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Jim Finks

Jim Finks

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James Edward Finks was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 sports executive, primarily for American Professional Football
Professional football
In the United States and Canada, the term professional football includes the professional forms of American and Canadian gridiron football. In common usage, it refers to former and existing major football leagues in either country...

.

Biography


Jim Finks was born in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, attended high school in Salem, Illinois
Salem, Illinois
Salem is a city located in the U.S. state of Illinois. It is the county seat of Marion County. The population was 7,485 at the 2010 census.Salem is the birthplace of William Jennings Bryan and his brother vice presidential candidate Charles W. Bryan, the G. I. Bill of Rights, and Miracle Whip salad...

, and attended college at the University of Tulsa
University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa is a private university awarding bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. It is currently ranked 75th among doctoral degree granting universities in the nation by US News and World Report and is listed as one of the "Best 366 Colleges" by...

. After being selected as a 12th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional football team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The team currently belongs to the North Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League . Founded in , the Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC...

 in the 1949 NFL Draft
1949 NFL Draft
The 1949 National Football League Draft was held on December 21, 1948.-Player selections:-Round one:-Round two:-Round three:-Round four:-Round five:-Round six:-Round seven:-Round eight:-Round nine:-Round ten:...

, he played for several years as defensive back and quarterback, retiring after the 1955 season.

College and CFL career


He served as an assistant coach under Terry Brennan
Terry Brennan
Terence Patrick Brennan is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame from 1954 to 1958, compiling a record of 32–18.-Early life and playing career:...

 at the University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the football team of the University of Notre Dame. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly.Notre Dame competes as an Independent at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level, and is a founding member of the Bowl Championship Series coalition. It is an...

 in 1956, after which he went on to the Calgary Stampeders
Calgary Stampeders
The Calgary Stampeders are a Canadian Football League team based in Calgary, Alberta and named in reference to the Calgary Stampede. The Stampeders play their home games at McMahon Stadium...

 of the Canadian Football League
Canadian Football League
The Canadian Football League or CFL is a professional sports league located in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football, a form of gridiron football closely related to American football....

, where he served as a player/coach before becoming the general manager on October 31, 1957. Finks turned the Stampeders into a winning team. He signed many of the players that made Calgary the winningest team in the CFL during the 1960s, though the team did not win a Grey Cup
Grey Cup
The Grey Cup is both the name of the championship of the Canadian Football League and the name of the trophy awarded to the victorious team. It is Canada's largest annual sports and television event, regularly drawing a Canadian viewing audience of about 3 to 4 million individuals...

 title until 1971. He also signed quarterback Joe Kapp
Joe Kapp
Joseph Robert Kapp is a former professional American and Canadian football quarterback. He is also a former college football head coach of the University of California, and a former general manager of the CFL's BC Lions. Kapp played primarily with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and the CFL's BC Lions...

, who would also later play under Finks in the NFL.

NFL front office


In 1964, Finks was named the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are a professional American football team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings joined the National Football League as an expansion team in 1960...

. In 1968
1968 NFL season
The 1968 NFL season was the 49th regular season of the National Football League. As per the agreement made during the 1967 realignment, the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants switched divisions; the Saints joined the Century Division while the Giants became part of the Capitol Division.The...

, Minnesota
1968 Minnesota Vikings season
1968 was the eighth year of season play for the Minnesota Vikings and the 49th regular season of the National Football League. Under head coach Bud Grant, the Vikings won the NFL Central Division title with a record of eight wins and six losses, as they qualified for post-season play for the...

 won its first NFL Central Division Championship, marking the start of a dynasty that produced 11 division championship teams and four Super Bowl appearances in the following 14 years. In 1969
1969 NFL season
The 1969 NFL season was the 50th regular season of the National Football League, and the last one before the AFL-NFL Merger. To honor the NFL's 50th season, a special anniversary logo was designed and each player wore a patch on their jerseys with this logo throughout the season.As per the...

