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Profile: Jim Finks - I

Jim Finks, Tulsa

Jim Finks, Steelers

Carl Eller

Walter Payton

No one in Saints history is more responsible for making the club competitive following two decades of futility than Jim Finks, who became General Manager in 1986.
  • A native of St. Louis, Finks played QB at the University of Tulsa. The Pittsburgh Steelers made him the 12th pick in the 1949 NFL Draft.
  • In 1952, when the Steelers became the last team in the league to convert from the single wing to the T-formation, Finks became the starting QB after playing his first three years as a DB.
  • That season he tied Cleveland's Otto Graham for the league lead in TD passes with 20 and earned a Pro Bowl invitation.
  • Jim retired after the 1955 season after completing 661 passes for 8,622y and 55 TDs.

Jim turned to coaching right after leaving the NFL but it turned out that his playing career wasn't over.

  • After coaching a year under Terry Brennan at Notre Dame, Jim joined the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
  • Following a year as an assistant coach and player, Finks became a scout and then the general manager for the 1958 season.
  • Showing a good eye for talent, Jim signed the players that made Calgary the winningest team in the CFL during the 1960s. The most famous player who joined the Stampeders on Jim's watch was QB Joe Kapp.

The Minnesota Vikings hired Finks as their General Manager for the 1964 season, the expansion franchise's fourth year in the NFL after winning only ten games their first three seasons.

  • Believing a team should be built around defense, his first draft pick in the NFL was DE Carl Eller, who became a perennial All-Pro who became enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Over the next few years, Finks complemented Eller on the D-line with the other three members of the famous "Purple People Eaters."
  • Other acquisitions included S Paul Krause (in a trade from Washington), OT Ron Yary (drafted).
  • Another key player he acquired was Joe Kapp, his QB at Calgary who would lead the Vikings to Super Bowl IV.
  • Most of all, Finks hired head coach Bud Grant, whom he knew as the coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 10 years in the CFL.
  • By 1968, Jim had built Minnesota into the "Black and Blue Division" champions. That started a streak of ten division titles in 11 seasons for the Vikings.

In 1974, Jim moved to Minnesota's NFC North rivals in Chicago after a dispute with the Vikings' principal owners over the location of a new stadium.

  • As Executive Vice President and GM, he worked his magic again in the Windy City with a team that had suffered through seven straight non-winning seasons.
  • His approach was to avoid the "quick fix" mentality and instead build for the long haul. As one member of his staff said, Jim Finks does not build teams. He builds organizations. Then the good teams follow naturally.
  • As in Minnesota, he hit the jackpot with his very first draft pick - RB Walter Payton from Jackson State. All he did was become the centerpiece of the Bears' offense. He gained 16,726y over his 13-year career and, like Eller, ended up in Canton.
  • Other Hall of Famers he drafted in Chicago were MLB Mike Singletary and DE Dan Hamption.
  • By 1977, Jim had Chicago back in the postseason for the first time since their championship season of 1963.
  • He left the Bears in 1982 following owner George Halas's hiring of Mike Ditka as Head Coach without consulting the GM.
  • Ditka won the Super Bowl three years later with a roster on which 19 of the 22 starters were acquired by Finks.

Jim next brought his talents to a different sport, baseball.

  • He was no stranger to that game, having played two years of minor league ball while with the Steelers.
  • The Cubs made him their president and chief executive officer near the end of the '83 season.
  • Was it a coincidence that the club won the NL East in 1984 for the first time? They fell one-game short of the franchise's first World Series appearance since 1945.
  • But once again his tenure ended with a dispute with management. He resigned when the team and then baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth undercut his promise of Chicago fans that Wrigley Field would not need lights.

Finks was working for a Chicago public relations firm when he was contacted by Tom Benson, the new owner of the New Orleans Saints.

To be continued ...

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Saints Saga Archives - I

First Draft
Dazzling Debut: Archie Manning
Dazzling Debut: John Fourcade
The Sad Tale of Russell Erxleben
Could've, would've, should've
Profile: Billy Kilmer
"Shut that music off!"
Record Setter: Seven INTs
Profile: Morten Andersen
Memorable Game: Aints No More
Mascots to Fit the Team
Saints Get Moore from Lance

Saints Saga Archives - II

Bobby Hebert's Terrible Year
Memorable Game: Rams 10/23/94
Bum Takes Over
Dazzling Debut: Aaron Brooks
The Longest Boo
Profile: Tom Dempsey
The Love Affair Started Early
Record Breaker: 12 TD Passes
Firsts: Andersen Points, OT Victory
The Great Pizza Revolt

Saints Saga Archives - III

Profile: Ironhead Heyward
"One of the Oddest Two-Play Sequences in Saints History
"The Man Belongs in the Hall of Fame"
Profile: Michael Haynes
Ditka's Regime
First Victory
Memorable Game: Raiders 1979

Saints Saga Archives - IV

Streak Buster:Tampa Bay 1977
Dazzling Debut: Deuce McAllister
First 2-0 Start
"The Case of the Purloined Playbook"
Profile: Danny Abramowicz
"Black Sunday"
Dixon's Quest
Record-Setting Punt Returner
Profile: Bum Phillips
Memorable Game: Bears 1977

Saints Saga Archives - V

First 1,000y Rusher
Dazzling Debut: Marcus Dowdell
River City Relay
Emeril Helps the Saints I & II
Profile: Boy Owner I & II
We Sucked!
Profile: Bobby Hebert I, II, & III

Saints Saga Archives - VI

Hank Returns to KC
Streak Buster: Lone 1980 Win
Say Two Hail Marys and Beat the Saints
That Penalty Hurt!
Record Setter: Sam Mills 1992
Unlikely Victory
Big Plays Win It
First NFL Game in Mexico
Payton-Brees Regime Begins

Saints Saga Archives - VII

Take Me Out to the Brawl Game
Profile: Don Reese I and II
Memorable Games: Vince's Redskins I, II, III
Dobler Returns to the Dome I and II
Saints in Blue and Gold?
Walter Payton Gets the Record
Saints-49ers Shootout

Saints Saga Archives - VIII

Record-Setting Performance: Joe Horn 2003
Not So Dazzling Debut - Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson
Memorable Game: Pearl Harbor Day Disaster 1980
Memorable Game: Saints-Eagles 2007 Playoffs
Record-Setter: George Rogers
He looks funny in white pants
Profile: Monty Stickles

Saints Saga Archives - IX

Season in Time: 1987

Saints Saga Archives - X

Biggest Margins in Saints History
Firsts: Seven Wins, NFC Player of Year - 1978
Streak Buster: 1980 Opener

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