Hispanic Heritage Month: Joe Kapp

With it being Hispanic Heritage Month, I have always found it hard to believe how Joe Kapp seems to be forgotten among Hispanic football fans. Not one time has The Chancellor met a hispanic Minnesota Viking fan or a Viking fan because of Joe Kapp. In a historic sense, Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett’s exploits are remembered more fondly and that is sad for Kapp’s contributions were just as great.

Joe Knapp Minnesota Vikings Quarterback July 20, 1970 X 15038 credit: Heinz Kluetmeier - contract

Flores was the first QB of Mexican descent that won a Super Bowl. Yet he did so as the backup to Len Dawson on the Super Bowl IV champion Kansas City Chiefs. The first Mexican-American quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl as a starting quarterback was Kapp who was across the field for the Minnesota Vikings.

Although he spent the bulk of his career in the CFL, Bud Grant brought him down to play for him in 1967. He had won several Grey Cups and was known for being a fiery leader. That and the fact he threw some of the ugliest wobbly passes from not using the football’s laces.

In 1968 Kapp led the Vikings to the first playoff game in the franchise’s history. However they lost to the Baltimore Colts 24-14. The Colts set the NFL record that year only allowing 144 points and were lauded as the best in history. Only a loss in Super Bowl III diminished their impact. They had defeated Joe Kapp….right?

In 1969 the Vikings lost the first game of the season 24-23 to the New York Giants. Kapp didn’t start or play in that game. However he was available for the week 2 rematch with Baltimore.

The NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game has Kapp’s name on it with 7. It would take rule changes and another 44 years before Payton Manning tied this record in 2013. The Colts loss to Joe Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III strained Don Shula’s relationship with owner Carroll Rosenbloom, this 52-14 loss broke it. The next season he would be gone to Miami where he became the NFL’s winningest coach. Joe Kapp had a hand in that.

Starting with the week 2 win over Baltimore, Kapp led the Vikings to 12 straight wins. The longest win streak in the NFL in 35 years. Keep in mind the NFL was only in its 50th season. No quarterback would win 12 straight regular season starts in the same season until Tom Brady in 2003, some 34 years later. Finishing with a 12-2 record the Vikings went on to Super Bowl IV where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7.

He left the Vikings after a contract dispute and joined the New England Patriots where he only played the 1970 season. Was he not afforded the respect of prominent white quarterbacks of the time?? Why wouldn’t they sign him?? The 1969 Vikings broke the NFL’s defensive scoring record allowing only 133 points on their way to Super Bowl IV. If Kapp stayed to lead the offense would they have made it to Super Bowl V?? Last year I did a series on the best ever defenses, where it was discovered the ’70 Vikings gave up the fewest yards per game for every defense since. Yes they would have…

  • 1970 Minnesota Vikings – #1 overall / 200.2 yds all. / 143 points given up / 28 int

Joe Kapp only played 5 seasons in the NFL but he was a trailblazer. Tom Flores was the first Mexican American starting QB with the AFL’s Oakland Raiders and was a Kansas City Chief across the field in Super Bowl IV.  Yet Kapp played with distinction and set several records on his way there. He’s a cult hero who should be celebrated for his contributions to the game. He led his teams to championship games at Cal, the CFL, and the NFL. The very definition of a champion. To complete this circle for Hispanic Heritage Month… Who was the quarterback drafted #1 by the New England Patriots in 1971 after Joe Kapp?? Some guy named Jim Plunkett…

One day I hope to walk by and see a Hispanic kid with a Vikings jersey with the number 11 on it. That would be the coolest thing. Don’t forget Joe Kapp.

