'Benchwarmer Bob' Trade Started Vikings-Seahawks Exchange

Posted Jan 8, 2016

When the Vikings and Seahawks meet at noon (CT) Sunday it will mark the 15th time the Vikings and Seahawks have played each other since the Seattle franchise was founded on June 4, 1974 (playing its first game in 1976). The two clubs have been intertwined throughout their history since Seattle’s inaugural season.

Seattle’s first head coach was Jack Patera, who served as the Vikings defensive line coach from 1969-75, under legendary coach Bud Grant. Bob Lurtsema, another household name in Minnesota, was traded to the Seahawks in their debut year for wide receiver Ahmad Rashad and a fourth-round draft pick. Affectionately nicknamed “Benchwarmer Bob” by Vikings fans, Lurtsema went on to start 25 games for Seattle during the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

“It was exciting to be a part of something like that,” Lurtsema said of his role in the team’s start.

When Lurtsema returned to Met Stadium with the Seahawks on Nov. 14, 1976, he received a warm welcome from Vikings fans.

“There’s nothing like it in sports when you come back to play against your old team,” Lurtsema said. “It’s so much fun to go against your old buddies and see those familiar faces.”

Patera’s squad — which included rookie standout Jim Zorn and future Hall of Famer Steve Largent — won two games that first year. As the Seahawks success gradually grew through the years, so did the link between the Minnesota and Seattle franchises. Players shuffled between rosters, East and West across the Interstate 90 corridor.

The list is extensive. From a 1979 trade that sent Purple People Eater Carl Eller to Seattle for his final season, to Percy Harvin donning the green and blue in 2013, to former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson returning to Minnesota on Sunday, 40 years of personnel exchanges exist between the teams.

One of the most highly-charged player moves came in 2006 when perennial All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson came to the Vikings via the now-infamous “Poison Pill” offer sheet as a transition-tag player. The Vikings acquired their coveted lineman and did not have to give compensation to Seattle. Following Seattle’s similar move with Vikings WR Nate Burleson, the NFL intervened and banned the practice.

Hutch’s rugged presence on the offensive line helped the Vikings win consecutive NFC North titles in 2008 and 2009 and advance to the 2009 NFC title game. Hutchinson was All-Pro in 2006, ’07, ’08 and ’09 with the Vikings, going along with the 3 straight he earned in his final 3 seasons in Seattle. Leaving his original team was not an easy decision, especially a team on the rise at the time. Hutchinson’s last game as a Seahawk was Super Bowl XL against Pittsburgh.

Hutchinson was teammates with Vikings Ring of Honor member John Randle from 2001-03 and remained close when he came to Minnesota for the 2006 season. Randle went to the Pro Bowl in ’01 for Seattle after making 6 appearances in the all-star game for the Vikings. Randle put the closing paragraph on his 14-season NFL career (Minnesota 1990-2000, Seattle 2001-03) in Seattle and polished his Hall of Fame resume, racking up 137.5 career sacks, 114 of those in Minnesota, the most in NFL history by a DT. 

Former wide receiver Sidney Rice started his career playing four seasons with the Vikings, before finishing it in Seattle from 2011-2013. Rice played his best season in 2009, recording 1,312 yards on 83 receptions and eight touchdowns. That year, the Vikings won the NFC North division and went to the playoffs, ultimately defeated by New Orleans in the 2009 NFC Championship game.

Minnesota native John Carlson was selected by Seattle in round two of the 2008 NFL Draft. Carlson scored 13 touchdowns in three years with the Seahawks, sitting out 2011 with an injury. As a free agent, Carlson signed with the Vikings in 2012 and played for two seasons before retiring prior to the 2015 season.

Heath Farwell played for the Vikings from 2005-2010, primarily contributing on special teams. Farwell then moved to Seattle where he finished out his career from 2011-2014 and earned a ring for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Former quarterback Warren Moon followed up his long run in Houston with three seasons for the Vikings (going to the Pro Bowl in 1994 and ’95) and two seasons in Seattle.

Former Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice started in the NFL as a player, primarily for the Seahawks, and former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell now holds the same position for the Pacific Northwest team. Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray worked with the Seahawks secondary during the 2010 season.

The connections extend off the field, as well. Current Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll gained invaluable experience under Jerry Burns and Bud Grant, who made a point to locate Carroll for a sideline hug prior to the teams’ last matchup on Dec. 6.

This week, the former co-workers have a chance to see each other again at the Wild Card matchup in what looks to be one of the coldest games in NFL history. It seems somehow fitting. Grant and Carroll spent plenty of games in frigid temperatures long ago, and they will again on Sunday.

Will they share a warm exchange on the sidelines, offer a hello for an old friend? Probably. But when it comes time for kickoff, the two coaches will be hoping for very different outcomes.