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FLASHBACK: FRAN TARKENTON QUITS VIKINGS, JOINS GIANTS
In 1966, after disagreements with head coach Norm Van Brocklin over his unconventional playing style, Fran Tarkenton, the Vikings’ all-time leader in touchdown passes and passing yards, quit the Minnesota Vikings and became a New York Giant.
Tarkenton was known as “Scramblin’ Fran”, “The Mad Scrambler”, and “Frantic Fran” for his revolutionary scrambling abilities. And that didn’t go over well with Van Brocklin, who disagreed with the idea of a mobile quarterback.
After two Pro Bowl selections in six seasons with the Vikings, Tarkenton made up his mind. He would no longer play for the Minnesota Vikings. He wrotea letter to Van Brocklin, which appeared in Sports Illustrated on July 31, 1967.
The letter reads:
After much thought, I have come to the definite conclusion that under no circumstances can I return to play football with the Minnesota Vikings next season. Because of the events of the past few months and my feelings toward a number of things, it is impossible for me to return to the Vikings with a clear and open mind. As you know, I have tried to subdue these feelings and erase them from my mind, but it has been impossible. Feeling as I do, I am sure that this decision is the best for the Vikings, you and myself. Norm, I sincerely appreciate your help and guidance during the early years of my pro career and I certainly wish for you, and the Vikings, every success. I hope you and the organization understand that nothing can be done which would change my decision. Because of all that the organization has done for me, I am writing this letter in the event that it might be helpful to the Vikings to know of my feelings at this time.
Francis A. Tarkenton
So, following the worst season in Giants history in 1966, the team picked Tarkenton with hopes that he could provide a much-needed spark. He was dealt for two first-round and two second-round draft picks.
It took just one year for Tarkenton’s impact to be felt. Following a one-win season, he guided the Giants to a .500 record.
“That team in New York the first year I was there, we finished 7-7,” Tarkenton said. “That was my finest accomplish in any of my 18 years in professional football. It was a rag-tag team that played together, played hard and had heart. (Coach) Allie (Sherman) did a great job with that team…It was the best year that any team I’ve played on had ever had. We spread the field, we put men in motion, we had somebody in the backfield. And the reason we had to do this was we didn’t have a big offensive line. We had to use the short passing game to be our running game. The West Coast offense, as we know it today, was absolutely started in New York.”
Tarkenton played five season for the Giants, from 1967-1971, and earned Pro Bowl honors in four of those seasons (1967-1970). But the Giants went 33-36 and in 1972, he was traded back to Minnesota, where he would play until retiring in 1978.
At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton held NFL career records for touchdown passes, passing yards, completions, pass attempts, rushing yards by a quarterback and wins by a starting quarterback. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1986.
“It’s not a bye week. It was an opportunity for us to be able to have some downtime, for players to recover, if you will. Hopefully that’s going to be a plus for us. We worked Monday and now we’re here, this is officially a Wednesday for us, so hopefully as I said, we’ve got a few more guys out there and what we’re looking for is the progress thing, from one day to the next with no setbacks.” -Coach Tom Coughlin
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Tags: Fran Tarkenton, Giants, Minnesota Vikings, new york giants
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