More than 1,000 miles separated Bud Grant and Fran Tarkenton during a radio interview, but their connection came through clear.
Tarkenton joins "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on KFAN's 9 to Noon every other Monday, and the former quarterback was delighted to receive a surprise call-in from Grant.
"He's my favorite coach of all time," Tarkenton said of Grant, who held the helm in Minnesota from 1967-83 and in 1985.
Of all the decorated coaches Tarkenton interacted with during his 18-season NFL career – including the likes of Don Shula, Tom Landry and Paul Brown – Grant still came out on top.
"My favorite, greatest coach in the history of the world was Harry Peter 'Bud' Grant,' " emphasized Tarkenton.
He's one of the few to use Grant's given name – perhaps appropriate, being that Grant often calls his star quarterback by his full name, Francis.
"The older we get, the better we get, don't we?" Grant quipped.
Tarkenton, who resides in Atlanta, and Grant, who currently is staying at his cabin in northern Wisconsin, picked up where they last left off, a true sign of their lifelong friendship.
The pair of Hall of Famers honored the memory of Shula, who passed away last week; they reminisced and reflected over the air waves, recalling details of games played decades ago.
"He had a great record and was a great competitor," Grant said of Shula, whose 1973 Dolphins defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII.
"They have the Lombardi Trophy, which I'm not a big fan of Vince," added Grant, should one wonder about the history of the Vikings-Packers rivalry. "He's a great coach, but I don't think he did anything near what Shula has done in the coaching field. I think they should have some kind of trophy, some kind of a recognition, for Don Shula for the job he did in the many years he was in the NFL."
In 1972, Shula led Miami to a 17-0 season (14 regular-season games and three playoff wins) and Super Bowl VII victory over Washington. As Grant pointed out, however, the Dolphins "almost didn't" achieve perfection. Minnesota nearly topped Miami Week 3.
The Vikings were flagged for a penalty at the end of the game, allowing the Dolphins to kick a field goal and seal the 16-14 win.
"It just wasn't [meant] to be that day because we sure played good," Tarkenton remembered. "Then we had the break there at the end that didn't go our way."
Grant responded: "That's right. And that's why I say, 'You can be as good as you can be, but you have to be lucky, too.' The penalty and things like that, a fumble, one play in the ball game can make a difference.
"We had our share of good luck; we cannot complain," he added.
Grant will celebrate his 93rd birthday on May 20; Tarkenton is just 13 years younger.
"Bud [has] heard me say this 1,000 times … I would stand next to him, or sit next to him on my helmet, at practice when I wasn't running the offense … because he is the smartest human being I've ever known," Tarkenton said. "Everything he ever said, made sense. Sometimes he [angered] me, but everything he ever said made sense. He never yelled or chewed anyone else, but he got us to do what he wanted us to do to give us the best chance to win. He was a joy to play for."
Tarkenton joined the Vikings for their inaugural 1961 season but was traded to the Giants just before Grant took over for the 1967 campaign. In 1972, Grant brought him back to Minnesota.
Tarkenton called his time in Minnesota, during which the Vikings appeared in four Super Bowls over an 11-year span, "a great run."
"We thought we could win every game. It was a fun run when you're winning your division," he said. "Our division, the Black-and-Blue division … we won six straight years (1973-78)."
Grant recalled that while the Vikings put together consecutive winning seasons, games often weren't nationally televised, so not all fans were privy to Minnesota's success. He joked that assumptions about weather in Minneapolis and the frozen field at Metropolitan Stadium were only half accurate.
"It was all regional television, and the only time they saw us was when we were playing in the snow. They thought we stated playing in the snow in September," Grant quipped. "They didn't realize we had great weather and that we played outdoor games.
"Now you punch in any game you want and you can see it," he added. "They didn't see us until November sometimes, and didn't realize we had a pretty good team."
Times have certainly changed since Grant's days on the sideline, and not only from a broadcast standpoint. He's also watched the worldwide hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl increase every year.
Following his own advice, though, the storied coach refrains from calling one era superior to the other.
"The one thing we've got to be careful of when you get to be our stage of life, you can't compare and say, 'We were better than or worse than,' " Grant told Allen. "The comparisons don't work because football today is better than it's ever been. They've got better players, they've got more players, they've got more money. There's more young men that aspire to be professional football players; therefore, the pool is greater. And scouting is good. I mean, they've got a coaching staff of 28 assistants.
"Let's not compare," he continued. "Let's just appreciate what happened and say it was a great time, but nobody's better than anybody else, and we're just enjoying football."
To listen to Monday's entire 9 to Noon episode on KFAN, click here.