Joe Kapp doesn't
fool a lot of people with his fakes, he throws the football with more hope than
accuracy and when he runs he isn't fleet, but then he isn't elusive, either.
However, as Karl Kassulke, one of the Minnesota Viking defensive backs, says,
"Joe Kapp is one tough son of a bitch."
Last Sunday in
Bloomington, Minn., with the temperature on the field ranging between 7° and
9°, Joe Kapp and 39 other tough so-and-sos beat the Cleveland Browns for the
NFL title. The score was 27-7, the win put the Vikings in the Super Bowl
against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans on Sunday, and the only time Kapp
felt that he let his team down was late in the second period when he was
lumbering along the sideline and stepped out of bounds. He said he should have
veered in and hit the tackier coming up.
In recent years
winning quarterbacks have usually been brainy types who can keep track of
complicated game plans even under duress. For Kapp, a happy-go-lucky soul who
is half Mexican, half imp and often half of a collision, a game plan is a bunch
of plays selected by his learned coaches, which, if the mood strikes him, he
may use. If not, he invents his own. The Vikings, to be sure, are not what you
would call a subtle team. They operate on the theory that if you hit the other
people harder than they hit you, you will very likely win the football
The one play that
summed up this philosophy—and this game—came in the middle of the third period,
and no coach would have dreamed of calling it. The Vikings were ahead 24-0.
Most quarterbacks would have been playing conservatively, keeping the ball on
the ground, running out the clock. Not Kapp. With third down and four to go on
the Cleveland 47, he dropped back to pass. Unable to locate an open receiver,
he ran to his right, turned up-field and discovered his path was already
occupied by Jim Houston, a 240-pound linebacker who is the best man on the
Cleveland defense. Early in the game the Vikings had directed most of their
attack away from Houston, on the sound theory that there are better places to
Houston hit Kapp
head on. Kapp went high in the air, spun half around and landed on his back.
After such an impact you would expect the quarterback to be left for dead. Kapp
bounded to his feet. It was Houston who lay face down, blood running from his
nose, through for the afternoon. Kapp trotted back to the huddle and a few
plays later completed a 20-yard pass to Fullback Bill Brown which set up a Fred
Cox field goal, the second he kicked, that put the Vikings ahead 27-0.
Late in the
fourth period, with the score 27-7 and no reason at all to gamble, Kapp came up
with something that might be called a play, and was definitely Kapp. He called
a drive into the middle of the line, with Brown carrying the ball. Brown fired
ahead, reached for the ball and came up empty. After faking the hand-off Kapp
rolled to his left and, bereft of blockers, rumbled 19 yards for a first down
on the Cleveland 32.
thinking of that when I called the play," he said later. "But I didn't
think it was going to be a good play for Bill after I came up to the line of
scrimmage, so I kept the ball myself." As End Jim Marshall, the mustachioed
leader of the Viking defensive unit, says, "Nothing Joe does ever surprises
What Joe Kapp may
have done is to pretty much destroy the mystique of pro football. The arcane
mysteries of the flexed line and the overshifted defense and the combination
man-to-man and zone defenses mean nothing to him. He attacks defenses
basically, with no frills and no excess ratiocination.
everything," he said after the game. "You do anything you have to do to
win. Everything else is crap."
Kapp, then, is no
picture quarterback. His passes do not fly on a flat, hard line. On long throws
they wobble precariously in a lofty, arcing trajectory before dropping almost
straight down, sometimes with defensive backs climbing atop one another for the
opportunity to intercept.