Minneapolis almost had two professional football teams in 1961. A year earlier, the American Football League planned on putting a franchise in the "Twin Cities."
The National Football League, who had a 40-year-old agreement with Ole Haugsrud, pressured the AFL to move their team. That team headed to Oakland and became the Raiders.
Haugsrud once owned the Duluth Eskimos, who are linked to the Washington Redskins. He named his new expansion team the Vikings because that, and the colors the team would use, was the name of his high school football team in Wisconsin.
Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin was named the first head coach of the Vikings. He had just retired as a player, having led the Philadelphia Eagles to a title in 1960. The first Vikings draft saw them acquire Fran Tarkenton in the third round.
Though Van Brocklin and Takenton had a fiery relationship, the future Hall of Fame quarterback known as "The Mad Scrambler" grew with the team.
The team had one winning season and one .500 season in seven years under Van Brocklin, but "The Dutchman" drafted several key Vikings that would eventually make the team one of the best.
Three of the six men who have had their numbers retired by the team were acquired by Van Brocklin, but that did not stop him from being fired after the 1966 season.
Minnesota then hired a guy who actually grew up in the same Wisconsin town as Haugsrud, and attended that same high school the Vikings were named after.
Bud Grant had already had success as a coach in the Canadian Football League. He was a two-sport star who had won an NBA Championship as a player, and he still owns a CFL record by intercepting five balls in one playoff game. He had also been a start two-way player for the Eagles, but had bolted to the CFL after contract issues.
Grant coached his CFL teams to four titles in 10 years. He was lured to the Vikings, where his beliefs in discipline and poise would steer the Vikings into quickly becoming a powerhouse. His first year was met with a losing record, and Grant would not have a losing season again until 1979.
Minnesota reached the Super Bowl four times between 1969 and 1976. The stars of the team were on the defensive side of the ball. They were the "Purple People Eaters."
The offense was also stacked, featuring a few Hall of Famers and several Pro Bowlers. Though the Vikings never won a Super Bowl, they were certainly one of the greatest teams in modern NFL history.
The team began rebuilding slowly in 1977, but Grant keep them competitive for the most part. He took them to the playoffs four times in seven years. The future Hall of Famer retired for a year, but was coaxed back to coach one more season until retiring for good.
The post-Grant years have been met with mixed results. They have been to the playoffs 14 times since 1986, but have failed to reach a Super Bowl. Some think the reason for this was a move the franchise made in 1982.
From their first year up until that point, the Vikings played in Metropolitan Stadium. It was an outdoor arena that gave the Vikings a huge advantage. Teams would walk into a blizzard, only to see the Vikings running around without long sleeves. The mental battle was won right there.
The team moved inside to a domed stadium in 1982, and it is no coincidence the lack of Super Bowls soon followed. They are getting ready to move into a new stadium again, one that has a retractable roof. Old school Vikings fans are hoping the team never closes the roof and lets the snow back onto the gridiron once again.
Here is a list of some of the best Vikings not yet inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Several more belong with the 10 already enshrined, but some believe the lack of Super Bowl trophies has kept many from attaining their deserved respect.
See my profile page for a link to the defense.