The Game Before the Money Podcast spoke with Dick Vermeil about becoming the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles — in Episode 49 of the football history podcast.
Dick Vermeil Becomes the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles
The story of Dick Vermeil becoming head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles starts with the 1976 Rose Bowl. Vermeil coached the UCLA Bruins to an upset victory over previously unbeaten Ohio State. Impressed, Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose offered Vermeil the head coaching job with the Eagles.Embed from Getty Images
Accepting the Offer of Head Coach
Vermeil said that he didn’t immediately accept the offer to coach the Eagles. He told me how he ultimately decided to take the job.
“George Allen said, ‘You don’t get many offers to take a head coaching job. Take it.’ I talked to Chuck Knox, and he said, ‘take it.’ My coaching staff said, ‘Coach, you’re crazy. Take the job!’ I was making $30,000 a year coaching UCLA, and I got a raise to $50,000 a year to go to the Eagles.”
Overcoming Lack of Top Draft Choices
When Vermeil took over, the Eagles hadn’t had a winning record in a decade. They finished last in their division in half of those seasons. The situation was dire, and the Eagles had traded most of their top draft picks for the next few seasons before Vermeil took over in 1976. Coach Vermeil talked about that situation and how he overcame the lack of top draft choices.
“The team didn’t have a first, second, or third-round pick my first year. We didn’t have a first, second, or third-round pick my second year. We didn’t have a first and second-round pick my third year. So the only way we were going to get better was to improve most of the players that we had.”Embed from Getty Images
Vermeil added: “We tried to develop our own, and there were some guys in there that could really play. They didn’t know they could play as well as they could. Because we didn’t have a first, second, or third-round pick, we did a great job picking (later) round players.”
Eagles Make NFL Playoffs for First Time Since 1960
After a 4-10 first season as head coach, Vermeil made a bold move and traded his Pro Bowl tight end, Charle Young, for quarterback Ron Jaworski.
The Los Angeles Rams had previously drafted Jaworski while Vermeil was an assistant for the Rams. Coach Vermeil said that he liked both Jaworski’s character and his potential as an NFL quarterback.
In 1977, the Eagles picked a future star running back in the sixth round, Wilbert Montgomery.Embed from Getty Images
By 1978, just three years into Vermeil’s tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles made the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1960. After leading most of the game, they suffered a heartbreaking one-point wildcard loss to Atlanta. Still, the future looked bright for the fans at Veterans Stadium. The team improved despite not having top-round draft choices. Coach Vermeil explains there really wasn’t any sort of secret sauce to that, just good old-fashioned hard work.
“We worked very hard. You know, in those days, there was no limit to how much time you could practice, how many times you could have double days and all that kind of stuff. So we worked very hard.”
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