Minnesota fans remember Jim Finks as the man who elevated the struggling expansion Vikings to championship status. Chicagoans recall him as the executive who restored the Bears' winning tradition.
New Orleans partisans salute Finks as the savior who brought the Saints their first winning season. Finks built perennial losers into playoff and Super Bowl teams in a stellar career as one of football's most respected executives.
He placed indelible stamps upon the Vikings, Bears and Saints. All three franchises flourished with players developed by Finks. Finks drafted nineteen of the Bears’ 22 starters in the Super Bowl XX win over New England. Finks was named the general manager of the Vikings in 1964.
Not a quick-fix artist, his moves were tailored for the long haul. His program began paying dividends four years later when Minnesota won its first of five divisional titles. The Vikings also advanced to the Super Bowl twice during Finks’ tenure in Minnesota that ended following the 1973 season. The Vikings leader was not afraid to make controversial decisions and he proved that in 1966 when coach Norm Van Brocklin and quarterback Fran Tarkenton feuded. Finks traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants. And when Van Brocklin resigned a few months later, Finks tapped an obscure CFL coach, Bud Grant, to lead the Vikings.
The Bears, who had not won a championship since 1963, hired Finks as general manager and executive vice-president just before the 1974 season. The Bears, under Finks’ leadership, were a playoff team again in 1977 and 1979. He resigned following the 1982 season.
In 1986, Finks signed on with the Saints. In his second season at the helm, the Saints became winners for the first time in their 19-season history. Then, in 1991, the team captured its first-ever division crown. A long-time member of the NFL’s competition committee, Finks also played quarterback and defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1949-1955.
James Edward Finks
August 31, 1927
St. Louis, Missouri
May 8, 1994
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame:
January 28, 1995
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame:
July 29, 1995
Enshrined posthumously. Represented by son, Jim Finks, Jr.
Edward W. McCaskey, Chairman of the Board, Chicago Bears
Other Members of Class of 1995: Henry Jordan
, Steve Largent
, Lee Roy Selmon
, Kellen Winslow