Dick Vermeil saved the Eagles

With the current sports scene, it’s a little hard to believe and a little harder to understand if you don’t live in it. But at one point, the bizzaro sports world was in Philadelphia in 1976, where the top was on the bottom, and the bottom was on top. yes Flyers The team was first in town, looking for third place in a row Stanley Cup And terrorizing everyone who played “The Broad Street Bullies.” The Phyllis They were on the brink of the Age of Enlightenment with the farm system that Hall of Famer produced Mike Schmidt, along with Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, and eventually World Championship crown and 76ers Just acquired Julius “Dr. J “Erving and arrived at The NBA Finals For the first time in a decade.

As for the vultures in the mid-1970s, they weren’t anywhere.

And no one was willing to look for them either.

They were a broken team with one winning season since the 1960 NFL Championship, which included a six-year period when Cowboys in Dallas He had won 11 consecutive games against the Eagles, who had spent nine consecutive years in which they had no wins.

Then Dick Vermeil arrived.

He came to a team that didn’t have a first-round pick until 1979 and was coming off a 4-10 season. The impatient owner, Leonard Touss, was going through head coaches as if he was ripping poker chips. The feeling in the media at the time was that Vermeil would return to his native California because the Eagles were too much to fix.

Within three years, Vermeil had the Eagles in the playoffs. Within five, they were playing their first match Energy.

The franchise has not lost its strong fan base. Her fan base lost confidence in her. They were a great Sunday comic distraction for the other “real teams” in Philadelphia at the time.

Vermeil made the Eagles relevant again. In many ways, he saved the franchise on the list.

On Saturday, he will be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame as part of a class that includes tackling Tony Boselli, wide receiver Cliff Branch, safety Leroy Butler, official Art McNally, quarterback and former Philadelphia Star, late Sam Mills, defensive end/handling Richard Seymour, And defensive interference / defensive end Bryant Young.

Vermeil will enter as a member of the Eagles, as he has called the Delaware Valley area his home for the past 46 years.

“This team was nowhere to be seen when I got here,” said Eagles Hall of Fame Ron Jaworsky, who led the Eagles to Super Bowl XV. “I can tell you coach Vermeil made us winners without a lot of talent. The first year I came here, our first pick came in the fourth round. I remember coming to Philadelphia when I was with the Rams on Monday night, and we smashed them (42-3 on November 3, 1975). Our seat was hit with dog bones and level 700 golf balls (laughs). I remember thinking how badly the vultures thought. Coach Vermeil overturned it all.”

Vermeil took on the Eagles’ head first. He grinded them and made them into a Super Bowl contender for four years, then went on to revive the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl champions and Kansas City Chiefs in the contenders.

“I’ve kept it simple that what I’m asking of myself is the same thing I’ve asked of my players,” Vermeil said. “I’m sure the guys back then didn’t like it. But they became winners. They started buying. When I came here in 1976, the Eagles hadn’t been in the playoffs in 16 years I think. When we went in ’78, that was it The eighteenth year we were finally in the playoffs. It became a team the city could relate to, it became a tough team that used every ounce of ability it had, and its work ethic was something the city of Philadelphia was able to appreciate.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame sports writer Ray Didinger saw the transformation happen right before his eyes. At first, he was as suspicious of Vermeil as anyone else.

“I remember one of your first press conferences and the talk was that he’d be back in California in a few years,” he recalls. “That was the feeling when he took over. People are talking about Buddy Ryan bringing the Eagles back, no, no, no, it was Dick Vermeil who brought back the Eagles in terms of how the team was perceived here.

“The Eagles really own this city and there wasn’t much sense that Vermeil could turn them. He didn’t just turn them around; he took them to the playoffs in three years and took them to their first Super Bowl. For me, it was one of the greatest coaching jobs ever, because he wasn’t He has something to work with.

“A lot of people like to give Buddy credit for making the Eagles relevant again. It was Dick Vermeil who really turned this team around. He had nothing. Buddy inherited a 7-9 team that already had Reggie White. If you look at Dick’s overall record (120-109), it’s not that impressive. It’s barely over .500. But you have to understand that he inherited one of the most desperate situations you could imagine in Philadelphia and within three years it was in the playoffs.

“He rebuilt the Eagles, and then came back 14 years later, when people thought the game had passed him, and did the same with the Rams and then the Chiefs. The Rams were just as bad as the Eagles in 1976 and led them to the Super Bowl. Look what he inherited and look at the What he built. And he didn’t do it once, but three times. Do it once and you’re a good coach. Do it three times and you’re a great coach.”


Joseph Santolicetto is an award-winning Philadelphia-based sports writer who has written featured stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin, and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep”. He is best known for ESPN.com’s award-winning feature on high school wrestler AJ Detwiler in February 2006, which was featured on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the American Boxing Writers Association.