The Vikings would be introducing Kevin O'Connell as the new coach in about 15 minutes at their complex in Eagan on Thursday afternoon. There was a trio of the team's all-time great players in attendance, those being Hall of Famers Randall McDaniel and John Randle, and the career leader in tackles, Scott Studwell.
McDaniel is the second-best player in Vikings history in my opinion, behind only Alan Page, and I said to him: "You're so lean now that you'd have to be a fullback, not a guard.''
He swatted himself on the stomach and said: "I'd be fine. The linemen are getting smaller these days with some of the better teams.''
Studwell has been approaching skinny for years, allowing him to keep up with a bevy of grandkids, and Randle … he looked ready to put on the face paint again and get after it.
Basically from the get-go, there have been prominent Vikings who move here as players, make this Frozen Wasteland home, and need only a call to show up for team announcements or events.
Admittedly, a copy of Brian Peterson's Strib photo of the "Weeping Blondes" taken after the Falcons' playoff loss in January 1999 is prominently displayed in my garage, but the memories of covering on-field heartbreaks haven't nullified this truth:
I've always been taken by the connection that scores of Vikings seem to feel toward the organization and the fan base.
There were resentments from players over contracts, over being cut or sent elsewhere, but there are many who chose to remain Forever Vikings: McDaniel, Randle, Studwell and many others over six decades.
As O'Connell, 36, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, 40, make promises of a new culture that will be marked by a connection to players as not experienced "before" — well, those are shots at Mike Zimmer, and not a long-term issue.
Bud Grant, 94, and getting around in a wheelchair on his longer journeys these days, was in attendance Thursday. That's not a triumph for a Vikings "culture" that has existed for generations? I can't agree.
Yes, select players did wait for Zimmer's eight seasons as coach to end before expressing unhappiness with his communication skills, including such grievances as not saying ''howdy" on all occasions when passing in a corridor inside Zygi World in Eagan.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins chose not to join in the post-Zimmer rips, even though he has been framed as a leading victim of Zim's communication shortcomings. It was only this season, Cousins' fourth in Minnesota, that the coach and the quarterback started weekly sit-downs.
Then again, if all of Thursday's promises about riding with Cousins come true and weren't a Rick Spielman-style smokescreen, Kirk might pine for the days of Zimmer when he could find a free 15 minutes to eat a sandwich.
O'Connell is a former quarterback. He already has hired a quarterbacks coach and an assistant quarterbacks coach. Plus, there will be an offensive coordinator.
Remember Kirk's suggestion in August that his close-contact COVID status might have been based on an undersized quarterbacks meeting room? They might need an auditorium in the future.
I'm not sure having that much brainpower thrown at him is the way to turn Cousins "quiet-minded," as O'Connell suggested as a goal Thursday.
Grant took in the news conference, marked 95% by O'Connell's full answers to media questions, and was struck by the one asking for a comparison between Cousins and Matthew Stafford, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Rams (and offensive coordinator O'Connell).
"I don't know if Cousins should be looked at as needing to get to Stafford's level," Grant said. "Stafford's good, and he also had an excellent defense to rely on.
"Cousins was very good, too. And I'd take him. You know why? He plays. He has the most important ability: durability.
"There's nothing better when preparing for a season, for a game, than knowing you're going to have the same quarterback every week.
"That's why we won so many games in the '70s. We had Fran Tarkenton. He got hurt once, late in his career, but when he came back to the Vikings in 1972, we knew what we would have at quarterback every week.
"Tarkenton was an all-time great … retired with all the NFL passing records at the time."
Grant paused, contemplated, and said: "Cousins is good. As a coach, I'd be more than happy to go into a season with him, because I'd know he was going to be there for us every week."
At this point, Tom West from the Vikings' media staff came over with the two oldest O'Connell children: Kaden, 7, and his sister, Quinn, 5. They were seeking autographs from Grant, Hall of Fame coach in both Canada and the States.
The O'Connell kids were about to take a little old-time Vikings culture back to Dad.