A BURNED-OUT Dick Vermeil did Marion Campbell no favors in January of 1983 when he abruptly resigned as the Eagles' coach and recommended to owner Leonard Tose that Campbell replace him.
Vermeil left Campbell, who passed away last week at the age of 87, an aging team that was on the decline. Many of the key players who had helped the Eagles make it to the Super Bowl in 1980 were either gone or on the downside of their careers.
"His head coaching experience (with the Eagles and twice with the Atlanta Falcons) never was what it could have been because he was always taking over for somebody who left or got fired," Vermeil said Monday. "His teams were always run down.
"Guys like Charlie Johnson and Claude Humphrey were gone. Most of the linebackers were either gone or near the end of their careers. And we didn't have the kids to replace them because of the draft picks we didn't have when we first got there."
Thanks to the previous regime's fondness for trading away draft picks for veterans, the Eagles didn't have a first- or second-round pick in Vermeil's first three seasons in Philly. They also didn't have a third-round pick his first year, or a third or fourth his second year.
Campbell, an All-Pro defensive lineman on the Eagles' 1960 championship team, had done a masterful job as Vermeil's defensive lieutenant, particularly without those draft choices. His unit finished in the top 10 in points allowed five straight years, including first in 1980 and 1981.
"We jumped from 21st to 10th in (total) defense Marion's first year here," said Vermeil, who hired Campbell following his first season in Philadelphia. "We were always among the best in points given up.
"One of Marion's great assets besides being a fine technical football coach, (was) he had sort of a general's command about him. When he spoke, they listened."
"Next to Dick, Marion Campbell was the biggest reason for the turnaround of the Eagles and us getting to the Super Bowl," said Carl Peterson, who was the team's player personnel chief under Vermeil before leaving in April of 1982 to become president of the USFL's Philadelphia Stars. "Marion was the force and brains behind that great defense. He really knew that part of the game."
Unfortunately, Campbell never was able to parlay his success as a player and defensive coach into success as a head coach.
In his three seasons as the Eagles' head coach, he never won more than six games and was fired by Norman Braman with one game left in the '85 season.
Campbell, who also had two separate head-coaching stints with Atlanta, had a 34-80-1 NFL head-coaching record. His .300 winning percentage is the lowest of anyone who coached more than 100 games.
"Marion was a damn good defensive coach," former quarterback Ron Jaworski said. "We weren't complex or sophisticated. It was fairly simple. We were going to rush three and maybe bring a linebacker and play matchup zone behind it. It wasn't complex. It wasn't crazy. It was an execution-style defense. And it was damn good.
"When he became the head coach, the timing couldn't have been worse. Dick had just left. Carl had left the year before. And there was just a lot of turmoil during Marion's three years."
Turmoil like inept personnel decisions that produced three straight misses on first-round draft picks - running back Michael Haddix (1983), wide receiver Kenny Jackson (1984) and offensive tackle Kevin Allen (1985).
Turmoil like Tose trying to move the team to Phoenix late in the '84 season.
Turmoil like Tose selling the team to Norman Braman in the spring of '85 and Braman immediately instituting a "fiscal responsibility" mandate that produced a dozen training-camp holdouts in '85.
Turmoil like a quarterback controversy in '85 between the 34-year-old Jaworski and rookie Randall Cunningham that saw Jaworski play on first and second down and Cunningham play on third down.
"I thought after Vermeil, when we had tremendous discipline and structure, Marion probably didn't do as good a job at handling the entire team as he needed to," Jaworski said.
"A lot of guys, they get to a certain point, then they take that next step up and they can't handle everything they have to deal with. Offense, defense, special teams, media, front office, trainers, equipment managers, all those things you have to manage.
"Sometimes it's too much for some guys. I kind of felt it may have been too much for Marion to handle being a head coach and managing the entire organization, especially given all of the upheaval we were experiencing at the time."
The Falcons gave Campbell one more head-coaching opportunity two years after he was fired by the Eagles. But he won just 11 games in three seasons there.
He resurfaced in 1994 as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Georgia. But he left there after just one season.
He retired to St. Augustine, Fla., where he pursued his two passions - fishing and golf - but moved with his wife June to Plano, Texas, where his daughter Alicia lives, a couple of years ago. Campbell also has a son, Scott, who is the Washington Redskins' director of college scouting.
Campbell suffered a broken neck after falling in his home in the spring of 2013. He recovered, but was unable to swallow for more than six months. When he was asked by a reporter what was going to be the first thing he was going to eat or drink once he was able, he said a glass of wine from Vermeil's California winery.
"We stayed in touch through the years," Vermeil said. "He was drinking Vermeil wines. If he didn't buy it, I sent it to him.
"When I was still coaching, if we were playing nearby, he would come to the game and be my guest. Sometimes he would just stop by the hotel the night before. Sometimes he would go to the game."
Said Jaworski: "Marion was an incredible person. I really didn't think of him as a defensive coordinator or former Eagles player, or even the head coach. When Dick called me and told me he had passed away, I thought of the person he was.
"He had a very calm demeanor about him. He wasn't a guy who screamed or hollered at people. He was a good coach to play for from a personality perspective.
"There weren't a lot of highs and lows like you see now with most of these damn coaches. He was very, very steady. And I always respected that about him."