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SUPER BOWL XI RUNNER UP 1976 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

January 9, 1977 was a day that the Minnesota Vikings again fell short of the Super Bowl win they so desperately wanted.  The 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders was the last hurrah for a team that dominated the NFC for much of the 1970s. They almost went to 4 Super Bowls in a row.  That famous “Hail Mary” against Dallas in the ’75 NFC Divisional playoff should have been called pass interference on Drew Pearson.

vikxiThink of how rewritten the 1970s in the NFL would have been had they won those Super Bowls…

  • Had they won Super Bowl IV against the Chiefs there would still be talk of inferiority between the AFL and NFL even though they were merging the following year.
  • Had they won Super Bowl VIII in Chuck Foreman’s (The U) rookie year the Dolphins do not repeat and do not become a dynasty.
  • Had they won the next year in Super Bowl IX the Steelers dynasty does not take place.
  • Which leads to Super Bowl XI, had the Vikings won that gamevikxi.1 it would have added to Oakland’s (at that time) failed legacy and would have handed them their 8th loss in AFL or AFC Championship games including 2 Super Bowls in 10 years.

 

This team has never received their due.  They dominated the black and blue division and were the scourge of the NFC for many years.  The legacy of the players was too damaged for not winning the Super Bowl.  Come on, the length of time it took for Paul Krause, the NFL’s all time leading interceptor, to get into the Hall of Fame was ridiculous.  The fact that Jim Marshall and Chuck Foreman aren’t in the Hall is a travesty.

11This team was one of the best in the 1970s and this team was the last one to reach the Super Bowl.  Buddy Ryan coaxed a good year out of a “Purple People Eater’s” defense that was aging. Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White were decent receivers and the aforementioned Chuck Foreman (The U) teamed with Fran Tarkenton (the all time touchdown and yardage leader at the time) to form a formidable offense.

An interesting contrast in handling coming up short in the Super Bowl is between Fran Tarkenton and Head Coach Bud Grant. Tarkenton told NFL Films how those games have haunted him all these years. How it robbed the Vikings of their dignity and celebrity which cost teammates Hall of Fame votes. Where Bud Grant said he never looked at any of them on field and it doesn’t bother him one bit. Always looking ahead.

super-bowl-logo-1976Yet if you catch the end of Super Bowl XI as the cameras panned the Viking sideline, you could see a deep hurt in every Viking player’s face. It was as though you could see the last of their prime as an elite team evaporate from the players as the final moments ticked down. Unlike the Buffalo Bills 4 year Super Bowl run, this one lasted 8 years starting with their appearance in IV.

Chuck Foreman only had 1 more 1,000 yard season in 1977 before his career wound down. DT Alan Page was with the Chicago Bears in 1978, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Fran Tarkenton were gone after 1979. Even Metropolitan Stadium was gone by 1982 as the team moved indoors with the Metrodome. The end of an era for a once proud franchise. One last look back is in order:

This was the last conference championship ring the Minnesota Vikings won.  1976 NFC Champions.

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SUPER BOWL IX RUNNER UP 1974 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Super Bowl IX!  Although the Vikings lost to Pittsburgh 16-6, this team outlasted the Rams 14-10 in the NFC Championship Game to get there.  This was the second of 3 Super Bowl appearances in a 4 year span after drafting Chuck Foreman, from The [[_]], and acquiring Fran Tarkenton in a trade from the Giants. vikingix

This was the Purple People Eaters at their best.  John Gilliam was a tremendous deep threat, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page (NFL MVP in ’71), and Gary Larsen were still the best front four in football and were in the midst of a division dominance that ruled the NFC Central for the better part of 8 years.

They didn’t win the Super Bowl but still had a hell of a run and should have more Hall of Famers off of that team:  Jim Marshall and Chuck Foreman. Foreman was as dominant a RB in the mid 70s as any.  He carried the Vikings to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years and was a leading receiver out of the backfield.  He was Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas, and Marcus Allen before they were and in a bigger body. One game that ruined his legacy was in of all places Buffalo to end the 1975 season.  super-bowl-logo-1974

In the same game where Fran Tarkenton threw for his 291st career touchdown pass to move ahead of Johnny Unitas, Chuck Foreman and OJ Simpson were putting on a clinic and were both after the NFL all time touchdown records for a season.  Well Chuck got 4 to OJ’s 3 but OJ finished with 23TDs to Chuck’s 22 to set the record.

Problem was Chuck had to leave the game after getting hit in the face with a snowball when he scored his 4th touchdown in the 4th quarter…had he scored a 5th he would have tied OJ for the single season touchdown record of 23 that would be later broken by John Riggins (24 in 1983) and an all time record may have garnered him some votes.

