By Zane Miller
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp came into the 1969 season looking to build off of his first winning record at the NFL level the year before, leading the Vikings to an 8-6 record and a postseason appearance. Although Kapp was drafted as the 209th overall pick in 1959 by the Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders), he did not make the roster and instead decided to play in the Canadian Football League. He went on to claim a lot of success at the CFL level, including leading the BC Lions to a championship in 1964, before officially joining the NFL as a member of the Vikings in 1967. Despite being on the team for a relatively short amount of time, Kapp was ready to make a major impact in 1969.
Kapp took his best performance of the season on September 28th at home against the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, with the Vikings easily winning 52-14. However, the truly impressive number would be the seven touchdown passes he would accumulate over the course of the game. After scoring four in the first half alone, Kapp kept the gas pedal down in the second half to match the single-game touchdown record which still stands today, although it has since been tied three more times. In addition to the feat, Kapp threw for a total of 449 yards to further cement the game as one of the best passing performances in NFL history. Minnesota went to 2-0 after the win, eventually finishing at 12-2 with Kapp at quarterback for all 12 victories.
Despite the outstanding game against the Colts, the overall stats for the season would be relatively underwhelming. Kapp finished in a tie for seventh in passing touchdowns with the Philadelphia Eagles’ Norm Snead who also had 19, while his passing yardage would be even lower as he placed outside the top-10 with 1,726 passing yards, 121 behind 10th place Charley Johnson of the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals.
Nonetheless, the Vikings were set to take on the Coastal Division champion Los Angeles Rams in the first round of the playoffs. Despite having home field advantage, Minnesota was down 17-7 at halftime before a second half defensive stand and a quick turnaround offensively enabled the Vikings to claim a 23-20 victory to advance to the final NFL Championship Game in league history. Although Kapp threw for 196 yards on the day, he was also unable to find the end zone through the air and gave up two interceptions. However, the next round saw him bounce back to keep the team’s championship hopes alive.
Unlike the first round of the playoffs, which saw both the Rams and Vikings go down to the last minutes of the fourth quarter, the NFL Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns would be decided well before the final whistle. With the teams again meeting in Bloomington, Minnesota jumped ahead to a 24-0 halftime lead. Not much would change in the second half either, with the Vikings going on to win 27-7 for their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Kapp scored one passing touchdown, finding All-Pro wide receiver Gene Washington in the first quarter, to go along with 169 passing yards and no interceptions.
Taking on the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans for the Super Bowl IV title, the Vikings fell behind early on, going down 16-0 at halftime. However, unlike their matchup against the Rams, the team would be unable to recover as the Chiefs held them to just one touchdown on the game to take the 23-7 win. Kapp was again unable to find the end zone despite passing for 183 yards, with a pair of interceptions mixed in to help seal the team’s fate.
Despite the incredible run throughout the postseason, Kapp and the Vikings would be unable to reach an agreement for the 1970 season, leading to him joining the Boston (now New England) Patriots in their first season as members of the NFL. Although the Patriots signed him to a four-year contract, this would backfire massively as Kapp went 1-9 with the team in 1970, then abruptly retired during training camp in 1971.
Following the retirement of his playing career, Kapp became head coach of the NCAA’s California Golden Bears football team from 1982 to 1986, before claiming the head coaching job for the Sacramento Attack of the Arena Football League in the team’s lone season in Sacramento in 1992. In 1984, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, with his #22 jersey also being officially retired by the BC Lions.
With all of the statistics in mind, I grade Kapp’s 1969 season at a B. Although a 12-1 record is impressive and a seven-touchdown game rightfully deserves to be remembered, the struggles in overall statistics in both the regular season and playoffs keeps this season from reaching the next level.
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