, the Vikings
1969 Minnesota Vikings season
1969 was the ninth year of season play for the Minnesota Vikings and the 50th regular season of the National Football League. The Vikings again won the NFL Central Division title, as finished with a record of 12 wins and two losses, plus playoff wins over the Los Angeles Rams in the Western...

 won 12 of 14 games and claimed the NFL championship before losing to the American Football League
American Football League
The American Football League was a major American Professional Football league that operated from 1960 until 1969, when the established National Football League merged with it. The upstart AFL operated in direct competition with the more established NFL throughout its existence...

's Kansas City Chiefs
1969 Kansas City Chiefs season
The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs season resulted in a 11–3 record and a 23–7 victory in Super Bowl IV over the NFL’s heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings. The team beat their rivals, the Oakland Raiders in the final AFL Championship Game, claiming their third AFL Championship in franchise history...

 23–7 in Super Bowl IV
Super Bowl IV
Super Bowl IV was the fourth AFL-NFL World Championship Game in professional American football, and the second one to officially bear the name "Super Bowl"...

.

The Vikings team that Finks put together was powered by a dynamic defensive front four, popularly known as The "Purple People Eaters
Purple People Eaters
Purple People Eaters is a term for the defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings from the late 1960s to the late 1970s. The term is a reference to a popular song from 1958, the superb efficiency of the defense, and the color of their uniforms...

". The first member of the unit, defensive end Jim Marshall
Jim Marshall (American football)
James "Jim" Lawrence Marshall played college football at the Ohio State University. He left school before his senior year, and played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. He was then drafted in the 4th round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns...

, came to the Vikings in a 1961 trade before Finks arrived. In 1964
1964 NFL season
The 1964 NFL season was the 45th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season started, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle reinstated Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, who had been suspended for the 1963 season due to...

, the new general manager added two potential stars to the line: end Carl Eller
Carl Eller
Carl Eller is a former professional American football player in the National Football League who played from 1964 through 1979. He was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and attended the University of Minnesota...

 as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft
1964 NFL Draft
The 1964 National Football League Draft took place on December 2, 1963.-Player selections:-Round one:* HOF Member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame-Round two:-Round three:-Round four:...

, and tackle Gary Larsen
Gary Larsen
Gary Larsen was a defensive tackle in the NFL and played college football at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. He started his NFL career in 1964 with the Los Angeles Rams and then became a part of the famous Purple People Eaters for the Minnesota Vikings from 1965 through 1974...

 in a trade. He completed "The Purple People Eaters" in 1967 by picking Alan Page
Alan Page
Alan Cedric Page is a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1963, received his B.A. in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1967, and received his J.D. from the University of...

 in the draft
1967 NFL Draft
The 1967 National Football League Draft was part of the Common Draft in the first year in which the NFL and AFL held a joint draft of college players on March 14–15.-Player selections:-Round one:-Round two:-Round three:-Round four:...

.

In 1967
1967 NFL season
The 1967 NFL season was the 48th regular season of the National Football League. The league expanded to 16 teams with the addition of the New Orleans Saints. The league's teams were realigned into four divisions: the Capitol and Century Divisions in the Eastern Conference, and the Central and...

, Norm Van Brocklin
Norm Van Brocklin
Norman Mack "Norm" Van Brocklin , nicknamed "The Dutchman", was an American football player and coach. He was also a first rate punter in college and in the NFL...

 resigned as head coach and Finks immediately hired Bud Grant
Bud Grant
Harry Peter "Bud" Grant, Jr is the former longtime American football head coach of the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League for eighteen seasons. Grant was the second and fourth head coach of the team...

, who had been a successful coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a Canadian football team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are currently members of the East Division of the Canadian Football League . They play their home games at Canad Inns Stadium, and plan to move to a new stadium for the 2012 season.The Blue Bombers were founded...

 of the CFL for 10 seasons. That year, Finks also brought in a new quarterback, Joe Kapp
Joe Kapp
Joseph Robert Kapp is a former professional American and Canadian football quarterback. He is also a former college football head coach of the University of California, and a former general manager of the CFL's BC Lions. Kapp played primarily with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and the CFL's BC Lions...

