Will history repeat itself for the Vikings?
The last time the team traded a superstar who didn’t want to play for them, similar to the Percy Harvin situation of this offseason, was in 1967 when quarterback Fran Tarkenton was traded to the Giants.
The Vikings used the numerous draft choices secured in that trade to turn an ordinary football team into a winner.
Tarkenton had become upset with coach Norm Van Brocklin after being benched in several games in 1966 and following the season, he told the organization he wanted to be traded. But before any deal could take place, Van Brocklin abruptly resigned on February 11, 1967, making the way for the club to hire Bud Grant one month later.
On March 7, 1967, the Giants gave up four draft picks for Tarkenton: a first- and second-round selection in 1967, a first-round pick in 1968 and a second-rounder in 1969.
Those draft picks were used to select Michigan State running back Clint Jones as the second overall pick in 1967 and Oregon State wide receiver Bob Grim in the second round of the ’67 draft. Then they drafted USC tackle Ron Yary first overall in 1968 and grabbed California guard Ed White in the second round in 1969.
The Vikings used their own first-round pick in the ’67 draft to select Michigan State wide receiver Gene Washington (No. 8 overall) and another ’67 first-round pick acquired from the Rams to take Notre Dame defensive tackle Alan Page (No. 15 overall).
Those players would become mainstays of a Vikings team that would reach the playoffs in 10 of the next 12 seasons, including Super Bowl appearances following the 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1976 seasons. Yary would be named first-team All-Pro six consecutive seasons and become a Hall of Famer. Page was the NFL MVP in 1971 — the first defensive player to be so honored — played in nine Pro Bowls and reached the Hall of Fame. White was selected four Pro Bowls. Washington went to the Pro Bowl in ’69 and ’70 and Grim was a Pro Bowl pick in 1971.
When the Vikings traded Harvin to the Seahawks in March, they received a first- and seventh-round pick this year and a third-round pick in 2014. Now if the team can come close to matching last year’s success in the draft this weekend, the new draft choices could make the Vikings a much improved team over the one that went 10-6 last year, following a 3-13 campaign in 2011.
Knowing the drafting acumen of General Manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office, there’s a chance this haul — which included three first-rounders Thursday night — might be as beneficial to the team’s long-term success as the players received when Tarkenton asked to leave.
The Vikings eventually got Tarkenton back in 1972, sending the Giants Grim, quarterback Norm Snead, running back Vince Clements and two first-round draft choices in 1972 and ’73. Tarkenton proceeded to lead the Vikings to three Super Bowls in the 1970s, alongside several of the players the team received from his initial trade.
Spielman landed defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd from Florida with the 23rd pick on Thursday night, then got cornerback Xavier Rhodes from Florida State at No. 25. Spielman then worked a controversial trade, giving the Patriots four draft picks, to get Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29.
To get three first-rounders was quite a feat. And you can bet Spielman will do some more trading Friday and Saturday to fill some holes in the Vikings lineup.
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has a great reputation of turning around losing programs. Two of his Gophers assistants went through it as players: Trevor Olson, who played for Kill at Northern Illinois, and Jeff Jones, who was a part of Southern Illinois’ improvement.
Jones was on a Southern Illinois team that went from 1-10 in 2001 to 4-8 in 2002 and 10-2 in 2003 and ’04. Olson was on a Northern Illinois team that improved every year going from 6-7 in 2008 to 7-6 in 2009 and 11-3 in 2010.
“Just like we’re doing here, it’s no different,” Kill said. “You probably need to interview Jeff Jones, who played with me at Southern and is on the staff. Then you need to interview Trevor Olson, they both played for me and have been around turnarounds. They’ve been through it, played through it.
“[Jones will] credit that [progress] to the way we practiced; Jeff will, still to this day. That goes back to the mentality of practice. You don’t want to have anyone break and crumble during a game. You can correct it at practice, but you can’t correct it during a game. You lose.”