At 77 years old, Tom Moore is in his 38th season as an NFL assistant coach and his 52nd as a college or pro assistant. He has a chance to earn a trip to his fourth Super Bowl on Sunday, when his Arizona Cardinals squad visits the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
Moore, who was born in Owatonna and went to high school in Rochester, won Super Bowls with the Steelers in the 1978 and 1979 seasons when he was a receivers coach under the legendary Chuck Noll and had Terry Bradshaw at quarterback. He also won a Super Bowl with the Colts and Peyton Manning when he was Indianapolis offensive coordinator in 2006.
Moore has had successful quarterbacks everywhere he has coached, though his best-known relationship is with Manning.
Moore even coached Rich Gannon with the Vikings in the 1990s, though Gannon didn’t get to his Super Bowl until 2003 with the Raiders.
This season, Moore has had great success with 36-year-old Carson Palmer. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft set career highs with 4,671 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes and a 104.6 rating.
Asked to talk about coaching Bradshaw, Manning and Palmer, Moore said: “They’re each very, very different, and part of the difference is because the game has changed. Terry Bradshaw played and the game was different than it is now. With Peyton, we did a lot of audible in his scenarios. In their own way, all three are great quarterbacks but very different from each other. But all three are great quarterbacks.”
When asked how Palmer has had such a big season, Moore credited Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who interestingly served under Moore as Colts quarterbacks coach from 1998 to 2000.
“I think you have to give Bruce Arians all the credit in the world,” Moore said. “Bruce has done a tremendous job with this football team. I can’t say enough about the job. He has done a great job with Carson. One of the true measures of a coach is the coach plays to the players’ strengths, and Bruce has come up with an offensive scheme to take advantage of Carson’s strengths and Carson has bought into it and had an excellent year.”
One of the fun aspects of Moore’s tenure with Arizona is that he has gotten to coach some fellow Minnesota natives in receivers Larry Fitzgerald Jr. and Michael Floyd. Moore served as Gophers running backs coach in 1972 and ’73 and as offensive coordinator in 1975 and ’76. He also was the Vikings’ assistant head coach from 1990 to ’93 under both Jerry Burns and Dennis Green.
Last weekend in the Cardinals’ 26-20 overtime victory against the Packers, Fitzgerald had eight receptions for 176 yards. His 75-yard catch-and-run on the first offensive play of OT set up his 5-yard winning touchdown catch two plays later. This season, he caught 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine TDs as a 32-year-old.
Moore was asked what makes the former Holy Angels athlete such a great player.
“He has great athletic skills, he has great hand-eye coordination and he has just a phenomenal work ethic,” Moore said. “The guy is constantly working. The guy is constantly trying to get better. The guy follows you around asking you questions. How can you help him? How can he get better? You can’t compare people really because everybody is a little bit different, but Fitzgerald is having a great year and he’s had a great career.”
As for Floyd, he bounced back from a drunken-driving arrest before his senior year at Notre Dame in 2011, getting drafted 13th overall in 2012. He had 52 catches for 849 yards and six scores this season. Last week vs. Green Bay, he had three receptions for 26 yards and two touchdowns.
“Michael has had an excellent year,” Moore said. “He got off to a slow start. I think about the third or fourth day of training camp, he had a very serious hand injury. Basically he missed all of training camp and the preseason games, so he started out a little bit behind from the standpoint that he missed that time. But he has caught up and he’s a big-play threat. With him on one side and Larry on the other side it gives us two great weapons.”
Challenge to reach Super Bowl
When Moore was asked about potentially making another Super Bowl, he deflected the question.
“We haven’t done anything except earned the right to play in the championship game,” he said. “That is all we’ve done. So how the teams compare and all of that stuff, you can’t compare them until after the fact. Right now we’re in a situation where we’ve just won the right to play in the championship game. We haven’t done anything.”
He said the Panthers, a three-point favorite, are going to be a great challenge.
“Carolina is a very physical team, they’re defensive-minded, run-oriented,” he said. “[Coach Ron] Rivera has done a great job there. … They’re fundamentally sound. That’s why they have the record they’ve got. They’ve won some close games and some hard-fought games, and they’re hard-coached.”
• With the announcement that Rod Carew is going to be at TwinsFest, Twins President Dave St. Peter gave an update on the Hall of Famer’s health after he suffered a heart attack in September. “He is again very thankful for the doctors and medical team that advise him,” St. Peter said. “He knows he has a journey ahead of him, which includes the potential for a heart transplant. He is hopeful of being in Minnesota for TwinsFest. He is hopeful to be in Fort Myers for spring training. We’ll now more in the very near future, but he’s doing well, getting stronger back home in Orange County and he’s keenly focused on what’s going on with the Twins.”
• Glen Taylor, owner of the Timberwolves as well as the Star Tribune, said the deal where Steve Kaplan buys a minority stake in the team won’t be announced until after the season.
• The Vikings will pick 23rd in the NFL draft this year and if they get a player as good as Sharrif Floyd, whom they got with that pick in the 2013 draft, General Manager Rick Spielman will be very happy. Former Viking Antoine Winfield, who played nine good seasons with the Vikings, was selected 23rd overall by Buffalo in 1999.
• Teddy Bridgewater tied the Vikings record for victories by a quarterback in his first two seasons here with 17. But the other two QBs were veterans, Warren Moon and Brett Favre. And Bridgewater accomplished the feat in fewer starts at 28.
• Former Minnesota Duluth standout Matt Niskanen of Virginia, Minn., is second in scoring among Capitals defensemen with 21 points (two goals, 19 assists) in 46 games. Niskanen is in his ninth NHL season and second in Washington. Former Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt has two goals and nine assists in 41 games for the Capitals.