Skip to main content
Original Issue

Redemption By taking the Rams all the way, Dick Vermeil erased some of the pain the '81 Super Bowl loss brought to his beloved Eagles

At 2:20 A.M. on Monday, amid 2,500 partying fools who were
celebrating the Rams' Super Bowl victory at the team's suburban
Atlanta hotel, Dick Vermeil was dancing to Soul Man with the
grandmother of St. Louis tight end Roland Williams. Vermeil sure
didn't look 63. Dressed in a blue button-down Oxford shirt and
tan khakis, he looked as if he'd discovered the fountain of
football youth.

"Oh, my god!" he yelled, throwing his arms around a
weather-beaten man. They hugged for a full 10 seconds, rocking
back and forth. "My buddy!" The surrounding crowd was wondering
who the heck the guy was until Vermeil turned and explained,
"He's my waiter from an Italian restaurant in Delaware! A great

Vermeil seemed the happiest for his old Eagles, the men he'd led
to the Super Bowl 19 years ago, and anyone else from the
Philadelphia area, such as the waiter, who had been a part of
the experience. That 27-10 loss to the Raiders in New Orleans
plus his nutcase 18-hour workdays had left him just shy of a
nervous breakdown and contributed to his departure from the game
in 1983. He returned to the NFL in '97 with the Rams and, after
two exasperating seasons, scaled the heights. "I only hope that
in some small way the guys from that [Eagles] team can share
this, and that it takes away some of the hurt from that game,"
Vermeil said.

Ron Jaworski, his old quarterback in Philly, brought Vermeil a
Wheaties box with the Super Bowl-champion Rams on the front.
Jaws got a hug from his old coach and then said that yes,
Vermeil's triumph was a salve for the pain that had lingered
since 1981. "Everyone on that team shares a love for him we
can't describe," Jaworski said. "I guarantee that every single
player on that Eagles team is filled with pride right now. I'm
not happy. I'm ecstatic!"

Someone asked Vermeil how it felt to lead the NFC team with the
worst record of the 1990s to this heady moment. "I didn't do
it," he said. "We did it. What makes this special is the sharing
of it. I love sharing. Just love it. Look at how happy everyone
in here is. You can imagine how happy the people in St. Louis
must be."

A few hours earlier, as he was leaving the Georgia Dome, Chiefs
president Carl Peterson, who was the Eagles' director of player
personnel in the early 1980s, also expressed joy for his old
friend. Then, in thinking back to coaching hires he had made in
Kansas City, Peterson shook his head and said, "I should have
hired him."

--Peter King