Dick Vermeil, who two years ago coached the Philadelphia Eagles to their only Super Bowl appearance, resigned yesterday, saying coaching had left him "emotionally burned out." Marion Campbell, Eagles defensive coordinator, was named to replace Vermeil.
"I'm physically and mentally drained. I just have to get out of coaching for a while. It's as simple as that," Vermeil told a news conference in Philadelphia.
"This is the hardest thing I ever had to do," said Vermeil, who broke down in tears several times during the press conference. "I hope my coaches and players understand where I'm coming from. I mean that sincerely."
Vermeil, 46, who came to the Eagles from UCLA in 1976, said he has no immediate job prospects and has no plans to coach another NFL team this year.
But he did not rule out a return to football. "If I can regroup mentally and if I feel I can do it up to my standards, then I'll come back . . . maybe I'll find I can live without football."
Vermeil, whose imminent resignation had been the subject of widespread speculation over the weekend, has been a football coach since 1960 when he began a three-year stint at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif. Over the years he developed a reputation as a workaholic and during the season would spend nights on a cot in his office.
"I've made a lot of mistakes, but probably the most vivid one is that I set a tempo for 23 years that may not be possible to keep through a 10-year pro contract," he said. "That's why I can say I'm just burned out. I read a book a while back on burnout and I didn't understand it. I thought they were wrong, but I realize now they knew what they were talking about," Vermeil said.
"I know I pushed myself beyond the point. But with a break, I think I can regroup and regenerate the enthusiasm and the energy that it takes to do it my way. If I can't do to my standards, I'm not going to do it."
Vermeil said his burnout process began after the 1981 Super Bowl, when the Eagles were defeated by the Oakland Raiders, 27-10. "The pressure became so intense . . . A whole lot of things caught up with me. They started eating away at me."
Vermeil was voted coach of the year in the NFL when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. Last year's coach of the year, Bill Walsh of San Francisco, also is now debating whether to remain as 49ers head coach. He has said he will make his decision later this week.
After Vermeil's announcement, Eagles owner Leonard Tose introduced Campbell, a former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, as the Eagles coach for the next five years.
"It's a sad day for all of us . . . I have mixed emotions about the position I'm in right now," said Campbell. "I know one thing for sure. I'm a much better coach for being around Dick Vermeil."
Campbell, 53, was brought to the Eagles by Vermeil after being fired as head coach of the Falcons. In his five years as Eagles defensive coordinator, the unit allowed only 15 points a game and led the NFL for two years in a row in fewest points allowed.
Vermeil, whose team ended this season with a 3-6 record, is generally credited with taking charge of a lackluster team and turning it into a Super Bowl contender. "Dick Vermeil took us from nowhere to somewhere," said Jimmy Murray, Eagles general manager.
Vermeil's contract had three years to run at $200,000 a year, but Tose released him from it after a meeting Sunday night at Tose's house.
"I'm sorry to see him go, but as a friend, I'm happy for his welfare," said Tose. "We owe Dick Vermeil more than we could ever repay. We learned how to build a team with character. We learned how to win and many, many other things."
In Miami, Dolphins Coach Don Shula said, "You hate to see good coaches leave the game. I just hope he's okay healthwise. I hope he gets back into coaching."