ST. LOUIS — 2022 could be a big year for the St. Louis Rams.
While the team no longer calls St. Louis home, two icons of football in our town could head to Canton, and round out one of the most impressive rosters from one team in NFL history.
Coach Dick Vermeil is one of those legends, and he joined 5 On Your Side's Frank Cusumano for Sports Plus to talk about the Hall of Fame, "American Underdog" and where his team stands in the history of professional football.
As for the Hall of Fame, the 85-year-old Vermeilhas long said he tries not to think about being chosen. But now, he's the coach finalist, and his odds are better than ever to get in.
"I'm extremely grateful. For all the wonderful management teams, coaching staffs and players," Vermeil said. "There's 27 or 28 other NFL coaches in the Hall of Fame as we speak. I don't think any one of them needed as much help to get there as I did if I get there."
And if Vermeil goes in, he wants his former receiver Torry Holt to be right by his side.
"It's time. He's been in the finals, what this is is third or fourth time? It is time to not pass him up. If I go in I'd love to have him covering for me and catching passes down the field on the same stage," Vermeil said of Holt. "He's one of the main reasons I'm a finalist, because of Kurt Warner because of Torry... Without those guys I'm not a Super Bowl-winning coach. Without Mike Martz, Al Saunders and Jim Hanifan I'm not a Super Bowl-Winning coach. It takes an unbelievably strong root to lift a 7-and-a-half pound Lombardi Trophy. It takes an entire organization and a lot of wonderful people to lift it. And I was so fortunate in my career to be surrounded by those kind of people."
If Vermeil and Holt get in, that will make it five offensive players and the head coach from the Rams' Super Bowl team in the Hall of Fame. Best offense of all-time?
"It has to be considered one of the best... It takes an entire organization. But I don't know of another offense off the top of my head that will end up having five Hall of Fame players on one side of the line of scrimmage. I don't know, maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers? I don't know, I haven't evaluated that. But the reason we were the 'Greatest Show on Turf' was because we had those five guys. Without those five guys, no matter how smart any of us are as coaches, we don't appear to be as smart as we were then," Vermeil said.
The wins and Super Bowl championship are nice, but if you know Vermeil, you know it's about the relationships. He still calls many of his former players and coaches on a weekly basis just to catch up and stay in their lives.
"To me, coaching was always relationship building. The better relationship you had with people, the better the contribution they made to you and the better contribution I could make to them. Because you trusted each other and you didn't pull any punches. You didn't hide anything. You gave everything you had to give each other for no selfish reason," Vermeil said.
Part of one of Vermeil's most important football relationships recently played out on the big screen with the Kurt Warner biopic, "American Underdog". Dennis Quaid played Vermeil.
"I enjoyed it. It's more than a football story. It's more about a life story, a life struggle. A life of perseverance, faith, relationships and struggles. I think a lot of people are going to be able to identify with the movie," Vermeil said. "They're going to relate to stories in their lives when they fought through a struggle and ended up being successful, or gave up and didn't keep doing it and wished they had. The best part for me was when they started showing real St. Louis Rams video at the end of the movie. That really stimulated me. But overall I'd say I give it an 'A'."
Vermeil said the movie stayed true to life in some aspects, but was maybe a bit harsh on his offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, who was tasked with getting Warner ready to take over for starting QB Trent Green.
"The best part for me actually was a couple times in the movie they used conversation that I actually used. I gave them those conversations in an interview prior to the start of the production of the movie. So I was pleased they listened to me a little bit in regards to doing what actually happened. It made me feel good. And I think Kurt felt good about it as well," Vermeil said.
"Mike (Martz) was not like that at all. Mike coached him tough, but not mean. Not negative. I never saw an example of that the whole year I worked with him. I knew he was tough on him and I wanted him to be. We were tough on everybody in building that program, not just the quarterbacks. But I thought they were a little unfair with the way they played him."
The current Rams may play their games in Los Angeles now, but thanks to the recent lawsuit, the City of St. Louis has received $790 million in a settlement over their relocation.
Vermeil knows the money can't bring back the excitement his team created.
"Money is one thing, but it won't bring back the atmosphere, the spirit. Money cannot replace that unless it brings a team with it," Vermeil said. "So I'm glad they got the money, but I don't know how much the ex-Rams fans are going to get to enjoy any one of those dollars."
When and if he goes into the Hall of Fame, Vermeil will be known in football as the man who pulled two franchises out of the muck, and captained one of the most prolific offenses in the history of football.
But his wish is to be remembered for how he operated outside the Xs and Os.
"I would like them to say that he really appreciated and cared about his players," Vermeil said. "Regardless of first string, all-pro, third-string or backup, he really cared about his players."