Yet Bud Grant’s team was aging having made their 3rd title appearance in 6 years. They were in the middle of a historic run when you look back on it. Those title losses could have reshaped history. Had they won Super Bowl IV against KC, it would have made the Jets win in the season before, a total fluke. The score would have been NFL3 to AFL1 in Super Bowl competition.

They would have kept Don Shula’s Dolphins from becoming a dynasty in VIII and would have stopped an emerging Steeler team in IX. However once they fell to the Steelers, you had to wonder if it was in their psyche to underplay in championship competition.

They had to look at Super Bowl IX and feel they gave one away.

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SUPER BOWL VIII RUNNER UP 1973 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

This was the bauble the Vikings won making it to Super Bowl VIII. Once there they lost to Miami 24-7 yet polished off Dallas 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game. It was the first of 3 in a 4 year run after drafting Chuck Foreman (The U) and  acquiring Fran Tarkenton in a trade with the Giants.

Bowl VIIIThis was the Purple People Eaters at their best.  They threatened to have an undefeated season until a late season upset at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons on a Monday night. The Vikings were 9-0 and the last unbeaten team.  Although they finished 12-2, Pete Rozelle’s schedule makers were trying to negate their cold weather home field advantage. They played 4 of their last 5 on the road where their 2 losses came. They were very close to going undefeated had they a more fair schedule.

Could this have been backlash against Bud Grant for saying Don Shula had an unfair advantage being on the NFL competition committee??

Chuck Foreman was rookie of the year with 1,363 total yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs.  John Gilliam was a tremendous deep threat with 42 receptions, 907 yards and 8 touchdowns. The play action was set up by the 6th best rushing attack that ran for 2,275 yards in 1973. Aside from Foreman, Oscar Reed (401 yds), Ed Marinaro (302 yds of 80’s tvHill Street Blues fame), Dave Osborn (216 yds), Bill Brown (206 yds), and even Fran Tarkenton pitched in with (202 yds) and everyone had a better than 4.0 avg per rush.

viii44Bud Grant’s ball control offense rested the NFC’s sixth best defense. Led by Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page (NFL MVP in ’71), and Gary Larsen, they were still the best front four in football and were in the midst of a division dominance that ruled the NFC Central for the better part of 8 years.

super-bowl-logo-1973They came up short in Rice Stadium vs the Dolphins but with their offense intact they would have a few more chances. Everyone was still in their prime  Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Chuck Foreman should ALL be in the Hall!!

SUPER BOWL IV RUNNER UP 1969 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The NFL’s northern most outpost was originally an AFL territory yet the story has been told how they jumped ship and were given an NFL franchise. However the years that followed saw a team that struggled for respectability. superbowliv

However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp. Never understood why they don’t have a larger Hispanic following with such a significant historic backdrop.

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought in Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut. He was a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

superbowliv3In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle winning 52-14. Led by The Purple People Eaters defensive line of Alan Page, Carl Eller, Gary Larson, and Jim Marshall, the league’s #1 unit carried the team through the season. The Vikings went on to finish on a 12 game winning streak and broke the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. It was just the tonic the NFL needed as writers / loyalists established the Vikings an 11 point favorite. Not since the 1934 Chicago Bears rolled into the NFL Title Game undefeated had the league witnessed a winning streak as long as the Vikings.

super-bowl-logo-1969It was during the NFL playoffs where Kapp cemented his legacy. On a routine pass play, protection breaks down and Kapp escapes the pocket. Coming up to make the tackle was Cleveland Brown linebacker Jim Houston. Joe gave a shoulder fake and went right into Houston. Unwittingly he kneed him in the head knocking him out cold. Quarterbacks don’t knock out linebackers. This further enhanced the image of the Vikings as a rough and tumble ball club.

Although Super Bowl IV was the last game for Joe Kapp, he galvanized the team as they remained among the league’s elite over the next decade. They were the last NFL champion before the merger with the AFL and were a team in every sense of the word.

