Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, the only Latino head coach currently in the NFL, is getting some much-deserved attention for leading his team to this year’s Super Bowl – and a nearly undefeated regular season record. If Rivera’s Panthers win the game, the Puerto Rican-Mexican Rivera won’t be the first Latino coach to win a Super Bowl. That distinction belongs to Tom Flores.
Flores actually has lots of “firsts” under his belt: he was the first Latino quarterback to start in the AFL, he was the first Latino head coach to win a Super Bowl and he was the first Latino general manager in the NFL.
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Flores, born to parents from Chihuahua, Mexico, grew up in California’s Central Valley, where his parents worked as field workers. He played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Although he wasn’t a superstar in his playing days, Flores became a role model for Latino football players like Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett.
Despite his success as a coach, the 78-year-old Flores hasn’t been inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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Flores told ESPN: “The voters, whoever they are, are not interested in what guys have done in the past. It’s about the more recent years.” Here’s what Flores did in the past: after his playing days, he moved on to coaching, where he won a Super Bowl in 1977 as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders. Two years later, the Raiders hired him as their head coach. The following year, Flores guided the Raiders – with the help of Latino quarterback Jim Plunkett – to a victory at Super Bowl XV. But he wasn’t done. After the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, they became champions once more, winning the Super Bowl in 1984 in a rout of the Washington Redskins.
Along with Mike Ditka, Tom Flores is the only person to win a Super Bowl as a player, as an assistant coach, and as a head coach.
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Flores says he hopes Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera can also make history, since there are so few Latinos in the NFL. Flores told ESPN: “How many guys have had the opportunity that Ron and I had? That’s what makes it so special. The percentages are not in favor of this happening.”