Dick Vermeil has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this year’s class.
Before he led the Rams to be Super Bowl XXXIV champions, he led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance in 18 years and won the NFC Championship in 1980. Vermeil is 85 years old at this point and has been out of coaching for sixteen years.
After Norm Van Brocklin led the Eagles to win the 1960 NFL Championship Game against Vince Lombardi’s Packers, the Eagles entered into the dark ages. Head coach Buck Shaw retired on top after the championship and the Eagles would have five head coaches in the next fifteen years.
The Eagles only had two winning seasons during that span (1961 at 10-4 and 1966 at 9-5). There were five seasons (1962, 1963, 1970, 1972, and 1975) where the Eagles finished last in their division. The Eagles were in desperate need of a change and Philadelphia fans started to gravitate more to the Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers.
Dick Vermeil spent two seasons at UCLA before signing on as head coach of the Eagles. In 1975, he led an improbable season of success to cement his legacy in UCLA lore. The Bruins dominated the state in 1975 by defeating all California teams: Stanford, Cal, and USC.
By winning the Pac-8, UCLA earned an invite to the Rose Bowl for the first time in ten years. Just as UCLA upset No. 1 ranked Michigan State in 1965 by a score of 14-12 after being two-touchdown underdogs, Dick Vermeil achieved a similar feat in 1975. UCLA seemed outmatched against top-ranked Ohio State who had gone undefeated and had already defeated UCLA earlier that season 41-20 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. UCLA was 15.5-point underdogs at the Rose Bowl, but Vermeil led them to a huge upset victory over the Buckeyes 23-10.
Becoming An Eagle
Dick Vermeil was hired to coach the Eagles in 1976 while he was still in his 30s. In his first two seasons, it was more of the same as the Eagles finished with a 4-10 record in 1976 and a 5-9 record in 1977. Vermeil was put in a bankrupt situation as the Eagles didn’t have a first-round draft pick until 1979 due to past trades.
In 1978, the Eagles broke through the longest postseason drought in franchise history and one of the longest in the history of the NFL. The Miracle at the Meadowlands (in which cornerback Herman Edwards recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the final seconds against the Giants) inspired the Eagles for the rest of the season and for years to come.
The next year, in 1979, not only did the Eagles make the playoffs, but they defeated the Bears in the Wild Card round and launched a comeback to nearly defeat the Buccaneers in the Divisional round.
The 1980 Season
In 1980, the Eagles started off with a red hot 11-1 record. They cooled off and lost three of their last four games but came back strong in the playoffs.
After beating the Vikings in the Divisional Round, the Eagles finally beat their archrivals, the Cowboys. They took them down 20-7 in the NFC Championship. The Eagles were slight favorites going into Super Bowl XV in a matchup against the Oakland Raiders.
On the Eagles’ first drive, Ron Jaworski threw an interception. It later translated into a Raiders touchdown to fall behind 7-0.
Just before the first half was about to end, the Eagles were down 14-3 but threatened to score. The Eagles had 1st & 10 at the Raiders 11-yard line but Jaworski threw three incompletions. What followed was Tony Franklin’s missed field goal. The Raiders scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half and the Eagles never rebounded, losing 27-10.
Dick Vermeil’s Legacy In Philly
The Eagles had a solid season in 1981 but were upset at home by the Giants in the Wild Card round 27-21. The Eagles went 3-6 in the 1982 strike-shortened season. After the season, Vermeil decided to retire due to work-related stress. Through seven years, Vermeil compiled a 54-47 (.535) overall record. He only ranks behind Andy Reid and Greasy Neale for all-time franchise coaching wins.
The rest is history as Dick Vermeil went on to have a successful career in broadcasting, winery business, and coaching…again.