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Additional Minnesota Viking Commentary

Green's Induction Missing Ingredient  
Our beloved past head coach Dennis Green will be inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor on September 23, 2018, our home game versus the Buffalo Bills ... but there will be a missing ingredient on that day.  I'm certain if finding myself standing in front of Mark & Ziggy Wilf ... I'd probably shake their hands ... tell them that the Viking Ghost Writer was in fact real ... and then I'd regale them with one of the most unfortunate NFL stories of injustice ever told.  This story of misfortune, injustice & what was clearly racism is all directly bonded within Dennis Green's soul ... where every man that followed Coach Green that he ever motivated to play, for this franchise and many many others, is directly linked to this man.  To be direct, his name is lost to history & almost to a man, no one even knows he exists.  From this ... there is only one eventual certainty ... the NFL owes him a great debt where he'd be the last man on this earth to ask for anything.  In my opinion, this man deserves to stand by the late Dennis Green in his honor, as if it were not for him and his story ... there would be no Dennis Green.     

So how important was Dennis Green to the NFL?  Dennis, working under Bill Walsh & the San Francisco 49ers, had to work out a receiver in the greater Los Angeles area.  He was looking for a live arm in the hopes of evaluating this receiver prospect where he just happened to hit maybe the greatest NFL prospects to have ever played the game.  For reasons unknown to us all, he made that call, where he got Joe Montana out to throw to this prospect.  Coach Green was so impressed with the accuracy of this back up quarterback that won the national championship game for Notre Dame versus Houston that he did what only Denny did.  He made hay ... allot of hay ... getting in Bill Walsh's ear to where Denny brought Montana to San Francisco & the Walsh machine.  Unless you intimately knew Dennis Green ... you wouldn't know that story ... and there are countless other elite & Hall of Fame players directly attributable to Denny.  Dennis Green, with all his faults, was a true NFL gem & our short time with him shall live on in Viking lore for all time.    

With no disrespect to the immortal Jackie Robinson of baseball, there is a somewhat similar character of the NFL ... that never played a down in the NFL ... however, the wake he left all over every aspect of football was immeasurable.  When it came to race, the NFL & the Minnesota Vikings were represented by players like Carl Eller & Allen Page, and numerous other players, but there was absolutely no opportunities in the NFL for black quarterbacks back in 1972 (except an unexpected 1).  That was the year of his NFL draft ... and because he was a quarterback that could most definitely throw the ball, and that he refused to play wide receiver, and various other reasons ... he wasn't drafted by any NFL team.  Now to put that into perspective, at the time there were 28 teams and 17 rounds in that 72 draft.  That's at least 476 players taken in that 72 draft.  

To be direct, the 1972 season was in fact pivotal for this franchise.  If you look at that roster, it was stocked with what would be Super Bowl bound players.  In 1969 & 1970 this team went 12-2, followed by the 1971 season where we posted an 11-3 record with an ineffective three quarterback committee of Norm Snead, Bob Lee & Gary Cuozzo.  In 1972, with the return of Hall of Famer Sir Francis Tarkenton, we gave up veterans Snead, Vince Clemons & Bob Grim (just after his best year ever) to the Giants plus our 1972 1st round draft pick & our 1973 2nd round pick.  What resulted in 72 was a dismal 7-7 record where the defense absolutely disappeared under the weight of the divinity under Fran Tarkenton's shadow.  Who could blame these elite defenders as we look back at what this defense accomplished without a quarterback.  Now we are now made to bend our knee for the returning admiral.  As much as I loved Sir Francis Tarkenton ... and all that followed ... I can't help but think ... what if we instead drafted & played this quarterback prodigy that led USC to historic significance.       
 
 
Of course, this particular NFL prospect wasn't drafted.  Black quarterbacks just were not drafted to play quarterback in the NFL ... that is except for Joe Gilliam who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in that same 1972 draft.  Today anyone would be hard pressed to exactly define why this individual wasn't drafted into the NFL because there was absolutely no excuse for it ... using today's standards.  Joe Gilliam became the first black man to start for an NFL franchise in 1974 after the AFL-NFL merger because the competition in Steeler-land was wide open ... and he was simply better than Terry Hanratty or Terry Bradshaw.  Bradshaw never let us forget how well Joe Gilliam played.  Unfortunately for us all, Joe Gilliam died of a drug overdose on January 12, 2018 always knowing that he had to carry a stigma of racism but we all know ... in the NFL ... only the best play.  Now ask yourself this question.  Did drafting Gilliam in 1972 result in the Steelers first Super Bowl Championship in 1974 versus my beloved Vikings?  What is certain is that the Steelers were willing to go somewhere that this Minnesota Vikings franchise did not want to go.


