The Philadelphia Eagles haven't called Dick Vermeil their head coach in 35 years.
The 80-year-old legend, responsible for guiding the Birds to their Super Bowl XV trip and presiding over Vince Papale's rise to "Invincible" stardom into the 1980s, hasn't been anyone's head coach since leaving the Kansas City Chiefs more than a decade ago.
Don't tell that to him.
Vermeil is gearing up to promote a partnership between the NFL Alumni Association and Cancer Treatment Centers of America, who will stand together on Aug. 30 for a press conference at NFL Films -- an embrace of September's Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It's a campaign that's drawn his participation before, like when he hit the locker room with Bill Cowher and Herm Edwards for a series of 2016 "Pep Talk" commercials. More importantly, it hits home for a man who's undergone two treatment procedures for prostate cancer in the last year.
Amid the campaign for awareness, Vermeil will be surrounded with plenty of familiar Eagles faces at NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Edwards, Jon Runyan, Mike Quick and Ron Jaworski are among other big names set to appear. And Vermeil didn't downplay -- not even a little bit -- the notion that the Alumni event will also serve as a platform to talk football. To chime in on the state of gridiron affairs in the City of Brotherly Love.
He couldn't help but get a head start.
"Well, teams get better when they add better players, and the Eagles did that," Vermeil said on a phone call from his home. "But what'll really make that team better is an experienced coaching staff. Doug Pederson having gone through his first year of head coaching, he'll do a better job. They've got a tough schedule. They're in a tough division. I don't think the Redskins are a great team, but ... the Eagles, I think they're really in the hunt to be a playoff team."
Vermeil didn't hesitate to break down Pederson, the ninth man to hold the Eagles' head coaching duties since Vermeil left town in 1982, either.
"He's young and naive like we all were."
Vermeil admitted that he took a starkly different path to running the Eagles staff, coming from a head coaching background in everything from high school and junior college to at UCLA. But he said Pederson, like many former backups "who learn the game better than the starters," can take the next step simply by chugging along.
"A lot of guys told me -- Bill Walsh was one of them -- that the only way to really gain experience is to be one," Vermeil said. "Once you become a head coach, you really learn to be one."
And he's continuing in his role as "Coach Dick Vermeil" as he builds awareness for prostate cancer.
"I'm having dinner with Bergey and LeMaster out here at my house tonight," he said, referring to Bill Bergey and Frank LeMaster, names found mostly in Vermeil's memory and Eagles encyclopedias. "They've had more operations than a dozen people. LeMaster's got a knee, a hip, an open-heart. Other than that, they're in perfect condition. But I'm in communication with all my Eagle guys -- they're like part of my family -- and they know how I feel."
They know, Vermeil said, that he still feels responsible for their well being. Gone are the Xs and Os. But they are replaced with an interest in game planning for life. An insistence on connecting them to those pep talks for good health.
"I would feel very guilty if I lost a player to cancer," the coach said. "I mean, I'm 80 years old myself, but I'd be really mad at myself if I saw that one of them got cancer and I didn't tell them to check it out."
A checkup or, more specifically, a Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, doesn't always necessitate further treatment. Over-treatment, according to Chief of Radiation Oncology at CTCA in Atlanta, Sean Cavanaugh, MD, has in the past sparked "movement against PSA." But his position, that "it's better to share the information responsibly, then slow down to have the discussion," is one shared by Vermeil.
That has especially been the case since a personal tragedy in 2006 when, a year removed from his final NFL head coaching gig, the former Super Bowl winner mourned the passing of Chiefs owner and founder Lamar Hunt.
"When you lose Lamar Hunt to prostate cancer, a very good friend in his early 60s," Vermeil said, pausing. "He was battling it for a while, but they didn't catch it in time. I don't know if catching it earlier would've helped, and I don't think the doctors know. But I do know he's gone."
Vermeil, of course, has his own reasons to spread awareness, too. He said he discovered his own PSA levels were "up, down, up down" in his 40s, not long after he kicked off his NFL career with the Eagles and right around the time he hosted his historic citywide open tryouts for the team. By his 50s, he had a biopsy. Infection problems ensued, and on came not one, but two, transurethral resections of the prostate -- operations that are about as cringe-inducing as they sound. Along the way, Vermeil said he "lost some friends due to prostate cancer and also heard of a lot of guys who never had a PSA."
What he hasn't lost is a passion to teach about the benefits of being informed, let alone screened.
In one sense, it gives him something noble to work for now that he's no longer patrolling sidelines. It gives him a strategy to coach. Because, at the end of the day, that's exactly what he knows how to do.