You can tell it’s Super Bowl week when the NFL starts reliving its past during the week leading up to its next chapter.
The Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback crew sat down to talk to Bud Grant about his Hall of Fame legacy. Among the topics discussed was the Minnesota Vikings’ role as one of two franchises to make it to four Super Bowls and lose them all.
Long before the Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, the Minnesota Vikings lost four of their own, spread over eight seasons. Grant was the coach of all of them.
Grant told MMQB he never harbored a long-term grudge about losing the four Super Bowls. While he’d be lying if he said the losses didn’t sting, he said the job of football doesn’t stop, only seasons do. You couldn’t dwell on losing one game and Grant was aware that it would take plenty more winning to get back for another try.
“We got paid,” Grant said. “We won. We came back, and we won again and again. But you have to remember one thing: Football is entertainment; it’s not life or death. Once the game is over, you’re already talking about next year and the draft. It’s just entertainment. It’s like going to a play. When it’s over, you walk out the door and it’s over. There are no residuals to it. You’ve got to start all over again. If winning or losing is going to define your life, you’re on a rough road.”
One of the things that made the Vikings losing so painful was that it included so many of the same players for most or all its run. Grant said there is little in the way of comparison between Super Bowl teams of Grant’s era to those of today.
Teams know they have a finite window to win championships with the specific group because, when sustained success comes, players want to get paid and other teams snipe their players and coaches. In Grant’s era, you were a team that stuck together – good or bad – for a decade, not two or three years.
“In those days we could get a player and keep him,” Grant said. “Now with free agency, how long are you going to keep a great player? You have to bundle them up and give them a lot of money to keep some of them, like Brady and Manning, but you can’t do that with the whole team. Now you can have a great player, but he might get more money if he played for someone else. This year probably four of the top 12 teams will drop out because they can’t retain the players. Nowadays, stars leave to go to hell for a dollar more. That’s not bad. The players benefit from that certainly.”
Never one to mince words, Grant said he was convinced that the Vikings were the dominant team of their era, it just never showed up on Super Sunday.
His Vikings lost to four different AFC/AFL teams, as there was a changing of the guard in the AFC – Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland. While the AFC Super Bowl teams morphed from one to another, Grant’s team had the sustained success. They could (and did) beat those teams in subsequent meetings, but the ring writes the history and the Vikings didn’t have any Super Bowl winning bling to show for it.
“The reason they call it the Super Bowl is because it is one game,” Grant said. “If we played three out of five or more, like baseball and hockey and basketball, it’s different. Kansas City beat us in that Super Bowl [IV]. Next year they came here and we beat them handily. I don’t think we were that much better, but if you play a series of games, you get a much better feel. It’s just about when you’re playing your best and when you’re healthy. There’s a lot of luck going into this game.”