"We figured when we picked the old players made available to us from the rest of the league, we'd plug the immediate holes," Rose says. "We want to look ahead to about three years from now. We'll need the young ones to replace them then."
Rose and Van Brocklin culled a choice crop of veterans from the players who had been pooled for them by the other teams in the league. To go with Shaw in the offensive backfield, they chose Hugh McElhenny, still sprightly and dangerous at 32, from the San Francisco 49ers, and later they traded with the New York Giants for Mel Triplett, a strong blocker and a fine runner. With Mason, the Vikings have a truly remarkable backfield for a new team.
The lines—offensive and defensive—are, for the most part, elderly but good. The team has soft spots in the defensive backfield, and it could use more offensive ends, but some of these weaknesses may be repaired as the other teams in the NFL begin cutting players to get down to the season limit.
Van Brocklin's assistants are youthful but quite capable men. In Harry Gilmer, obtained from the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has one of the best young minds in pro football; Gilmer coaches the all-important defensive backfield. Line Coach Stan West is an ex-teammate of Van Brocklin's from the Rams and a fine morale builder; Walt Yowarsky, who coaches the offensive line, came from one of the toughest offensive lines in football, the New York Giants. And End Coach Darrel Brewster brings with him the methods that have helped make Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns consistently one of the best passing teams in football.
Aside from its youth, Van Brocklin's staff has in overflowing measure the one quality they will need most this year—optimism. "I figure we can win four or five games this year," one of them said the other day (the schedule calls for 14). "The Cowboys maybe twice, the Bears once, the Rams once, and then we sneak up on someone."
Rose, older, sadder and, as an ex-Ram man more accustomed to defeat, does not commit himself to guessing how many the Vikings may win. Concerned with more immediate problems, he checked off No. 147 on his list of things to do the other day. ("Notify victor of program-ad-sales award"—which means let the Minute Man who sold the most program ads know he has won.)
"I don't know," he said cautiously. "We win four, I'll be happy. So will everyone else."