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

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
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 NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close