Perry Moss Passes Away at 88
All of us at ArenaFan.com are saddened to report that one of the great coaches in the history of the Arena Football League, Perry Moss has passed away from the complications of a neuromuscular disease. Moss died on Thursday in Florida at the age of 88.
Les Moss, the son of Perry, once told me that football was simply in the blood of his dad, and just one look at both his playing career and his coaching career shows just that. This is a man who played running back at Tulsa in 1944 and finished his career as an All-American quarterback at Illinois. He played for the Green Bay Packers in 1948, and from there, he went to coaching, where he spent the next five decades of his life in one capacity or another. This is a man that was regarded highly enough to become a head coach and an Athletic Director at the age of just 33. Moss was a position coach for every skill position on offense, he was an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator, and that doesn't even begin to consider all of the head coaching jobs he held.
According to an article from the Associated Press from 1987, Moss coached in Tulsa, Champaign, Tallahassee, Huntington, Chicago, Green Bay on two different occasions, Miami, Charleston, WV twice, San Antonio, Orlando four different times, Buffalo, Seattle, Baton Rouge, Madison, Lexington, Montreal, and Ottawa… and that was before ever coming to the Arena Football League. Those cities covered the NFL, the WFL, the USFL, the AFA, the UFL, the CFL, and the other CFL (Continental Football League). As a result, Moss was the only man to have coached in every major American professional football league that was in existence during his coaching career.
Perry Moss Coaching Timeline (Coaching Records in Parentheses)
1949: University of Illinois (College) (Freshman Coach) (3-4-2)
1950-1951: University of Washington (College) (Assistant Coach) (11-8-3)
1952-1953: LSU (College) (Running Backs Coach) (8-10-3)
1954-1956: University of Miami (College) (Running Backs Coach, Quarterback Coach) (22-5-1)
1955: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) (Special Assistant) (8-4)
1957-1958: University of Wisconsin-Madison (College) (Running Backs Coach, Quarterback Coach) (13-4-1)
1959: Florida State University (College) (Head Coach, Athletic Director) (4-6)
1960-1962: Montreal Alouettes (CFL) (Head Coach) (13-25-4)
1964: Charleston Rockets (UFL) (Head Coach) (11-3)
1965: Charleston Rockets (Continental Football League) (Head Coach) (14-0)
1966-1967: Orlando Panthers (Continental Football League) (Head Coach) (23-5)
1968: Marshall University (College) (Head Coach) (0-9-1)
1970-1973: Chicago Bears (NFL) (Running Backs Coach) (19-36-1)
1974: Green Bay Packers (NFL) (Wide Receivers Coach) (6-8)
1975: San Antonio Wings (World Football League) (Head Coach) (7-6)
1976-1981: University of Kentucky (College) (Offensive Coordinator) (28-27-1)
1980: West Virginia Rockets (American Football Association) (Head Coach) (8-0)
1982: Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL) (Defensive Coordinator) (5-11)
1983-1984: Buffalo Bills (NFL) (Tight Ends Coach) (10-22)
1985: Orlando Renegades (USFL) (Assistant Coach) (5-13)
1986: University of Central Florida (Defensive Coordinator) (6-5)
1987: Pittsburgh Gladiators (AFL) (Assistant Coach) (4-2)
1988: Chicago Bruisers (AFL) (Head Coach) (10-1-1)
1990: Detroit Drive (AFL) (Head Coach) (6-2)
1991-1997: Orlando Predators (AFL) (Head Coach) (59-25)
2000: Jacksonville Tomcats (af2) (Head Coach) (9-7)
Though record-keeping was somewhat spotty and this might not quite be a comprehensive list, I have tried my best to assemble coaching records everywhere Moss went. Unofficially, he went 164-89-6 across all leagues as a head coach, and he had his hands in 578 games in some coaching respect. Moss' teams went 312-248-18 in those games.
"I've not missed any leagues, at least none that I've heard of," said Moss in a 1987 Associated Press story. "I've been pretty lucky in that I've always been able to find a job. I've always been able to do what I've wanted to do since high school, and that's be a coach."
And coach he did.
As a young kid donning my black and red, I got the pleasure of watching Moss built my little expansion team into one that would ultimately become one of the most dominating forces in Arena Football League history. The expansion 1991 season in Orlando marked the only time in his history of coaching in the arena game that Moss didn't make the playoffs. It was a sin that Moss never experienced capturing an ArenaBowl in the city he called home for decades, though he did win a championship with the Drive back in 1990 when he won Coach of the Year honors.
There was always something calm and even-keeled about Moss. You never saw him get frustrated and get in the ear of an official, and you never saw him chew anyone on his team out. Of course, this is also a man who rarely got too high, though I never got the chance to see what he would have been like winning a title with the Preds either.
Perhaps it was a bit fitting that the 1998 season, a year in which the incoming Jay Gruden finally gave Orlando its first Foster Trophy, that it was so many of the players Moss helped groom who won those rings.
Even when the Predators and Moss split in 1997, 48 years after his coaching career started at the University of Illinois, there was still a little bit of energy left in Moss. He became the first coach of the Jacksonville Tomcats of the newly formed af2 at 73 years old, leading the team to a 9-7 record and a playoff spot. Now, his son, Les has control of the Jacksonville Sharks, whom he coached from their expansion days to four straight Southern Division titles and an ArenaBowl championship in 2011.
"I owe everything to him," said the younger Moss of his father to Folio Weekly. "He's a fighter. He had a tremendous career. I would be dishonoring him [by not coaching]. When you have adversity in your life, when you have something that's your passion, that allows you to get away."
Perry Moss is a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the Semi-Professional Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2000 and was awarded with the Founder's Award in 1996. Moss sits eighth all-time for wins in AFL history with 86, and he is one of seven coaches to win at least 11 postseason games.