It's not like the Minnesota Vikings drafted Joe Webb to play wide receiver only to change him to a back quarterback role.  Whatever you do, don't look up what he did behind center for this franchise all the while handing the ball over to the indelible stature of Christian Ponder.  Sure, Joe Webb got smashed in the playoff, but if you came off the bench ... I wonder exactly how any meat head, like yourself, might have fared playing playoff football without having the opportunity to start for this franchise's season.  Hey, the last time I looked this franchise doesn't have any Super Bowl Championships where, as I predicted, you'll see a Super Bowl ring on Joe Webb's digits (as a back up quarterback for the Seattle Sea Hawks).     

By comparison, Joe Gilliam was an All American for his Junior & Senior Years at Tennessee State.  Joe Gilliam was so good that his college statistics aren't available on the net, which should tell you something.  Jimmy Jones, played for USC from 1969 -71 (freshmen were not allowed to play NCAA football) where he totaled 298 completions on 605 attempts, with a 49.3% completion percentage, for 4,102 yards, scoring 30 passing TD with 25 interceptions over his career totaling an additional 12 rushing touchdowns.  In short, he was a black quarterback that could pass.  Although these numbers don't look that impressive on paper, that included his senior stats where his numbers were way down from the norm.  


Instead having to accept the foreign role of playing receiver in the NFL, knowing full well that he couldn't match the speed of the NFL caliber receivers, he instead identified himself as a quarterbacked by leading Montreal to a Grey Cup Championship in that 1972 season in the Canadian Football League.  Of course this surprised no one.  In time, as it turns out, Jimmy Jones would pave the way for another black Hall of Fame Quarterback, who journeyed to the Canadian Football League before finally getting his shot to play for the Houston Oilers.  Warren Moon, who also played for this Vikings franchise chose the same path that would lead him to Canton, OH.  If it wasn't for Jimmy Jones exploits in Montreal ... maybe there is no Warren Moon in the Hall of Fame.  Now imagine how our stout Viking defense of 1972 would have responded to Jimmy Jones ... a black quarterback ...  not to mention also having a 1st round 1972 draft pick.  Now imagine having back our 1973 2nd round pick, which was also traded to the Giants, by adding Brad Van Pelt, a perennial Pro Bowler, to our line backing corps of 1973 & beyond.  Of course ... this franchise acted in its own self interest (doing nothing wrong), eventually leading us to three (3) Super Bowl appearances ... but we'll just never know. 

As for history, the most influential game played by Jimmy Jones was for John McKay's USC Trojans on September 12, 1970 when USC traveled to the land of the Crimson Tide.  On that day, many would say that Sam "The Bam" Cunningham did more to end segregation in the south than what toiled under 20 years of Martin Luther King (please no disrespect but football is considered god-like in the south).  After that game, the legendary Bear Bryant of Alabama went to his president and said, " if we don't start taking black players, we are gonna be in big, big, trouble", as USC throttled the segregated Alabama squad 42-21 on their home court.  That day, sounded the death knell for segregated football in the south & Jimmy Jones was at the helm leading his Trojan's to victory.  Anyone that knows a lick about football knows that any one dimensional team can be stopped.  Jimmy Jones was a natural leader that could throw the ball.  He wasn't considered a running quarterback, although very athletically gifted.  What was clear on that day was that Bear Bryant was well aware of Jimmy Jones as a vertical threat that disrupted his ability to stop that USC rolling machine.    

In 1968 at John Harris high school Jimmy Jones set a state record tossing 35 touchdown passes where every major college wanted him including Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, & Notre Dame.  For Jimmy it was clear that USC clearly had the mind set of accepting of a talented black quarterback.  Now just for a moment try to imagine Jimmy Jones starting for Notre Dame as a sophomore in 1969 (There was no way that was going to happen).  That mindset was just the reality of the time ... and it was absolutely wrong ... and very little has been done to acknowledge that ancient mindset or infrastructure, where it has become much easier the brush it from history.  Sure, we all know those old stone walls of infrastructure exist, but to a person ... no one ever acknowledges the facts of what these men of history built for this nation.  It doesn't matter if its apart of the NFL or if it was a canal built by hand in the 1820's.  

