Flashback Friday – The Most Memorable Presser in Vikings History

When people are asked about the Minnesota Vikings 1989 season they often remember “the greatest Monday Night Football game ever,” against the Cincinnati Bengals. While that game was incredible there was another game that season that got the nation’s attention. It wasn’t just the football that had folks talking but also the profanity-laced press conference given by head coach Jerry Burns after the game. 

The Strangest of Games

First, there needs to be a bit of background to help refresh memories; the 1989 season had been a bit of a roller coaster. Fans, as always, had high expectations. The team had traded for Dallas great Herschel Walker prior to the season and all of Minnesota had “Herschel Fever.” Whether the trade was “cursed or jinxed” or if the Vikings and Walker were a mismatch or if it was just poor usage on the part of the team, it did not work. Walker was not excelling in Minnesota the way everyone hoped. 

On Sunday, November 5, 1989, the Vikings were scheduled to play their ninth game of the season against the Rams. The Vikings were coming off a frustrating loss the week before to the New York Giants, 24-14. Fans were outraged over the loss and were blaming it all on offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker. They had booed Schnelker when he took the field in Week 9 in Minnesota and booed again when he was shown on the scoreboard. Coach Burns had caught wind of this and was livid about the misplaced blame. 

The Vikings pulled out a win against the Rams that day, 23-21, but in the most unconventional fashion. The Vikings did not score a single touchdown, they scored all 21 points on field goals. Of course, these were not just ordinary field goals, they were scored off the unshod foot of kicker, Rich Karlis. You heard that right, he kicked all 7 field goals with a bare foot. The Rams scored toward the end of the 4th quarter to take the lead and Karlis kicked the 7th and final field goal to send the game into overtime.

You guessed it: over time could not be easy or ordinary. The Rams punted the ball 2:14 into the OT period. Mike Merriweather, who had been signed by the Vikings as a free agent in hopes of big plays, blocked Dale Hatcher’s punt. He dove into the end zone hoping to recover the ball for a touchdown but instead, he knocked it through the back of the endzone. Merriweather was so upset he missed the recovery he dropped to his knees and covered his face. He did not see the referee signal the game-winning safety until his teammates rallied around to tell him he won the game. This marked the first time an OT had ever ended on a safety. 

The Aftermath

Despite how it sounds the Vikings were actually the dominant team that game even though it almost appeared they did not want to win. They blew offensive opportunities every chance they got. At the conclusion, they almost seemed surprised they squeaked out a win. Even Herschel Walker only had 24 attempts for 76 yards. When Coach Burns arrived at the post-game press conference he was furious. 

Burns was known for his colorful language and his creative usage of swear words; however, he usually cleaned it up for the media. Now he launched into a swear word soup of a tirade, frustrated about the stupid mistakes the players made – he even named names! He quipped at one point that he “supposed they won” and said, “there was nowhere else you could be entertained like this for $23.” People were shocked and the presser made national news. This was the 1980s, after all, and while the average person expected their coaches to be a bit irreverent, they still anticipated that they would be “gentlemen” on camera. 

There have been countless attention-grabbing pressers over the years. You have Bill Parcells “consider yourself sucked” and Bill Callahan apparently calling his Raiders team “the dumbest team in America” but Burns and the f-bombs took it to a whole new level and deserve a spot in press conference infamy. Take a minute to watch the video and revisit one of the most outrageous press conferences ever.