Joe Kapp thought it would happen a lot sooner than this.
Kapp, the former Vikings tough-guy quarterback who led them to the Super Bowl after the 1969 season and coined the “40-for-60’’ slogan that became that team’s mantra, was in front of his TV set Thursday watching the Broncos’ Peyton Manning throw seven touchdown passes against the Ravens.
Manning became the sixth QB to throw seven TD passes in one game, and the first since Kapp did it against the Baltimore Colts on Sept. 28, 1969.
“I’ve been expecting this for a long time,” Kapp said from his Los Gatos, Calif., home. “The way the game has gone? They want offense. In the old days, the defensive backs could mug receivers. Nowadays if they breathe on them they get the flag.’’
Kapp, 75, laughed. He took calls from friends all day Friday, reminiscing about the old days. And that day against the Colts stands out in a career that includes starting for Cal in the Rose Bowl, starting in a Super Bowl and starting in the Canadian Football League championship.
The Vikings started the 1969 season losing by a point to a Fran Tarkenton-led Giants team in New York. Back home at Met Stadium, the Vikings more than made up for that in a 52-14 victory over Baltimore.
“I ran the offense,” Kapp said. “I looked at more film than anybody, despite having the reputation of spending all of my off time at Duff’s Bar.’’
In 1968, the Vikings and Colts met in the NFL Western Conference Championship. In a 21-14 victory, the Colts blitzed the Vikings constantly. Years later, as head coach at Cal, Kapp used the same blitz scheme to beat a Stanford team quarterbacked by John Elway in 1982. Cal won with five laterals on a kickoff return for a touchdown that wove through the Stanford band as time expired.
In the 1969 Colts-Vikings meeting, Kapp was ready. He went 28-for-43 for 449 yards — still the third-biggest total in franchise history — and seven TDs. He connected with Dave Osborn and Gene Washington in the first quarter, with Bob Grim and Kent Kramer in the second, with Washington and John Beasley in the third and with Jim Lindsey in the fourth.
The biggest surprise? That coach Bud Grant let Kapp throw so much. “The word ‘pass’ was a four-letter word for Bud,’’ Kapp said. “For Bud it was four words: Keep it on the ground. No, wait. That’s five words. But if you threw a pass it was dangerous, and not because it might get intercepted. But because Bud would get mad.”
Maybe not. Kapp had been pulled from the game when Grant learned his QB was a few yards away from breaking Tarkenton’s franchise record for passing yards, so he put Kapp back in.
And the rest was historic. Kapp became the fifth player to pass for seven TDs. Interestingly, Adrian Burk — who had done the same thing for Philadelphia in 1954 — was then an NFL game official who worked that Vikings game.
“A quarterback can’t win without great players around him,” Kapp said. “You win as a team, and with great defense. And we had a great defense with the Vikings. That helps an old, beat-up quarterback.’’
Kapp laughed again. Asked how he’s doing, he said: “I can’t see very well, I can’t hear very well. But I’m still up and running.’’
Kapp is part of the class-action lawsuit with the league about concussions; it’s his opinion that the game should be played with leather helmets to discourage headfirst hits. As for football, he remains a fan, one who is convinced an eight-TD game is not far off. “Probably happen next week, the way they officiate the game now,” he said.
One more thing: “Say hi to all my fans up in Minnesota,” Kapp quipped. “Both of them.”