Best Finish To An NFL Game Ever: Hail Mary -1980 Vikings v. Browns

Metropolitan Stadium

Everyone loves a fantastic finish and we feel as though NFL Films and such focus too much on the glamour teams. They leave too many great moments on the cutting room floor if it’s not Dallas, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay. What if we were to tell you that a team actually completed a hook and lateral (not ladder) and a hail mary to finish a game?? Yes everyone remembers the hook and lateral in the ’81 AFC Divisional Playoff between San Diego and Miami, yet we’re going to take you to one that was even better. It was the last great moment in the 21 years Metropolitan Stadium served the Minnesota Vikings.

It was 1980 and the ink was just drying on the Nation’s newspapers of Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter. The Iran hostage situation was over 400 days old and we were completing the 1980 NFL Season. Teams were just now fully understanding the capabilities afforded them when the NFL loosened it’s rules on passing before the 1978 season. The ball was able to be thrown and touch multiple receivers without having to hit a defender in the interim giving birth to the Hail Mary.

Hall of Fame Viking Coach, Bud Grant

The Minnesota Vikings had just said goodbye to Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton, the league’s All Time yardage and touchdown passing leader. In stepped Tommy Kramer, who had none of the big game moxie of a Tarkenton. He was a poor man’s Danny White in that he followed the most revered quarterback in the team’s history.

After losing the fourth game to the 4-0 Detroit Lions, 27-20, it looked as though the Vikings had indeed passed the baton. However with a strong finishing kick they went into the penultimate game of the season with an 8-6 record. If they could win the 15th game, they would win Bud Grant his 11th NFC Central Division Tltle. Their opponent  going into that game was no slouch.

In came the 10-4 Cleveland Browns and Sam Rutigliano. He was in his third year and on his way to his second straight NFL Coach of the Year award for breathing life into a moribund franchise. In those years they were known for their ability to win a game in the final seconds and had performed that feat 14 times in the last two years with less than 2 minutes remaining  in the game. Moreover this was the Browns first real winning season in nearly 10 years. What better chance to show that they had arrived than to go on the road and win in a tough NFC camp and finish off the Viking’s season.

So on a cold day the Browns took the field and roared to a 23-9 lead and the Vikings looked cold on their sideline as the 3rd quarter ended. Then the Browns started playing conservatively and played close to the vest as the Vikings roared back.

After the Vikings scored 2 touchdowns to trim the Browns lead to 23-22. The Browns had the ball and drove toward midfield yet the Vikings defense held and forced the Browns to punt and pin Minnesota at their own 20 yard line. There was less than :20 left in the game. Time for daring and time for one final drive to win the NFC Central Division championship for their coach. This is what took place…

Epilogue: The Vikings running a hook and lateral on the opposite of the three receivers look on a Hail Mary was beautiful and I can’t remember anyone running it like that since.  By the way, do you know who the Cleveland Browns linebacker #53, who was beaten on the play was?? Try former Pittsburgh Steeler Coach Bill Cowher. Yet this team covered 80 yards in 2 plays to earn Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant his 11th and final NFC Central Division title. However they went down to the eventual NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the ’80 NFC Divisional round of the playoffs 31-16.

Mike Davis intercepts Brian Sipe’s pass for Ozzie Newsome to end the Brown’s season 14-12, in the 1980 playoffs.

On that exact same weekend the “Cardiac Kids” Cleveland Browns lost in the ’80 AFC Divisional Round to the Oakland Raiders 14-12. This game was made famous for “Red Right 88”. The tail end of a play’s assignment that had the Browns throw to the tight end in -42* weather rather than kick the obvious field goal. It was 3rd down and Coach Rutigliano opted to go for the endzone one more time. Only to have Raider Safety Mike Davis step in for a game clinching interception to end the Browns season. However the Browns had two kicks blocked in that game which was one of the coldest in NFL history.

However for one  magnificent drive, Tommy Kramer, Ted Brown, and Ahmad Rashad gave Viking fans the last great moment in Metropolitan Stadium. Within 2 years they would move indoors and the Viking franchise hasn’t been the same since. Hopefully they can get a new stadium deal and go back outside where the Vikings should be.

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