, but he’s got 210 pounds in that frame and that was proven when he went over the top and did a Marcus Allen-type of leap. “
The Raiders selected Jacobs with the 24th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has 88 carries for 430 yards and four touchdowns.
Flores said he believes there is more to come from Jacobs: “This kid is just getting started.”
Help for Derek Carr
Flores said he was encouraged by how well the offensive line protected quarterback Derek Carr.
So much, Carr wasn’t sacked by one of the NFL’s top defenses.
“When the offensive line is playing that way, it’s a lot easier for the quarterback to manage his part,” Flores said. “It’s a lot easier for the coach to make the right call with the quarterback to make the adjustments at the line of scrimmage. There were no sacks and that was remarkable when you’re playing against a defense like Chicago. That was really impressive..”
Defense a bright spot and look ahead
Instead of the Bears harassing Carr, it was the Raiders defense that did that and so much more.
The Raiders finished with four sacks, including Maurice Hurst’s to end the game.
“They were able to harass the quarterback into making mistakes,” Flores said. “Overall it was a good team victory, offense and defense and some of the guys like (Maxx) Crosby, Hurst, these guys are stepping up. ... It’s fun to watch some of these young guys to play like that.”
The Raiders will remain on the road after the bye week to face the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans before returning home Nov. 2 against the Detroit Lions. Oakland will play three straight games at home.
“You can’t get too high or too low,” Flores said. “You just want to be a competitor in the season and put yourself in a good position the second half of the season.”