Cris Carter, talking about the disparity in the front office of the NFL once said, "my race is well represented on the field (today)", but is poorly lacking in many other areas.  These men upon the field have no idea of this leagues actual history & all its shortcomings but it is way past time to acknowledge the mistakes of history & acknowledge the "integral machine work" that has brought us all to the greatest game ... greatest form of entertainment ... that is available for us today.

So what is the direct connection between Jimmy Jones and Dennis Green other that 33 straight victories playing high school ball together in Harrisburg, PA?  Well it is certain that Dennis was a great athlete but he wasn't the potential NFL great like Jimmy Jones. Maybe without Jimmy Jones, we'd never have Dennis Green to honor on September 23, 2018.  We'll never know. 

What I'd like to think about Dennis Green is his interactions with Cris Carter & Randy Moss ... and just about every player of which he ever interacted.  Cris Carter joined the Vikings in 2000 where in 2002, he was paired with the 2nd black coach in NFL history.  After that, what resulted was a career that led Cris to the Hall of Fame.  Later he would be paired with  Randy Moss ... a very angry & very talented man with something to prove.  These particular individuals are singled out because they were both so very controversial where something brought them on to greatness ... well beyond expectation.  In other words, something was underlying everything.  Regardless of whether one word of Jimmy Jones was ever spoken with these individuals is irrelevant because regardless of whether Dennis was interviewing for our head coaching position or in having to deal with his players ... he carried the injustice of fact of Jimmy Jones.  To the world, Dennis Green introduced to us, "No room for Cry Babies", which someone like myself could never really understand ... that is until presented with the story of Jimmy Jones.  For one moment could you see the pain within Dennis Green as he spoke to Randy Moss about some complaint that he might have.  It might have gone something like this:

"Look Randy, you have everything.  You have a fans throughout the world that love you.  You have financial security.  You simply have it all.  How could you possibly ... knowing that there are so many that couldn't even dream of your reality because that door was closed to them."  
Within every word, within every action that Dennis Green made would lie the foundation of Jimmy Jones and those like him.  I remember someone asking Randy Moss about why he didn't report a back injury where he stated. "Dude, I'm old school ... (I'm not going to be complaining about no scratch)."  Within that statement lies Dennis Green & within that lies the story of Jimmy Jones.  

Can the Viking Ghost Writer make this right?  No ... but the pen is always mightier than the sword.  My hope is that some day someone will take the opportunity of making it right as no wounds have the possibility of healing without acknowledging that reality of the past.  One day it will happen and my hope is that Mark & Zygmunt will take the steps of linking the story of Jimmy Jones to everything that is the NFL. 
We love this game. 

Jerry Glanville was once captured as saying the NFL stands for "Not for long".  We've heard out of Dallas, "The National Felon League" but NFL actually stands for National Forever League, as time & its history will stand forever.  To this day I can still imagine being Alan Page coming to rest on the bench next to Carl Eller giving him a hand tap with a smirk of kick-ass on my face.  That image will never leave me & now neither will the story of Jimmy Jones.  

Yes, Jimmy Jones is still alive living modestly in the city of Harrisburg where he'll be the first in line to witness his friend Dennis Green being inducted into the Minnesota Viking Ring of Honor but Jimmy Jones will never be who you think that he might be.  When asked about his history, although he should be very angry, instead he's taken that same leadership role, that spanked the Alabama legend in 1970 ... the one that he so carefully carried onto that field.  He carries himself knowing who & what he is ... and for the most part ... he's done so in almost complete anonymity, except for the ones that know.  The problem for us all is that large ships go onto make great wakes ... and no amount of prejudice in world can ever change that.   

Dennis Green's family will be represented on that day.  With the loss of Dennis Green .... well, he cannot be there ... but undrafted Jimmy Jones ... well, maybe he can be finally drafted by our NFL owner to be there for Dennis.  Maybe ... these men of the grid iron ... shall know what it is ... for which they toil.  It's ever so hard to put your finger on something that is there ... but you know of not.  


The Viking Ghost Writer
http://MyVikingBlood.org
Date: August 2, 2018