When the Bengals come to Los Angeles on Feb. 13 for Super Bowl LVI, the Rams will be looking to capture their first Lombardi Trophy in more than 20 years. The last time they won it all, Kurt Warner was their quarterback and Dick Vermeil was their head coach, headlining the "Greatest Show on Turf." At 85, Vermeil is still in touch -- no, immersed -- with the Rams. On Christmas, his 1999 championship run played a role on the big screen in American Underdog, the new movie based on Warner's career. On Super Bowl Sunday, he'll be at SoFi Stadium, cheering on his old team.
In celebration, Vermeil sat down for an exclusive Q&A with CBS Sports:
Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Are you still in touch with the Rams today?
Vermeil: I'm still with the organization -- I stay in touch with (owner) Stan Kroenke, and I text the head coach all the time and give him all kinds of suggestions. Once a Ram, always a Ram. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle. Once a Chief, always a Chief. I was hoping (the Super Bowl) would be the Chiefs and the Rams, and then I would root for Missouri because of St. Louis and the Kansas City Chiefs.
How do you like the Rams' chances against the Bengals?
Vermeil: I think over a season, the Rams are the better football team. But Cincinnati reminds me of the 1999 Rams. We won four games in '98, and then you win the world championship. And they've made some adjustments. You know, we bring in Mike Martz and Al Saunders and John Matsko and Dana LeDuc, and all of a sudden with Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, all of a sudden, the two years we spent building that team, now we've got people who can drive it ... And Cincinnati is very similar. I think it's gonna be an even game, though I do believe if both teams play real well, the Rams win.
So what kind of advice are you texting Sean McVay? And is he listening?
Vermeil: Oh I don't know (laughs). He doesn't need my advice. He's so much further along in his profession than I was at 36 years old, though I was an offensive coordinator for the Rams at that time. He's done a brilliant job. He is destined to keep moving forward and keep getting better. I see Sean McVay destined to just keep getting better.
What would your advice to him be in preparing for the Super Bowl?
Vermeil: Don't forget how you got there in the first place. It's another game. You line up on Sunday, game day, the Super Bowl, and the game starts just like all the other 16 games do: somebody's gonna kick it off, and then you gotta go play. Chuck Noll told me this back in 1980, I asked for advice, and he says, 'Make sure you do what you've been doing real good all year, a little better with a little more emotion, a little more meaning. And don't over-prepare.' Don't think you have to revamp everything for just one game.
What do you think sets this Rams team apart from the one that lost the Super Bowl in 2018?
Vermeil: The growth in the whole program: go out and get the great corner, go out and get another wide receiver, go out and get a quarterback, give up draft choices. They have defined what they think they need to go the next step and win it all. And now they have the chance to prove all those moves were correct. George Allen did the same thing with the Los Angeles Rams (in the 1960s-1970s). But you still have to be the best team game day, regardless of how you get there.
What are your plans for Super Bowl Sunday?
Vermeil: Carol and I are gonna go to the game. We have family in Los Angeles. Our daughter and her family live out there half the year, and we're gonna go out there. I'll be rooting.
What did you think of the Kurt Warner movie American Underdog, soon available on digital, DVD and Blu-Ray?
Vermeil: I've seen the movie three times. I hosted a group in California, I hosted a group in downtown Philadelphia, and I hosted a group in downtown Canton, Ohio. And each time I've seen the movie, I've liked it better. Because it's more -- far more -- than a football story. It really is. It's a human interest story, it's a relationship story.
You've now been portrayed in two different movies. How many times have you seen Invincible?
Vermeil: I've seen it a couple times, (but) I do not like watching myself in a movie, or an interview, or read an article I've been featured in. John Wooden told me a long time ago, when I was the head coach at UCLA and he was there. And he said, 'Coach, stay away from reading what they write about you that's good, because many times that's not all true. (And) stay away from what they say about you that's bad, because most of that's not true.' You do not need the distraction. And basically I've maintained a pretty good discipline within that philosophy ever since I left UCLA in 1976.
What do you think has made you such a consistent figure in these underdog stories?
Vermeil: Well I always looked at myself as a free agent in the NFL. You know, I came out of assistant coaching in high school, head coaching in high school. I didn't walk on the field as a superstar NFL player and then (into) a coach. I always looked at myself as an underdog in the National Football League.