, from the CFL. Kapp had played for the Calgary Stampeders when Finks was its General Manager. During the 1969 NFL championship season
1969 NFL season
The 1969 NFL season was the 50th regular season of the National Football League, and the last one before the AFL-NFL Merger. To honor the NFL's 50th season, a special anniversary logo was designed and each player wore a patch on their jerseys with this logo throughout the season.As per the...

, Kapp passed for a record seven touchdowns against the Baltimore Colts
1969 Baltimore Colts season
The 1969 Baltimore Colts season was the 17th season for the team in the National Football League. The Baltimore Colts finished the National Football League's 1969 season with a record of 8 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie...

 and was a major contributor to his team's success.

In 1972
1972 NFL season
The 1972 NFL season was the 53rd regular season of the National Football League. The Miami Dolphins became the first NFL team to finish a championship season undefeated and untied when they beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.-Major rule changes:...

, Finks made another daring trade with the New York Giants
New York Giants
The New York Giants are a professional American football team based in East Rutherford, New Jersey, representing the New York City metropolitan area. The Giants are currently members of the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League...

, this time to bring back Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton
Francis Asbury "Fran" Tarkenton is a former professional football player, TV personality, and computer software executive....

, the quarterback he had traded in 1967. In 1973, the Vikings defeated the Dallas Cowboys
1972 Dallas Cowboys season
The 1972 Dallas Cowboys season was their 13th in the league. The team failed to improve their previous output of 11–3, winning only ten games. They qualified for the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season but settled for the wildcard spot...

 for the NFC championship but lost to the Miami Dolphins
1972 Miami Dolphins season
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only National Football League team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. The undefeated campaign was led by coach Don Shula and notable players Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, and Larry Csonka...

 24–7 in Super Bowl VIII
Super Bowl VIII
Super Bowl VIII was a professional American football game played on January 13, 1974 at Rice Stadium. in Houston, Texas to decide the National Football League champion following the 1973 regular season. The American Football Conference champion Miami Dolphins defeated the National Football...

. It turned out to be the last game with the Vikings for Finks, who that season was named the NFL Executive of the Year. Finks, who had been named a club vice-president in 1972 as a reward for his brilliant work, resigned in May, 1974.

Finks joined the Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League...

, as general manager and executive vice-president. He spent the remainder of the 1974 season
1974 NFL season
The 1974 NFL season was the 55th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl IX when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings...

 studying the Bears player talent as well as opposition players from all around the NFL. The next year, he began employing the same formula he used so well in Minnesota to improve the Bears' talent pool.

The Bears under Finks improved. By 1977
1977 NFL season
The 1977 NFL season was the 58th regular season of the National Football League. The Seattle Seahawks were placed in the AFC West while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were slotted in the NFC Central....

, they reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963. They were a playoff team again in 1979
1979 NFL season
The 1979 NFL season was the 60th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams...

 with a 10–6 record, best-ever for the Finks-led Bears. But Finks' tenure in Chicago ended suddenly in 1982
1982 NFL season
The 1982 NFL season was the 63rd regular season of the National Football League. A 57-day long players' strike reduced the 1982 season from a 16-game schedule per team to an abbreviated nine game schedule...

 when he resigned because George Halas
George Halas
George Stanley Halas, Sr. , nicknamed "Papa Bear" and "Mr. Everything", was a player, coach, owner and pioneer in professional American football. He was the iconic longtime leader of the NFL's Chicago Bears...

 did not consult him in the hiring of Mike Ditka
Mike Ditka
Michael Keller Ditka, Jr. is a former American football NFL player, television commentator, and coach. Ditka coached the Chicago Bears for 11 years and New Orleans Saints for three years. Ditka and Tom Flores are the only two people to win Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach, and a head...

 as head coach.

