First things first: From all of us at The Daily Norseman, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Lynn family at this time, and we all hope that they can somehow find comfort and peace in his passing. The Vikings have released an official statement:
"The Vikings are deeply saddened by the passing of Mike Lynn. He was instrumental in the success of the Vikings for many years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Lynn family in this difficult time."
Lynn is best remembered for the now infamous Herschel Walker trade, but I have to be honest--that's only part of the Lynn story.
But let's get THAT out of the way. At the end of the 1988 season, the Minnesota Vikings were on the short list of Super Bowl caliber teams. Much like at the end of the 2008 season, the Vikes were considered 'one player away' from cresting the hill into elite category. Unlike 2008, where the 'one player' was a quarterback, the position of need back then was running back.
Minnesota already had an absolutely fierce defense, and were just one year removed from the NFC Championship game. Wade Wilson was thought to be on the come as a young, promising QB, they had a great WR in Anthony Carter, and the missing piece was a RB that could dominate a game.
Fast forward to 1989. The Vikes offense had struggled and sputtered to a 3-2 start, and Lynn, in an effort to get the team over the hump, pulled the trigger on one of the most infamous trades in NFL history. Seeking a #1 back, Lynn set his sights on the premiere back in the NFL at the time, Dallas' Herschel Walker.
It sure looked good at the time...
Herschel rushed for 148 yards in his first game as a Viking, the Vikes won 4 of their next five, and Minnesota went on to win the NFC Central.
But that's only part of the story. And there were some notable achievements under his tenure, which we'll cover after the jump.
Lynn became general manager in 1975 and served in that capacity until 1990. He assumed the role of GM on the heels of legendary GM Jim Finks, and at the tail end of the Purple People Eaters era. He oversaw the last Vikes Super Bowl team, was responsible for drafting two of my favorite players of all time in Tommy Kramer and Sammy White, and saw the transition of the Vikes from a cold weather, mauling, defensive juggernaut to a fast track dome team. He was the guy that made the final call on releasing guys like Alan Page and trading Carl Eller, for example.
He was the guy that hired Les Steckel, but he was also responsible for shit canning him and bringing back Bud Grant, and then bringing in Jerry Burns. Under Lynn, the Vikings went to the playoffs 9 times, the NFC Championship once, and brought in a bevy of players that have become Hall of Famers and/or members of the Vikings Ring Of Honor, to include:
DE Chris Doleman
LB Scott Studwell
DL John Randle
OL Randall McDaniel
Hired Jerry Burns As Head Coach
WR Cris Carter
Under his tenure, the Vikes drafted standouts like the aforementioned Kramer and White. But they also picked guys like Matt Blair, Ted Brown, Joe Senser, Darrin Nelson, Steve Jordan, Joey Browner, Carl Lee, Destroyer Of Mankato Drive Thru's Keith Millard, Kirk Lowdermilk, Henry Thomas, and Terry Allen.
Lynn also negotiated a sweet deal with the Vikings ownership group in that he would get 10% of the gross revenue generated by the Metrodome luxury suites for life. A lot of people have really bagged on Lynn for that deal, but I think it's misplaced anger--the Vikings never had to say yes. But they did, and he was the beneficiary. Heck, if someone basically agreed to give me over a million bucks a year, I'm not going to turn it down.
Lynn will always be a controversial figure in Vikings history because of the Walker trade, but he also brought a lot of good players to the Vikings.
And when you take the trade into the context of the times, you can understand it, if not agree with it.
Godspeed, Mike. May you be breaking bread in Valhalla with Wally Hilgenberg and Karl Kassaulke for all time.
You've earned your chair.