The fact that Eli Manning and the New York Giants come to town Sunday night reminded me of the fact that Eli’s father, Archie Manning, played two seasons for the Vikings when the late Mike Lynn made a trade with the Houston Oilers in 1983 that he thought might advance his team to the playoffs.
On Saturday mornings when the Vikings would practice, I would babysit Archie’s second son, Peyton, who was 7 at the time.
The Vikings’ top quarterback, Tommy Kramer, had been injured and lost for the season, so Lynn acquired Archie Manning and Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper for two draft choices.
“They’re both established players,” coach Bud Grant said when the trade was made. “We feel we are in contention for the championship for our division.”
At the time, Lynn said that Manning, who had started three games for the Oilers, would be a backup for then-Vikings starter Steve Dils.
Manning made only two appearances for the Vikings that season and did not attempt a pass as the Vikings finished fourth in the NFC Central at 8-8.
The next season, Manning played in six games and started two. He completed 52 of 94 passes (55.3 percent) with two touchdowns and three interceptions, in what became his final season.
But perhaps Manning’s time in Minnesota is most remembered for the Vikings’ 16-7 loss to the Bears in Chicago on Oct. 28, 1984. In that game, the Vikings had switched their starting offensive line in the middle of the week and Manning paid the price, as he was sacked nine times.
Incidentally, Manning had high praise earlier this year for Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner, whom he saw at the Manning Passing Academy before this season.
Grant recalls Giants
Grant is one of the most celebrated figures in Vikings history, but growing up he was actually a big Giants fan.
“Before [World War II], the New York Giants used to have a training camp in Superior, Wisconsin, that’s where I was raised,” Grant recalled. “They used to come to Superior and I used to go to every practice and hang out, just like kids do today. That was in the late ’30s before the war.
“Steve Owen was the coach at that time, he got to be a pretty good friend of my father’s and Ole Haugsrud, who lived in Duluth. I was a Giants fan for many years and my dad used to tell Steve Owen, ‘That kid is going to play for you someday,’ meaning me. Steve said, ‘Well he has to get a little bit bigger,’ I was just a kid.”
Grant, a Gophers defensive end who was drafted with the No. 14 overall pick by the Eagles in the 1950 draft, said that the Giants, who used the No. 7 pick on Auburn back Travis Tidwell, were planning to select him.
“When the draft came up the Giants said they were going to draft me, but they didn’t,” he said. “New York did not draft me, the Eagles drafted me No. 1.”
When asked if the game was different back then, Grant said it has changed in every facet throughout his life.
“It’s a different game,” he said. “A different game from when I was a kid, a different game from when I started playing, a different game from when I started coaching, a much different game today. It’s much bigger, faster, better. Football has never been better. The pool of players nowadays is so much greater. We get a lot of our great players from the National Football League from small colleges all around the country.
“We have a pool of players now. That’s why you see some of these [small college] teams have success against major colleges, because the pool of players is so large that major schools can’t incorporate all of them or utilize all of them. So these small colleges produce a lot of great players nowadays.”
Grant also compared the best QB in Vikings history, Fran Tarkenton, to the great, young player at the position now, Teddy Bridgewater.
“Bridgewater is a little bigger than Tarkenton, Tarkenton was only 5-11, 178 pounds,” Grant said. “They called him ‘The Scrambler’ because he moved around a lot because he couldn’t see over the linemen. He had to move to the right or left to find the receivers. Bridgewater is bigger and stronger than Tarkenton ever was.
“The secret, as I’ve said and you’ve quoted many times, is durability. You don’t become a great hockey or baseball or football player without durability. The true test is can you play year after year, game after game, and learn and grow with the game. If Teddy can stay healthy who knows what his potential is? Tarkenton only missed one part of one season with a broken leg, otherwise his whole career he was injury-free.”
Commenting on the performance of Bridgewater, Vikings rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught two of Bridgewater’s four touchdown passes Sunday against Chicago, said: “Like I have been saying this whole time, Teddy Bridgewater just puts everybody in position to be great. As far as he puts you in a position to be successful, he makes plays and he creates things back there to make you successful. I can’t give you his formula, you have to ask.” Despite not playing the first three games of the season, Diggs is on pace to be the first Vikings rookie to lead the team in receiving yards since Randy Moss in 1998.
• Blair Walsh’s 53-yard field goal Sunday was the third longest in Vikings history against the Bears. Ryan Longwell kicked one for 55 yards in 2007 and Paul Edinger hit a 54-yarder in 2006.
• Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen talking about how well the backups have played in replacing injured starters: “That’s the way it has to be. We have 53 men on the roster and whenever you get your opportunity to go out there and do your job at a high level then you have to go do it and that is what the guys are doing. We’re playing good football, and that’s all you can ask for, guys come in and fight and do their job.”
• Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway sang the praises of how well the defensive line is playing, especially noting the pass rush from the tackles. “When you can move Tom Johnson around and Brian Robison around and then having a guy like Sharrif Floyd who can rush the quarterback real well, I think we can rush from every angle,” Greenway said. “I think that will serve us well in the long run.”
• A unsung hero for the Timberwolves is Gorgui Dieng, who is averaging 12.4 points on 60.9 percent shooting and 8.4 rebounds over the past five games. He is an 88 percent shooter at the free-throw line.
• Going into Wednesday, the Wolves ranked first in the NBA in free throws made per game (22.4) and second in free-throw percentage (81.1).
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org