Legendary Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant Passes Away at 95
On Saturday morning, Minnesota Vikings fans everywhere were given shocking news that legendary Vikings head coach Bud Grant had passed away at the age of 95. The team announced his passing via Twitter, saying,
“We are absolutely devastated to announce legendary Minnesota Vikings head coach and Hall of Famer Bud Grant has passed away this morning at age 95. We, like all Vikings and NFL fans, are shocked and saddened by this terrible news.”
Every professional sports franchise has names, be it coaches or players, that become synonymous with the team, and Grant absolutely is one of those names for the Vikings.
Even prior to his coaching career, Grant became well-known in the state of Minnesota for his collegiate days with the Gophers where he was a three-sport athlete, playing baseball, basketball, and football. He earned All-Big Ten honors twice for his performances with the football team, and he was selected in both the NBA and NFL Drafts of 1950.
The Philadelphia Eagles selected him 14th overall in the 1950 NFL Draft, and the Minneapolis Lakers selected him 47th overall in the 1950 NBA Draft. Grant won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 1950, and he played two seasons with the Eagles in 1951 and 1952.
Grant first got into coaching in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and after 10 successful seasons from 1957-66, including four CFL titles, he got his first NFL coaching gig with his hometown Vikings in 1967.
It also ended up being his only NFL coaching job because he spent a whopping 18 seasons coaching the Vikings between 1967-1985, taking over the team just six years into the franchise’s history.
Almost immediately, Grant took a floundering expansion team that had never made the playoffs and turned them into a perennial contender. In just his second year as the head man, Grant led the Vikings to their first playoff appearance in 1968, going 8-6 and winning the NFL Central division.
This was just the beginning for Grant, though. In 10 of 11 seasons from 1968-78, the Vikings made the playoffs. Grant was the mastermind behind the “Purple People Eaters” defense that ravaged the NFL throughout this time period.
During his first 10 years as the head coach, the Vikings only ranked outside the top 10 in scoring defense once, placing 11th in 1972. From 1969-71, they lead the league in scoring defense, ridiculously holding opponents to under 10 points per game in both 1969 and 1971.
The Vikings made all four of their Super Bowl appearances during Grant’s coaching tenure, but unfortunately, a Super Bowl championship was the one feat that Grant couldn’t unlock for the Vikings.
In all, over 18 seasons, Grant’s Vikings went a combined 168-108-5 (including playoffs), and he easily holds the record for most wins by a Vikings coach. The Vikings coach with the second-most wins is Denny Green at 101.
Even more incredibly, despite being the longest tenured head coach in Vikings history, Grant’s winning percentage of .607 (again, including playoffs) is also the highest of any Vikings coach other than current head coach Kevin O’Connell (.722).
Grant’s success as a coach is legendary, but perhaps even more legendary is his reputation among players, fellow coaches, and media members in Minnesota. Many have taken to social media expressing their thanks to the legendary coach. Here is one of those tributes from KSTP’s Darren Wolfson via Twitter:
Grant truly did live life to the fullest, and he perfectly encapsulated everything that it means to be a Minnesota Viking. Rest in peace, Coach, and thank you.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.