Steely-Eyed Vikings Coach Reached Four Super Bowls

'You've got to handle losing,' Bud Grant said
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 11, 2023 2:15 PM CST
Bud Grant Reached, Lost Four Super Bowls
Former Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant waves a final goodbye to the Metrodome during ceremonies in 2013 in Minneapolis.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

Bud Grant, the stoic and demanding Hall of Fame coach who took the Minnesota Vikings and their mighty Purple People Eaters defense to four Super Bowls in eight years and lost all of them, died Saturday. He was 95. Wearing his trademark purple Vikings cap and a stone-faced demeanor, Grant's steely sideline gaze became synonymous with his teams. He was a mainstay among the celebrated NFL coaches of his era, the AP reports, but Grant had little interest in accolades. "The only reason I can see for a head coach getting credit for something good is that he gets so much blame when something is bad," Grant once said. "The whole secret, I think, is to not react to either the good or the bad."

He guided the Vikings from 1967-85, with a one-year hiatus in 1984, on his way to a 158-96-5 record with 11 division championships in 18 seasons. He went 10-12 in the playoffs. When he retired, Grant was eighth on the league's all-time victory list. After replacing another Hall of Famer, Norm Van Brocklin, Grant assembled the revered defensive line dubbed the Purple People Eaters. The line—whose motto was "Meet at the quarterback"— was joined by a powerful offense that helped Minnesota reach the Super Bowl in 1970, the final edition of the big game before the AFL-NFL merger. The heavily favored Vikings fell 23-7 to Kansas City, setting a tone for the infamous run of title game losses to Miami, Pittsburgh, and Oakland from the perceived lesser conference.

"If you’re going to succeed, survive is maybe a better word," Grant said during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in 1994. "You've got to handle losing. You die every time you lose, but you've got to get over it." An avid outdoorsman who spent many an offseason on fishing trips in Alaska or hunting expeditions in Arizona, Grant also was a successful coach in the Canadian Football League who became the first person elected to the Hall of Fame in both the CFL and NFL. He won four league championships in his 10 years in Canada.

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Grant retired after the 1983 season, replaced by Les Steckel, whose fiery approach was the opposite of his predecessor's and went 3-13. Grant returned for one 7-9 season. Though he was finished with coaching, his influence on the team and city remained. Grant continued living in the same suburban home he bought upon his 1967 arrival, in Bloomington, less than 10 miles from Metropolitan Stadium. He became an ambassador for the Vikings, who maintained a spacious office for him at their headquarters, continuing to list him as a consultant. When he turned 95 last May, the team organized a Zoom call. On Saturday, the Star Tribune called Grant "the most iconic sports figure in Minnesota history."

(More obituary stories.)

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