Hartman: Mike Lynn's legacy was complicated

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 23, 2012 - 7:55 AM

Though best remembered for the Herschel Walker deal, Mike Lynn did many great things for the Vikings.

hide

Mike Lynn is pictured in 1988 when he was general manager of the Vikings.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It was May 1974 when Jim Finks, who had hired Bud Grant and been a part of the Vikings winning five division titles and appearing in two Super Bowls over a 10-year span, resigned as the team's general manager.

Finks quit because, No. 1, the team refused to award him the stock that fired coach Norm Van Brocklin had held, and No. 2, he was upset that then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had ordered all team owners to have offices at their franchises, meaning that Finks' boss, Max Winter, would be a daily presence.

Winter was a frustrated man at the time; he had 17 unsigned players and little experience with player contracts. He went to a league meeting in Memphis looking for advice from fellow owners for some recommendations on a person they thought would make a good GM.

There was a young man Winter had befriended named Mike Lynn, who while being occupied managing some movie theaters in Memphis was always hanging around NFL meetings trying to get a franchise for the city.

Unable to find anybody to replace Finks, Winter hired Lynn as an assistant to the president with the promise of making him general manager if he proved he could do the job.

Well, the rest is history. Lynn, who died Saturday at age 76, saw the Vikings win the NFC Central and appear in the Super Bowl in his one season as an assistant. Named GM in 1975, the Vikings went on to win division titles each of the next three seasons, appearing in the Super Bowl again after the 1976 season, the last time the team has reached the NFL's biggest game.

While Lynn is being given credit for all the Vikings' top draft choices during his stay, the truth of the matter is that Grant had the final say on personnel under Lynn as per a contract he signed with Finks.

However, Jerry Burns -- who became coach in 1986, following Grant's one-year return after the Les Steckel 3-13 campaign in 1984 -- didn't have that control, and despite the fact that he utterly opposed the famous Herschel Walker trade with the Dallas Cowboys, Lynn made it.

To his dying day, Lynn claimed that his version of the players involved in the trade and those of Dallas owner Jerry Jones were different, but Rozelle ruled in favor of Jones.

Speaking of that trade, Burns recalled Sunday, "Mike was down there in Dallas talking to the people there. He was there two or three days hashing out various segments of the intended trade, and we got him.

"The trade was sort of one-sided relative to the draft choices and players we gave them for Herschel. Herschel came here and I'll say this about Herschel, he was a damn nice guy; everything about him was first class. We might have got him on his downward spinning from being a great back at Georgia, an All-American and everything in that regard, and he might not have fit into everything in our offensive schemes. He was a single back-type of player and we were more of a sweeping, trapping, play-pass, rollout, bootleg-type of offense.

"I don't like to have ... things about Mike Lynn all center around the Herschel Walker trade. Maybe if we did a little better job coaching and Herschel did a little better playing, the thing would have worked out great."

However, Burns who initially was passed over as coach for Steckel in 1984 after Grant's first retirement, had a lot of respect for Lynn.

"I'll say this, and very meaningful, that I think back of my great relationship with Mike and we had a lot of fun together," Burns said. "I respected him in every vein, and one thing was he never tried to coach the team."

Payments to continue

There is no doubt that the Metrodome would not have been built had it not been for Lynn's great ability as a salesman. Nobody thought it would happen, so it was Winter who agreed to give Lynn 10 percent of luxury suite revenue if the Dome was built. And the Lynn family will continue to get the $500,000-plus per year as long as the Vikings play in the building.

As for the relations of Winter and Lynn, at one time they were like father and son, and it was Lynn who named the Vikings complex Winter Park and who provided Winter with a luxurious office. But it came to a sad ending in 1985 when Winter tried to end Lynn's tenure as GM and replace him with a local accountant.

It wasn't a very smart move because Lynn had the backing of all the other stockholders. The result was that in October 1985, Winter ended his long tenure as Vikings president and sold his stock to Carl Pohlad, Irwin Jacobs and Fran Tarkenton, who went to court trying to prove that Winter's stock gave them control of the team, only to lose the case after a long court battle.

On December 16, 1991, Lynn engineered the purchase of the former Winter stock, and shortly after that, a group led by Lynn, Wheelock Whitney and Jaye Dyer put Roger Headrick in charge of the team as president and CEO. Lynn would remain with the club's ownership group until 1992, when he sold his share.

Lynn did a lot of positive things, including bringing the Super Bowl here, but he did a bad thing when he got NFL owners to prevent the selection of Finks as commissioner after Rozelle's retirement in 1989, ultimately engineering the appointment of Paul Tagliabue instead.

Lynn was generous to a great degree with the workers at Winter Park, with big bonuses at the end of every year.

On his last day in tthe Vikings complex, he left a big check on the desk of his great secretary, Roz Sorenson, one of the best ever. He also left a note that read: "This will pay for your car."

Jottings

• Twins catcher Joe Mauer received a $25,000 bonus for making the American League All-Star team. ... If you visited Target Field on Sunday you would have found Twins pitcher Carl Pavano throwing from the mound for the first time since he was put on the disabled list on June 3. Pavano will have to go out and pitch in the minor leagues before he is ready to return.

• With 14 points in Sunday's 97-91 victory over the Grizzlies, Timberwolves swingman Wes Johnson finished as the sixth-leading scorer in the Las Vegas Summer League at 20.5 points per game, shooting 45.4 percent (10-for-22) from three-point range. Derrick Williams finished with averages of 15.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in the Wolves' five games, and he also got to the free-throw line a league-high 56 times.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close