Bud Grant Almost Returned to the Vikings. In 2004.
By Dan Zinski
Jan 11, 1970; New Orleans, LA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp (11) talks to head coach Bud Grant on the sideline against the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Vikings 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Dick Raphael-USA TODAY Sports
This is a completely weird out-of-leftfield story brought to us by Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press (welcome back Sean!). It’s so bizarre that you almost don’t believe it but the details are coming straight from the horse’s mouth so you HAVE to believe it.
The horse in this case is legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant. The story coming straight from Grant’s mouth is that, in 2004, then-owner Red McCombs made an attempt at getting Bud to come out of retirement one last time and coach the Vikings. But Grant turned McCombs down because the notoriously stingy owner refused to pay him the exorbitant amount of money he wanted. (McCombs himself has confirmed the story, per Jensen).
Here’s how the whole thing went down, as detailed in Grant’s forthcoming book “I Did It My Way” and recounted by Jensen. The Vikes were having a rough second half in 2004 after starting the season 5-1 under coach Mike Tice. McCombs didn’t like where the team was headed and wanted to fire Tice. Grant says he was approached by McCombs about returning for the end of the season as head coach, and Grant actually entertained the notion…despite being 76-years-old at the time.
But Grant balked at the idea after hearing what McCombs was offering salary-wise. Grant says McCombs wanted to pay him what Tice was making for the remainder of the 2004 season, with the offer of a new contract for 2005. Grant’s reply to McCombs was pure Bud-esque awesomeness.
“Red, Tice is the lowest-paid coach in the National Football League,” Grant told McCombs per Grant’s own book. “I am not going to accept that.” So what would it have taken to get Grant back on the sidelines for the Purple? Grant says he asked for one dollar less than what the highest-paid coach in the league was making at the time. The skinflint McCombs wasn’t willing to pay that much so the deal was off.
As fate would have it, Tice wound up turning the Vikings around in the second half of 2004 and leading them into the playoffs. The Vikes playoff victory over the Packers in Green Bay solidified Tice’s job for one more year, but at the end of 2004 McCombs sold the team to Zygi Wilf who wanted to put his own stamp on the franchise, making Tice a lame duck for 2005.
So the idea of Bud Grant making a second comeback to the Vikings – he of course made his first comeback in 1985 after the infamous Les Steckel season, ultimately giving way to his former assistant Jerry Burns – remains a tantalizing item stashed away in the “what if” file. I’m not sure how successful Grant would’ve been at the advanced age of 76, but who knows? Maybe the Vikes would’ve run the table in 2004 and gotten into the Super Bowl one more time with Bud at the helm. And maybe this time, with help from Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, Grant would’ve finally gotten his ring.
If nothing else, it would’ve been amazing watching Bud Grant deal with Randy Moss. Hell, it would’ve been worth it just for that.
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