Finks contributed to one of the most dominant NFL teams of the 1980s. The 1985 Bears
1985 Chicago Bears season
The 1985 Chicago Bears season was their 66th regular season and 16th post-season completed in the National Football League. The club posted a 15-1 record, earning them the top seed in the NFC for the playoffs. The Bears defeated their three post season opponents by a combined score of 91-10 en...

 went over 15–1 in regular season and shut out both the New York Giants
1985 New York Giants season
The 1985 New York Giants season was the 61st season for the club in the National Football League. At the time, the team set a record for most rushing yards in one season by a Giants team.-Regular season:...

 and Los Angeles Rams
1985 Los Angeles Rams season
The 1985 Los Angeles Rams season was the team's 48th year with the National Football League and the 40th season in Los Angeles. The Rams played in the NFC Championship Game but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Eric Dickerson rushed for 1,234 yards in 1985 while missing the...

 in playoff games leading to the Super Bowl.

After leaving the Bears, Finks joined the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago . The Cubs are also one of the two remaining charter members of the National...

 as president and chief executive officer in September 1983. He remained through the 1984 season
1984 Major League Baseball season
-Statistical leaders:-Major league baseball final standings:-Deaths:...

 when the Cubs
1984 Chicago Cubs season
The Chicago Cubs' 1984 season was the 109th season for the Cubs. The team finished with a record of 96-65 in first place of the National League Eastern Division. Chicago was managed by Jim Frey and the general manager was Dallas Green...

 captured the 1984 National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

's Eastern Division
National League East
The National League East Division is one of Major League Baseball's six divisions. The Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies are tied for the most National League East Division titles . All of Atlanta's NL East titles came during a record stretch of 14 consecutive division titles...

 crown.

On January 14, 1986, Finks took charge of a New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are members of the South Division of the National Football Conference of the National Football League ....

 team that never had experienced a winning season in its 19-year history. His first move was to hire a new coach, Jim Mora
Jim E. Mora
James Earnest Mora is the former head coach of the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. He played football at Occidental College where he was also a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. His son Jim L...

. Success came more quickly for Finks in New Orleans than it had in either Minnesota or Chicago. In just his second season
1987 NFL season
The 1987 NFL season was the 68th regular season of the National Football League. A 24-day players' strike reduced the 16-game season to 15. The games that were scheduled for the third week of the season were canceled, but the games for weeks 4–6 were played with replacement players...

, the Saints
1987 New Orleans Saints season
The 1987 New Orleans Saints season was the Saints' 21st season. The Saints qualified for the postseason for the first time, riding largely on a nine-game winning streak to close the season...

 won 12 games for their first winning season ever. Finks was named NFL Executive of the Year for the second time.

When NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle
Pete Rozelle
Alvin Ray "Pete" Rozelle was the commissioner of the National Football League from January 1960 to November 1989, when he retired from office. Rozelle is credited with making the NFL into one of the most successful sports leagues in the world....

 retired in 1989
1989 NFL season
The 1989 NFL season was the 70th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle announced his retirement...

, Finks was at odds-on-choice to replace him. He was unanimously endorsed by the first committee of owners, but eventually another ownership group prevailed with their choice of Paul Tagliabue
Paul Tagliabue
Paul John Tagliabue is a former Commissioner of the National Football League. He took the position in 1989 and was succeeded by Roger Goodell, who was elected to the position on August 8, 2006. Tagliabue's retirement took effect on September 1, 2006. He had previously served as a lawyer for the NFL...

.

Finks died in 1994 in Metairie, Louisiana
Metairie, Louisiana
Metairie is a census-designated place in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States and is a major part of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. Metairie is the largest community in Jefferson Parish. It is an unincorporated area that would be larger than most of the state's cities if it were...

 from lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

. He was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the hall of fame of professional football in the United States with an emphasis on the National Football League . It opened in Canton, Ohio, on September 7, 1963, with 17 charter inductees...

 in 1995. Finks became the first person whose enshrinement was based substantially on achievements with the Saints franchise, though he had also previously built the Vikings and Bears into Super Bowl teams and spent his longest tenure with the Vikings. His son Jim Finks, Jr. authored the 2009 book COLORS: Pro Football Uniforms of the Past and Present.

External links