INDIANAPOLIS – They’ve been paying attention. How could they not?
To that raspy voice that’s echoed across the NFL landscape for 45 years, and reverberates still.
To those 24 playoff appearances, five trips to the Super Bowl and four world championship rings safely squirreled away in his hometown of Hilton Head, S.C.
To his creative and prolific yet simplistic offense that laid waste to defenses that knew what was coming but too often couldn’t deal with it.
To that rare ability to maximize his players’ strengths while steering clear of their weaknesses.
It’s been impossible to ignore Tom Moore.
“He’s been a great mentor, a great friend,’’ Peyton Manning said. “Obviously an incredible coach. He loves it. Tom Moore loves all types of football. He’s been fortunate and earned the right to do it in the NFL for a long time.
“Tom coached college. Tom coached in the military. Tom coached the World League. Tom would coach junior high football if he had the time because he loves it.’’
Moore is 84 and going strong.
Tuesday, he was at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ facility handling his duties as the team’s offensive consultant.
Wednesday, he’ll be revealed as one of three assistant coaches and 17 individuals in line for the Awards of Excellence by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s a program launched last year to recognize significant contributors to the game.
The group of assistant coaches, trainers, equipment managers, film/video directors and public relations individuals will be honored June 28-29 in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m very, very humbled, trust me,’’ Moore said. “It means I’ve worked for great organizations, I’ve had great players to coach, and I’ve worked with quality head coaches and assistant coaches. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity in life. I feel very, very fortunate to have had that opportunity.
“Whatever recognition I get is a reflection of the people I’ve been associated with. To me, it’s a privilege to get to coach in the NFL. I’ve always felt that way. I don’t take it lightly.’’
Moore is and has been sneaky great. Despite his understated persona – “So, you need to increase your readership?’’ he would joke when a beat reporter from the local newspaper approached for an interview – he’s one of the most successful offensive minds in NFL history.
“Tom belongs in the Hall of Fame,’’ insisted long-time friend and colleague Bruce Arians.
“He always had an answer,’’ Manning said. “He never called a play that didn’t have an answer versus whatever the defense would be. The answer might be a checkdown or a throwaway, but he always had an answer.
“To me, that was a real luxury for the quarterback.’’
Moore and Manning were a tandem in Indy from 1998 when the Colts selected Manning with the No. 1 overall pick through 2010. During that 13-year stretch, their offense – it was stocked with Hall of Famers, All-Pros, Pro Bowlers, solid complementary players – was unquestionably the NFL’s best: No. 1 in points (26.1 per game), passing yards (261.9) and passing touchdowns (407). The Colts won 141 regular-season games, two fewer than New England and 17 more than Green Bay.
“I’ll always be indebted to Tom,’’ Manning said. “He and I kind of hit if off at the Combine. It was the first time I met him back in ’98. He came and worked me out in Knoxville; Tom kind of ran that workout.
“Then got drafted, met with him, he gave me the playbook, and I think that was on a Saturday. By Thursday I was back in Indianapolis. They hid me out at the old Signature Inn on 38th Street for three days. Tom closed the blinds, and we just went to work teaching me the playbook.’’
Moore credits the late George Perles for greasing his initial path to the NFL. Perles was on Chuck Noll’s staff in Pittsburgh, and recommended Moore, the offensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota at the time, for what would be his first of roughly a dozen NFL positions in 1977.
“I’m forever indebted to George Perles,’’ he said.
Moore also remains indebted to Arians. They were on Jim Mora’s staff in Indy from 1998-2000 before Arians’ career blossomed and hit the road: to Cleveland, to Pittsburgh, back to Indy as offensive coordinator and interim coach in 2012, then to Arizona in 2013 for his first full-time head-coaching gig.
Moore and the Colts had parted ways after the 2010 season, and he was spending his time as a consultant with the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.
But he wanted more, and finally got it.
“Bruce called me when a lot of people wouldn’t return my calls because a lot of times a guy 74 years old isn’t the going thing,’’ Moore said. “Ten years ago when Bruce got the Arizona job, he called me.
“I’m forever indebted to him.’’
Instead of facing more years of helping this team or that team as a consultant, the next phase in Moore’s life opened. There were five years as assistant head coach/offensive consultant with Arians’ Cardinals, then a relocation with Arians to Tampa Bay.
After 13 seasons, two Super Bowls and one world championship with Manning in Indy, Moore was part of three seasons and one world title with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
One of the Moore-isms that rings true: It’s about the players.
Manning and Brady. Barry Sanders and Edgerrin James. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Herman Moore. Rod Gronkowski and Dallas Clark.
“It’s the players,’’ Moore said. “I’ve been fortunate.’’
So, how much longer? When will enough be enough for Moore?
“I’m 84 years old and feel great,’’ he said. “My health’s great. I’m going to do this as long as I’ve got my health.
“For people who are not 84 years old, you can’t believe the great feeling I have every morning that I get up and get a chance to work and go to the office and be around young people.
“When you’re 84, it’s real.’’
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You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.