Q+A Celebrity Connection: Q+A with Tom Moore

When it comes to football, the more the merrier.

Story By Hilary Kraus

Tom Moore’s summer and fall schedules are jam-packed with football commitments. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Moore, who lives on Hilton Head Island with his wife, Emily, has been a football coach on the college and professional levels since 1961. His list of NFL jobs include offensive positions and/or offensive coordinator for the Steelers, Vikings, Lions, Saints, Colts, and most recently assistant head coach/offense for the Arizona Cardinals (2013 to 2017).

He’s coached Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Cris Carter, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, just to name a few. Moore also has three Super Bowl rings (two with Pittsburgh and one with Indianapolis). At age 80 with 56 years in the business, football is still his No. 1 interest.

LOCAL Life caught up with Moore days before he left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organized team activities (OTAs) where he’s been assigned an advisory role to Head Coach Bruce Arians. His plans include spending the college football season at the University of Southern California where he will be “a set of eyes to watch the tapes, make suggestions and try to stay out of the way.” It’ll be a return trip after spending part of the spring at the team’s practices. Moore coached USC Athletic Director Swann in the 1970s.

One of the greats
In 2015, Hilton Head Island resident Tom Moore was awarded the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL.

Here’s what the coach had to say:

[LOCAL Life] You began coaching football after playing and graduating from Iowa. What attracted you to the job that eventually became a lifelong profession? [Tom Moore] I always played some kind of sports. I started competitively in fifth grade with football, basketball, baseball, track. The people who had more influence on me as a kid were my coaches and I thought it would be a good way to go. So I lived the dream is the way I think of it. I’ve always done exactly what I wanted to do and that was coach and be around people I wanted to be around. The players, the coaches, and so it’s my lifestyle.

[LL] You’ve lived all over the country. Why did you and your wife, Willie, settle on Hilton Head Island? [TM] We knew about Hilton Head, I was down here one time in 1970 when I coached at Georgia Tech. My wife is from North Carolina; she knew about the place. And (former Steelers head coach) Chuck Knoll, who I coached for, had a place here. We bought a place in 1983 in Palmetto Dunes and I’m glad I did. I couldn’t afford it then but I sure couldn’t afford it now.

[LL] What are your Sundays during the season like, now that you’ve retired? [TM] I didn’t retire, I just can’t get a job. Last season was the first time I was completely off the entire season so I’d play golf, putter around and then watched “The Red Zone.”

[LL] The evolution of the NFL has gone from an emphasis on the running game to a passing game. Do you see this as lasting or a trend? [TM] It really changed when they changed the rules as far as defensive backs not being able to ride the guys all the way down the field. They give one jab within five yards. So they give more latitude to the receivers so it has opened up the passing games. I think colleges are doing a tremendous job of developing the quarterbacks and it allows for the passing game. Obviously, the receivers are in great quantity and quality. I think maybe one person said, “It’s going to a passing game” and everybody said, ‘Yeah, that’s right; it’s going to a passing game.’ But you still have to be able to run the football. The truly great teams can run the football and throw it.

League Legend
Tom Moore made the transition to the NFL in 1977 when he joined Chuck Noll’s coaching staff at the Pittsburgh Steelers. In these photos provided by the Steelers and Colts, he is shown at Super Bowl XLI, with Noll, with quarterback Bubby Brister and with receiver Reggie Wayne.

[LL] There has been a lot of emphasis on officiating, beginning with the coach’s challenges and reviews. Is this good for football? [TM] The league is on top of that from the standpoint they have made some modifications for the upcoming season. They are constantly tweaking the replays to make it as efficient as they possibly can. You don’t like to see things happen but there’s also the human element of the game. Players make mistakes; officials make mistakes. I’ve been involved in games where you can look back and say officials may have cost you the game. I take a page from Auburn (basketball head coach) Bruce Pearl, whose answer was, “Let’s get on with life. It happens.”

[LL] You’re in favor of replays, but is 3+ hours too long for a game? [TM] No. If people are upset about it, then don’t watch it. The game is 60 minutes. It’s been that way since the history of time. It’s the greatest sporting event we have. If that’s your biggest complaint, you don’t have much to complain about.

Man of Steel
In May 2014, Moore was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of his 13 seasons as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

[LL] When a team has a Thursday night game on their schedule, does that give the players enough time to recuperate after playing on Sunday? [TM] That’s not for me to judge. That’s for the medical people and trainers and I’m sure it has been researched thoroughly. I don’t think anybody purposely puts anybody in harm’s way. It’s been researched and obviously they don’t feel that it’s a problem. But everybody has their opinion, and that’s OK. That’s part of football. Some say it’s too much football. It’s not too much football for me.

[LL] There has also been a lot of focus on concussion prevention. Is this long overdue? [TM] I can’t say it’s long overdue. I think they are on top of it. I know the medical people involved and the NFL are doing everything they possibly can to prevent it as much as possible. It’s the same old story, eventually there comes an assumption of risk. You don’t want to see anybody get injured of any kind, but it happens. If you don’t want it to happen, don’t play. It happened to me and I chose to play and I’m glad I did. I’d play again.

[LL] You’ve coached some of the greats including Peyton Manning, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Cris Carter. Any way we can pin you down to name the greatest player you ever coached? [TM] It’s not realistic because everybody is different. They are all great and to say who is the greatest is an injustice to the other people you didn’t mention because all of them in their own way are superstars. I don’t ever compare people.

[LL] What’s you feeling about the exorbitant salaries of some players? For example, Aaron Rodgers will earn $134 million over four years. Khalil Mack signed with the Bears for $141 million over six years. [TM] I think it’s great. It’s what the market bears. Everybody who has lived in this free county has the same opportunity. Some people took advantage of it; some people are blessed with physical skills. So why should people be punished because they have great physical skills? Make as much money as you can, that’s what’s this country is about. If you build a $500,000 house and someone offers you $1 million, what are you going to do, not take it?

Calling for Canton
Peyton Manning feels his former offensive coordinator belongs in the Hall of Fame. Moore oversaw the development of Manning from 1998 through 2010. “If an assistant coach category ever opens up, Tom needs to be on that first ballot,” Manning said.

[LL] During your time home, you taught a class on the NFL draft at UCSB. What did you talk about? [TM] I talked about the draft, going through the structure and how it is organized and the chain of command and how it breaks down. I talked about the work these guys go through to get a line on people and how they rank the players. I told them about the scouting combines where there are about 330 of the top kids come in and for physicals and are tested mentally, physically and psychologically.

[LL] What was your most memorable moment as a coach? [TM] I can’t say one because I’ve had so many in 56 years of coaching. Super Bowls were great. Winning a game to get to a Super Bowl was great. When we (Colts) beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship (2006 season) in the last minute, that was great. Then we beat Chicago in the Super Bowl.

[LL] Any thoughts on never being hired as a head coach? [TM] If you’re not going to be a head coach, be the best assistant coach you can be. You can’t worry about it. The greatest gift you ever got in your life was being an American citizen and I think you have to be thankful every single day.