Tim Marcum Passes Away at 68
Well, you know.
That might not make sense to all of you, but if any of you ever had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to Coach Marcum, it felt like the first thing he would always say before he got into what he wanted to tell you was, "Well, you know."
It wouldn't be an article about Tim Marcum if I didn't start it that way.
This is one of the toughest stories that this writer has ever had to write. It was tough when the AFL shut down to cover that, but there's a big difference between a game and the reality that is the death of such a good man. The only few stories in the AFL that I can think of that would have been sadder to cover were before my time with ArenaFan: Al Lucas, Justin Skaggs, and of course, Fran Papasedero.
I knew Coach Marcum on a first name basis, though I still think there were times that he confused me for one of our ArenaFan alums, Adam Locasio. To me, Marcum was always the guy who said that Orlando Predators fans were what happens when cousins have kids. He was the guy who you'd boo til your lungs hurt, only to have him smile at you and give you a thumbs up. He was the guy who was a rebel and always tried to bend the rules. He was the guy who you loved, or you loved to hate.
In my case, it was both. Sure, the Predator in me wanted to hate the guy, but it was really only because he was such a good antagonist; it didn't hurt that it felt like his Tampa Bay Storm were always one step ahead of the Preds either. But I knew, even at a young age, that he was the best ambassador this sport ever had, and likely ever will have. Marcum would always come on the radio in Orlando during the War on I-4 week and rile up the fans. He would say all of the controversial things you wouldn't want anyone to say, and then he would back it up by winning on the field.
Marcum was the creation of one of the best players in AFL history as well. QB Jay Gruden won alongside Marcum time and time again, and once his playing days were over, Gruden became arguably the most notable coach in AFL history, not for what he necessarily did with the Predators, but for what he has done moving on to the NFL to coach first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now with the Cincinnati Bengals. It seems like it's only a matter of time until Gruden becomes a head coach somewhere in the NFL as well.
Go back and look at the list of Hall of Famers that played under Marcum at some point in their careers. Lawrence Samuels, Stevie Thomas, George LaFrance, Sylvester Bembery, John Corker, Joe March, Jon Roehlk, Jay Gruden, Alvin Rettig, Tate Randle, Gary Mullen, and Dwayne Dixon. Of the 45 men who are in the Hall of Fame, Marcum coached 12 of them, and of course, he is a Hall of Famer himself. There's also no telling how many others on the Hall of Fame list were helped by Marcum indirectly. There's also no telling how many more should be in the Hall of Fame and will ultimately make it there that Marcum influenced.
211 wins. None even come close in the AFL, nor is it all that likely that anyone ever will. Danny White is 49 victories behind him, and the closest active coach is Mike Hohensee with 159. The most likely to catch him might be Kevin Guy with 71. It would take at least 10 more seasons, and most likely even more than that, before Guy even came close. Only seven have more in CFL history. Only five have more than that in NFL history.
.680 winning percentage. Amongst men with at least 100 games coached, only Perry Moss and Guy had it better at .709 and .702. No one in the CFL has even a .660 winning percentage all-time with at least 100 games under his belt. The list of coaches with better winning percentages in NFL history is an impressive one. It's always good to be in the same company with John Madden, Vince Lombardi, George Allen, Blanton Collier, Ray Flaherty, and George Halas.
27 postseason wins. Seven more than anyone in AFL history, and 15 more than Coach Ho, the most accomplished active coach in the league in terms of playoff success. Is the run that Coach Guy has put together with the Arizona Rattlers impressive? You betcha. But he still only has eight playoff victories. The great Tom Landry won 20 playoff games in his NFL coaching career. No one had more. Wally Buono, largely considered one of the best coaches in CFL history had just 22 playoff wins.
Seven championships. That's more than any other franchise has, let alone what any other coach has in AFL history. The most that anyone else has is three. Add up the two most accomplished head coaches in NFL history, and you have seven titles. Buono hoisted the Grey Cup five times.
Three consecutive titles from 1987-1989. Coach Guy can match that this year, but it's a long way to go yet to get there. The only man to win three ArenaBowls as a head coach is Darren Arbet from his dynasty with the San Jose SaberCats. Marcum not only won three in a row, but he led three different teams to ArenaBowl titles (Denver Dynamite, Detroit Drive, and of course, Tampa Bay). Guy became the third coach in league history to win back-to-back ArenaBowls last year. Marcum did it three times (1987-1988, 1988-1989, 1995-1996). The only coaches in NFL history who won back-to-back Super Bowls? Lombardi, Shula, Chuck Noll twice, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Shanahan, and Bill Belichick. None have won three in a row. Don Matthews, Pop Ivy, Teddy Morris, Billy Hughes, and Hugh Campbell are the only men in CFL history to win three or more consecutive titles (Campbell won five straight with the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1980s and 1990s).
There's no doubt that the Coach of the Year award in the AFL should be renamed the Tim Marcum Coach of the Year Award, or simply the Marcum Award. But all of the stats in the world couldn't possibly tell the story of what a great man Tim Marcum was. He was always grinning from ear to ear. He always had a good drink in his hand. He was always thinking about the game. He was a family man. And as Ron Selesky told me earlier today, he would give you the shirt off of his back.
Unfortunately, death is a part of life, and as one of my clients likes to say, "None of us make it out of this alive." But 68 years old is far too young for any of us to go. The big man upstairs obviously needed another coach, though, and he couldn't have gotten a better one than the one he just brought up with him.
He wasn't always a liked man in the AFL, but this fact certainly remains: The AFL is worse off now that Tim Marcum is no longer a part of it.
Rest in peace, Coach Marcum. You'll forever be missed. Rest in peace.