Van Brocklin was voted the most valuable player in the league after he led the Eagles to the championship with an upset victory over Green Bay. He had joined the Eagles as a quarterback on the understanding that he would succeed Shaw as head coach when Shaw retired, but when the Eagle management asked him to be a playing coach Van Brocklin refused.
Bert Rose, general manager of the Vikings, signed him on. It was a courageous move for Rose; no player in the modern era of pro football had ever moved directly from the playing field to a head coaching position. Also Rose was warned by several of the people he consulted that Van Brocklin had a hot temper (which he had) and that he was not notably tactful (he was not). When Van Brocklin finished his pro career by playing in the Pro Bowl in Los Angeles, he was interviewed by the Los Angeles press. The writers, some of whom had not been kind to Van Brocklin when he was with the Rams, were in a mellow and admiring mood. Van Brocklin was not.
"What are you going to do now?" one of them asked.
"Get the hell out of this damn town as fast as I can," said the Dutchman, and he did.
He still erupts occasionally during the course of a game, but by and large he keeps his temper under control. Van Brocklin spends a good deal of time in the off season speaking at luncheons and dinners, selling the Vikings, and although he is not fond of the task he is good at it. "I'll keep doing it until there's a fanny on every number," he says, meaning until there is a customer in every seat of Metropolitan Stadium.
Persuasive though he is, Van Brocklin is more likely to sell seats by producing exciting and victorious football teams. He is good at that, too. Indeed, he has proved that he is as good a coach as he was a quarterback.
This he demonstrated in his first season with the Vikings. With a patchwork team of the very young and the very old, he decided that the first thing he had to do was pump pride into the veterans. They had been publicly declared expendable by their former clubs. They considered it anything but an honor to come to the Vikings.
"Training camp that first year was a real country club," one of them says. "Dutch didn't work anyone very hard. He made us feel like he was glad to have us. He knew that you can't work old hands too hard in training anyway. But the second year! I've been in lots of training camps and I never saw a tougher one. He worked us until our tails dragged and then worked us some more. He even made us scrimmage in the middle of the week during the season, and nobody does that."
"They forgot that football is a hitting game," Van Brocklin explains. "So I thought I would remind them."
He did not have to remind Tarkenton. Fran got the message the first season. "Don't stand around," he had been told. "After you hand off or throw the ball, keep moving. Don't give 'em a standing target."