INDIANAPOLIS – It’s no surprise where the attention is focused this week in Tampa, site of Super Bowl LV.
It’s on the guys seeking to add another world championship to their resume. It’s on the guys one victory away from adding yet another diamond-studded ring to their personal collection.
That would be Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
But it’s also Tom Moore.
He generally goes about his business unnoticed on the sideline and is one of the NFL’s more understated yet personable individuals. Virtually every conversation with the media begins the same.
So, you need to sell some newspapers?
In our case, we needed to shine some light on someone who seldom seeks it, but desires it.
“Tom’s a true legend on the sideline at the Super Bowl,’’ Bruce Arians said. “He’s just a sage.’’
Moore, 82, is back on the NFL’s grandest stage for a fifth time, this time in his second season as Arians’ offensive consultant. He made his first two appearances and earned his first two championship rings as an assistant on Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ staff in 1978-79, and returned in 2006 and ’09 as offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. Moore earned a third ring in Super Bowl XLI.
Those three Super Bowl rings, by the way, are stowed in a drawer in Moore’s Hilton Head, S.C. residence.
“I don’t wear Super Bowl rings unless it’s a Super Bowl ring from the place I’m working at,’’ he said. “I haven’t put any of them on since I left those places.’’
Even so, they represent the reason Moore has been around the NFL for more than four decades. It’s not the reward as much as it is what it took to earn it.
“They mean a lot,’’ Moore said. “It’s not the ring. It’s what they represent. It’s the journey involved with all of them. If we would be fortunate and I’m still here and we won one (Sunday), I’d wear it.’’
He has that opportunity because of a relationship with Arians that began one otherwise uneventful evening in February 1998.
Arians had just been named the Colts’ quarterbacks coach on Jim Mora’s staff. He and other NFL types were sharing adult beverages and swapping war stories at Shula’s in downtown Indy during a break from the NFL Scouting Combine. Moore, the running backs coach with the New Orleans Saints at the time, sat across from Arians.
“I had a few cocktails with him and just started picking his brain,’’ Arians said.
A few days later as Mora and general manager Bill Polian were finalizing the staff, names were being considered for offensive coordinator.
“I’m like, ‘(Expletive), Tom Moore’s the best I know,’’’ Arians said. “They said, ‘Well, where is he?’ I said, ‘I just drank with him over at Shula’s.’
“They hired him and I got to sit there every single day and learn from one of the best ever.’’
Arians stuck with the Colts three seasons and was instrumental in the early development of Peyton Manning.
“You new Bruce wasn’t going to be there long,’’ Moore said.
He was named Cleveland’s offensive coordinator in 2001.
Moore, meanwhile, established himself as one of the NFL’s true offensive masterminds during his 13-year relationship with the Colts. Manning emerged as a bona fide Hall of Fame-caliber QB1 – that most certainly will be made official Saturday evening in Tampa – and the offense ranked in the top-10 in both yards and scoring in 10 of those 13 seasons.
Moore was part of his third world championship in 2006 when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI and reached his fourth title game in the loss to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.
Those around him are quick to credit Moore’s signature, halting voice, his aggressive approach and depth of experience.
Moore prefers the art of deflection.
“You coach players,’’ he said. “It’s like a guy once said: Don’t worry about the Xs and Os, give me the Jimmys and Joes.
“It’s all about the players.’’
Perhaps, but Arians believes it also is about Tom Moore.
He always intended to hire Moore as an assistant if he ever landed a head coaching position. Although the time frame remains fuzzy – he either was with the Colts or Steelers – Arians recalled running into Moore while Arians’ team was in Jacksonville for a game.
“Tom was in the lobby of the hotel and I said, ‘How ya doin’?’’’ Arians said. “He said, ‘I just birdied 17 at TPC Sawgrass.’ I asked him what he was doing and he said he had both of his knees replaced and told me, ‘I feel fantastic. I really want to coach again.’
“I told him, ‘If I get a job, you’ve got one.’’’
Done and done.
When Arians earned his first head coaching position in 2013, he quickly added Moore to his Arizona Cardinals staff as an assistant head coach/offensive consultant.
When he was named Tampa Bay’s head coach in 2019, Arians again brought Moore with him.
Both were out of the NFL in 2018, between Arizona and Tampa Bay. Moore was absolutely miserable in Hilton Head. His wife of 56 years, Emily, enjoys the slow pace by reading a book or knitting.
Not Tom Moore.
“I was bored,’’ he said. “I was a pain in the ass around the house. I watched Red Zone. A lot of people can hardly wait to retire. I’ll never retire.
“I’m going on record saying I will never retire. Eventually nobody will hire me. I’m going to work because I enjoy working. I’m 82 years old, feel like 52 and act like 32.’’
Spend enough time in the NFL and you’ll experience just about everything.
During his time in Indy, Moore and the Colts developed a heated rivalry with Brady and the New England Patriots. In March, Brady signed a two-year, $60 million free-agent contract with Tampa Bay.
Just like that, former enemies were colleagues.
Arians recalled an early back-and-forth between Moore and Brady, and laughed.
“Brady was like, ‘Man, I used to look over and I hated your ass so much. Now it’s pretty cool.’’’ he said.
Cool. That seems to sum up the Bruce Arians/Tom Moore relationship.
“I lean on him so much,’’ Arians said. “I owe him so much.’’
And vice versa.
“Bruce has the ‘it’ factor,’’ Moore said. “Some people have ‘it,’ some people don’t. He has ‘it.’ What is ‘it’? I don’t know. But he’s got ‘it.’ No question.
“It’s been fun. It’s been exciting.’’
Moore laughed about collaborating with Brady.
“We’ve got the oldest quarterback and the oldest coach on the same team,’’ he said. “I’ve been lucky. I can’t explain why, but I’ve been fortunate.
“You go to Indianapolis and you’ve got Peyton and you’ve got Marvin and you’ve got Reggie and you’ve got Edgerrin and you’ve got Joseph and Tarik and Jeff Saturday. I don’t know, it just happens.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.