The 1969 Minnesota Vikings season was the franchise's 9th season in the National Football League. The Vikings won the NFL Central Division title, finishing with a record of 12 wins and two losses, plus playoff wins over the Los Angeles Rams in the Western Conference Championship Game, as well as the Cleveland Browns in the last NFL Championship Game ever played in the pre-merger era. With these wins, the Vikings became the last team to possess the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, introduced 35 years earlier in 1934.
However, Minnesota lost Super Bowl IV in New Orleans to the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs in the final professional football game between the two leagues. It was the second consecutive Super Bowl win for the younger league.
The Vikings won the last NFL Championship prior to the league's merger with the American Football League. The season was chronicled for America's Game: The Missing Rings, as one of the five greatest NFL teams to never win the Super Bowl.
Minnesota traded their 1st round selection (17th overall) and their 1968 1st round selection (7th overall) to New Orleans for QB Gary Cuozzo.
The New York Giants traded their 2nd round selection (39th overall), 1967 1st round selection (2nd overall), 1967 2nd round selection (28th overall), and 1968 1st round selection (1st overall) to Minnesota for QB Fran Tarkenton.
Minnesota traded their 3rd round selection (69th overall) to Philadelphia for QB King Hill.
Atlanta traded their 5th round selection (106th overall) and 1968 7th round selection (167th overall) to Minnesota for QB Ron Vander Kelen.
Pittsburgh traded Detroit's 5th round selection (112th overall) to Minnesota for RB Bobby Walden.
Minnesota originally chose 147th overall but passed allowing San Diego to move up and Minnesota to choose 147th overall.
Minnesota traded their 7th round selection (173rd overall) to Washington for Safety Paul Krause.
Minnesota originally chose 251st overall but passed allowing San Diego and St. Louis to move up and Minnesota to choose 253rd overall.
Minnesota traded their 16th round selection (407th overall) to Detroit for their 1968 17th round selection (445th overall).
The Vikings, led by head coach Bud Grant, ended the season with an NFL best 12–2 regular season record, leading the older league in total points scored (379) and fewest points allowed (133). They had scored 50 or more points in three different games. They had 12 straight victories, the longest single-season winning streak in 35 years, and became the first modern NFL expansion team to win an NFL championship. Their defense, considered the most intimidating in the NFL, was anchored by a defensive line nicknamed the "Purple People Eaters", consisting of defensive tackles Gary Larsen and Alan Page, and defensive ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall. The secondary was led by defensive backs Bobby Bryant (8 interceptions, 97 return yards), Earsell Mackbee (6 interceptions, 100 return yards), and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Krause (5 interceptions, 82 return yards, 1 touchdown).
On offense, quarterback Joe Kapp was known for his superb leadership and his running ability, both throwing on the run and running for extra yards. And when Kapp did take off and run, instead of sliding when he was about to be tackled like most quarterbacks, he lowered his shoulder and went right at the tackler. This style of play earned him the nickname "Indestructible". In the NFL championship game against Cleveland Browns, he collided with linebacker Jim Houston while running for a first down, and Houston had to be helped off the field after the play ended. Also, Kapp was known for being an extremely unselfish leader: when he was voted the Vikings' Most Valuable Player, he turned the award down and said that every player on the team was equally valuable.
Running back Dave Osborn was the team's top rusher with 643 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 236 yards and another touchdown. In the passing game, Pro Bowl wide receiver Gene Washington averaged 21.1 yards per catch by recording 821 yards and 9 touchdowns off just 39 receptions. Wide receiver John Henderson caught 34 passes for 553 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Vikings offensive line was anchored by Pro Bowlers Grady Alderman and Mick Tingelhoff.
The Vikings clinched the division title in week 11, after their second defeat of the Detroit Lions on November 27, which also secured home field advantage for the NFL playoffs. The playoff sites were rotated until 1975; the Central division hosted the Coastal (as in 1967), and the Western Conference hosted the NFL championship game in odd-numbered years.
^ The October 5 game was played in Minneapolis at Memorial Stadium at the University of Minnesota, due to a clash with the Minnesota Twins hosting game three of the 1969 ALCS at Metropolitan Stadium on Monday, October 6.
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.Led NFL, Points Scored (379)
Led NFL, Fewest Points Allowed (133)
Joe Kapp – 7 passing touchdowns in a single game (NFL Record) – Week 2