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Let’s make a deal: Fran Tarkenton trade provided many happy returns for Vikings

The Vikings felt they had little choice but to accommodate Stefon Diggs’ request for a trade this month when they sent the disgruntled wide receiver to Buffalo for four draft picks, including the Bills’ first-rounder and two others in this year’s draft.

It wasn’t the first time the Vikings have traded a high-profile player either because he wanted out or because there was an overwhelming feeling that it was time for a divorce. This doesn’t mean that all of these moves turned out to be bad ones, but it does mean a pretty good player (or even an outstanding one) was lost.

Today, we give you Part II of high-profile players the Vikings traded (not guys who left as free agents, were released or near the end) and how those deals worked out. On Sunday, we examined the trade of Randy Moss to Oakland. This time we look at the NFL’s first scrambling quarterback.


Time with the Vikings: Taken with a third-round pick in the 1961 draft, the expansion Vikings soon found themselves turning to the undersized (listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds) and scrambling quarterback out of Georgia. Vikings coach Norm Van Brocklin, a Hall of Fame quarterback himself, and Tarkenton clashed, but Tarkenton started 10 of 14 games as a rookie and then started all but three games over the next five seasons. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1964 and ’65 and finished ranked third in the NFL in passing in the former season. Tarkenton was benched for two starts in 1966 by Van Brocklin. The young franchise had only one winning season from 1961 to ’66 and Van Brocklin abruptly quit in February 1967.

What ended Tarkenton’s time in Minnesota? Tarkenton demanded a trade following the 1966 season — in large part because he couldn’t stand Van Brocklin — and shortly after Van Brocklin stepped down the deal was done. Bud Grant, who was hired to replace Van Brocklin, never got the chance to see if he could work with Tarkenton. At least not at that time.

The trade: The Vikings sent Tarkenton to the Giants on March 6, 1967 for a first-round pick in 1967 (second overall), a second-round pick in 1967 (28th overall), a first-round pick in 1968 (first overall) and a second-round pick in 1969 (39th overall). The Vikings used the 1967 first-round pick on Michigan State halfback Clinton Jones, the 1967 second-round pick on Oregon State wide receiver Bob Grim, the 1968 first-round pick on Southern Cal offensive tackle Ron Yary and the 1969 second-round pick on California guard Ed White.

How it worked out for the Vikings: Really well. Yary and White became key pieces on the offensive line. Yary is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being a first-team All-Pro selection for six consecutive seasons (1971-76) and making the Pro Bowl for seven consecutie years (1971-77). Yary played 14 of his 15 seasons with the Vikings, finishing his career with the Rams. White went to the Pro Bowl three times in nine seasons with the Vikings before being traded to the Chargers. Jones was a halfback and also returned kickoffs and Grim caught a career-high 45 passes in 1971 before being traded to the Giants.

How it worked out for Tarkenton: Grim was traded to the Giants in a deal that brought back Tarkenton on Jan. 27, 1972 after he was selected to the Pro Bowl four times while playing for the Giants. New York wasn’t very good at the time and had only one winning season (9-5 in 1970) with Tarkenton at quarterback. Back in Minnesota, and now playing for Grant, Tarkenton was part of three Vikings teams that went to the Super Bowl. Yes, they went 0-3. Tarkenton retired after the 1978 season.

The verdict: Considering Tarkenton returned to Minnesota, and the Vikings drafted two top-level offensive linemen with the picks they got from the Giants, this trade seems like a pretty good one for Minnesota. The Vikings made their first Super Bowl appearance after the 1969 season with Joe Kapp as their quarterback. They Vikings sent Snead, wide receiver Bob Grim, fullback Vince Clements, a first-round pick in 1972 (defensive end Larry Jacobson of Nebraska) and a second-round pick in 1973 (linebacker Brad Van Pelt of Michigan State) to the Giants to get back Tarkenton

Next up: Percy Harvin to the Seahawks


Previous Story Let’s make a deal: Randy Moss leads off 5 trades the Vikings felt forced to make Next Story Five Vikings storylines leading up to the NFL Draft