The legend of Bud Grant

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Juan Pablo Ramirez

“Cold is a state of mind.”

From Valley Forge to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, a blend of cold weather and sheer determination have bred some of the most fierce winter warriors to ever walk the face of the earth. Just as George Washington had lunged his knee forward with triumph on the frigid Delaware River, Bud Grant has also—without the pose—led his team of “purple people eaters” into teeth-chattering nightmares. 

With names like Belichick and Lombardi floating in the air, Bud Grant has been shoved out of the conversation as one of the best coaches in NFL history. His four Super Bowl appearances and eleven divisional titles are one thing, but his Theodore Roosevelt-like toughness is another.

Grant’s philosophy behind the madness of preparing his players for sub-zero temperatures can almost be compared to the Red Army’s defensive strategies on the Eastern Front in World War Two; they made it their mission to adapt to their surroundings. In order to morph their play style around the cold, the Vikings would practice outside every day in the cold until winter weather advisories became nothing but recommendations to them. No longer was the tundra across Metropolitan Field a reason to huddle up next to a heater; instead, it was a reason for players like Paul Krause and Alan Page to clench their fists in anticipation to deliver massive hits on players used to a warmer climate. 

Between their newly founded immunity to the cold and team motto “40 for 60” (40 players for 60 minutes), the Minnesota Vikings rough and tough play style was able to carry them all the way to a berth in the 1970 Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only was their 1970 season filled with accolades and nationwide recognition, but it also managed to validate Bud Grant’s theory that a Corvette does not always win against a Ford pickup truck—especially if that Ford pickup truck happens to be driven by Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton. Tried and true, Fran Tarkenton and his offensive corps might not have always been referred to as “entertainment.” However, their games either ended in fists in the air or celebratory snow angels.

Bud Grant and his team’s love for a spot at absolute zero sprung them through the regular season and into the playoffs every year. In a four year span, they won 51 out of 65 games and took down 6 out of 7 teams in each of their playoff games. Out of all those stats, a Super Bowl trophy is the only prize not mentioned. Even though Bud Grant punched tickets to four separate Super Bowl appearances, his teams were never able to dismount other warm weather franchises from a ride towards victory. Hypothetically speaking, Grant’s record in a winter wonderland tells the truth of what could have been if those Super Bowl games were played in Minneapolis. No matter what the case might be, Bud Grant will be forever regarded as one of the best leaders to ever put on the headset. Fran Tarkenton wrapped up his coaching career like a perfect conclusion to a storybook:

“If you could not play for Bud Grant, you could not play.”