Forgotten anniversaries, 1978: Proud 'D' turns Page

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 18, 2013 - 1:40 AM

The division champion Vikings began rebuilding by releasing a Hall of Famer.

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Alan Page’s departure from the Vikings was a marker of changing times. The Purple defense was one in transition.

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Plenty of Minnesota sports anniversaries and years are embedded in our collective sports minds. Merely mention 1987, 1991 or 1998, for example, and the Twins’ two World Series titles plus the Vikings’ 15-1 season spring immediately to mind. But what about some lesser-known anniversaries? We’re here to take a look back at some of those, in increments of five years, dating backward from 2013.

Today: The 1978 Vikings — and five things you might have forgotten about that team.

1. Forgive us if this is common knowledge, but somehow this has escaped us for the past 35 years: Alan Page, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was waived in the middle of the 1978 season by the Vikings. What? Yes, it happened. Based on an old SI.com story, the Vikings changed their defense and didn’t think Page was adapting well. After being cut, he then joined the Bears that season and had three more pretty good years in Chicago after that.

2. The decision on Page was only one thing that marked the end of an era. From a record standpoint, the Vikings went 8-7-1 in 1978 and made the playoffs. It ended a seven-year span in which the Vikings went 69-29-1 and went to three Super Bowls. In the following seven years, they would go 46-59.

3. In addition to Page’s departure, the defense was in transition in other areas. Jim Marshall was 40 when the season started and played just one more season. Bobby Bryant had seven interceptions that season but only five more the rest of his career (two more seasons). Also, it was Carl Eller’s final season in Minnesota. He played the following year in Seattle and then was done.

4. Offensively, it was Fran Tarkenton’s final season in the league. It was also Chuck Foreman’s final year as a starter and second-to-last year with Vikings. Tarkenton attempted 572 passes that year — blowing away his previous career high of 425. He had 25 TD passes … but a staggering 32 interceptions. He was also no longer a running QB, finishing with minus-6 yards on the ground.

5. Still, the Vikings — in the first year of the 16-game schedule — eked out another division title. They tied the Packers at 8-7-1 and won the tiebreaker. They were clobbered 34-10 by the Rams in the playoff opener.

 

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