Bud Grant has the unflattering distinction of coaching in four Super Bowls without winning a Lombardi Trophy. The legendary Vikings coach went 0-4 from 1969-76, tying Dan Reeves and Marv Levy for the most Super Bowl losses without a victory among head coaches.
But the passage of time has also given Grant some great perspective on the big game. He recently spoke to Sports Illustrated about his Super Bowl experiences and other football memories leading up to the big game’s 50th anniversary on Sunday. (Incidentally, make sure you check out the Star Tribune sports staff’s trip down Super Bowl memory lane coming Saturday. Included: memories from Sid Hartman and Patrick Reusse).
And now back to Grant.
He reminded us there is more to life than winning football games:
"Football is entertainment; it’s not life or death. Once the game is over, you’re already talking about next year and the draft. It’s just entertainment. It’s like going to a play: When it’s over, you walk out the door and it’s over. There are no residuals to it. You’ve got to start all over again. If winning or losing is going to define your life, you’re on a rough road."
He called out free agency:
"In those days we could get a player and keep him. Now with free agency, how long are you going to keep a great player? You have to bundle them up and give them a lot of money to keep some of them … Nowadays, stars leave to go to hell for a dollar more. That’s not bad; the players benefit from that certainly."
He tried to explain his trend of disappointment in the Super Bowl:
"The reason they call it the Super Bowl is because it is one game. If we played three out of five or more, like baseball and hockey and basketball, it’s different. Kansas City beat us in that Super Bowl [IV]. Next year they came here and we beat them handily. I don’t think we were that much better, but if you play a series of games, you get a much better feel. It’s just about when you’re playing your best and when you’re healthy. There’s a lot of luck going into this game."
Grant also had a bit of a feud with Vince Lombardi:
"Lombardi and I didn’t get along. He’s a tyrant, and he coached that way. Great coach, but he coached with fear, and he treated everybody—whether you’re the president or the secretary of the club—with bombastic fear. I had three occasions where I dealt with Lombardi."
Losing four Super Bowls didn't damage Grant's standing with most Vikings fans. He remains an iconic figure -- a status he helped cement by wearing short sleeves in negative temperatures for the Vikings’ playoff against Seattle. Feel free to add any of your favorite memories of Grant or past Super Bowls in the comments.