That was the one real upset of the Rams win in Super Bowl XXXIV. Vermeil completed a long, winding and improbable journey Sunday. His walked off the field a champion, 19 years after leaving it a loser.
A lot changed since Vermeil's Eagles lost to Oakland. Nothing evolved more than that coach, who forever left his burnout image behind with the 23-16 win. It was proof you never are too old to change, to succeed, to start all over again.
"When you believe in yourself and believe in the people you surround yourself with and you believe in your players, your players believe in you," Vermeil said.
Not many other people did. At least not after the Rams lost 23 games in two years leading into this season. Vermeil was looking like a mellow version of Mike Ditka, a coaching retread with too much mileage.
But he turned the offense over to wizard Mike Martz. After a couple of seasons of boot-camp practices, Vermeil felt his team was tough enough to lighten up.
Everything began to fall into place, even after free-agent quarterback Trent Green tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason game. Vermeil cried as he made that announcement and vowed the team would rally around some unknown named Kurt Warner.
Not many other people believed him. But the emotional Vermeil never stopped believing in his grand plan to resurrect the Rams. He can now use the Super Bowl as endorsement springboard for his favorite product, Kleenex.
"We made the big plays when we had to make them, and now we're the champions," he said.
Vermeil, 64, had been waiting a long time to say that. Vermeil will coach another season or two, then hand the team over to Martz. Whatever happens next, Vermeil has his redemption.
"I'm an emotional guy, but right now I just feel so good and proud of this team," he said, hoisting the Pete Rozelle Trophy. "This is coming home to St. Louis."
Accompanied by a box of Kleenex, of course.