Friday, November 9, 2012

1994 - The Minnesota Vikings Pursuit of Scott Mitchell in Free Agency

We use Newspaper, Magazine, and website archives to help us tell the story of the Vikings pursuit of Scott Mitchell.

The Vikings 1993 Starting QB Situation

The Vikings signed Jim McMahon to a 2 year contract to be there starting quarterback in 1993 (9tds, 8 ints., 1,969 yds., 76.2 QB Rating, Vikings finished 3rd in the NFC Central and made playoffs as a Wildcard.  Lost to the New York Giants 17-10).  After the season, the Vikings decided to cut McMahon instead of paying him the $2.1 million due to him for the 1994 season. 

Click on Article to enlarge.


Scott Mitchell's Opportunity

In Week 5 of the 1993 season, the Dolphins lost starting QB Dan Marion to a achilles injury against the Cleveland Browns.  Scott Mitchell, a 2nd year back-up QB finished the game for the Dolphins.
Click on Article to enlarge.

Click on Article to enlarge.

Marino was out for the season, and Mitchell was the starting QB for Dolphins for the rest of the season.  Mitchell was initially succesful as a starting QB for the Dolphins.

Click on Article to enlarge.

Mitchell missed a couple of games with a injury himself, and was not as effective upon his return.  The Dolphins collapsed down the stretch, and became the first team ever to miss the playoffs after starting 9-3.  Mitchell finished the season with 12 tds., 8 ints., 1,773 yds. and a 84.2 QB Rating.  Mitchell was also a free agent.  His 1993 role as the man in Miami was enough to make him a very coveted commodity in the NFL's March 1994's free agency.  

1994 Free Agency

Some highlights from the article that will interest Vikings fans.

...Then he was off to Minneapolis, where everything looked right. Good offensive weapons, young coaching staff, new and wise receivers' guru (Jerry Rhome), no long-term quarterback. Viking vice president Jeff Diamond asked Agnone if $10 million over three years would get the deal done; the figures were pleasing to Agnone and Mitchell. At the Vikes' training complex Mitchell passed free-agent offensive tackle Chris Hinton in a hallway. It was no coincidence; the Vikings wanted to show Mitchell they were intent on building a great front wall for him. Mitchell pulled Hinton aside and asked, "What are you going to do?"

"Go here, if they offer me the right money," Hinton said. Minnesota did, and that weekend Hinton signed.
On Friday, Agnone went home to Baltimore and the Mitchells went to Florida for the weekend. That evening Scott called Agnone. Kim's visit to the Minneapolis suburbs had gone well, and Scott loved the Viking coaches and offense. Scott said, "Tell Minnesota if they offer $10.5 million over three, a Metrodome luxury box and a down payment on a house, we're there."
Whoa, Agnone counseled. The Viking money will still be there in a week. Relax. Take your last two visits, to Los Angeles and New Orleans.  "A moment of temporary insanity," Mitchell said later. "I realized if I didn't take all the trips, I might regret it later."...

...Then Fontes stepped up again. Realizing the Lions had fallen behind the Vikings in the Mitchell stakes, he called the quarterback and asked him if he would meet Friday with Fontes and the Lion offensive architects, Dave Levy and Tom Moore. Come on down, Mitchell said. That afternoon, Bernie Kosar, a free-agent quarterback as well as a buddy of the Mitchells', called. He told Kim, "I canceled my visit to Detroit. They only want Scott. They'll die if they don't get him."...

...At 10 a.m. Saturday, Agnone and partner Howard Schatzky, in their office north of Baltimore, started playing Lions against Vikings over the phone. By 2:30 in the afternoon, Detroit stood at three years, $10 million—including the kind of bonus, $3 million, that Mitchell wanted. Minnesota came way up on its bonus offer, from $900,000 to $2.4 million, in a three-year, $10.2 million package. Diamond said he was tapped out, and he'd previously told Agnone he wouldn't offer a huge bonus. So Agnone called Mitchell, told him he thought he could boost Detroit's bonus to maybe $5 million, but not Minnesota's, and asked Mitchell what he wanted to do....

...Scott, his college-sweetheart wife and their 3-year-old poodle, Bart, set off for a walk around their posh suburban block. This was it. No phones. No pleas. No $400 dinners. In one hour Scott would know exactly where his football future lay, and he knew that he and Kim could pick it. Minnesota, Detroit. Detroit, Minnesota. Barry Sanders, Cris Carter. Henry Thomas, Chris Spielman. Dennis Green, Wayne Fontes.

"I don't want to decide," Kim said. "You decide. I just want it to be over."

"No," he said. "This is both of us."

She said she would be happy to live in either place, though she preferred Minnesota. He said that while they really liked Minnesota, they didn't dislike Detroit, and they couldn't think of a reason not to live there. The bonus thing nagged at both of them. Scott kept thinking, If the Lions offer me a huge bonus, they'll stick with me. If the Vikings don't, they might not. Scott stopped. "I'm gonna call Tony and tell him to try Detroit," he said.

If Mitchell would accept a salary structure of $1.4 million, $2 million and $2.6 million, Detroit would then have $100,000 more for their cap in 1994. "No problem," Agnone said. At 4:20 p.m., the deal was done.

The Vikings didn't go down without a fight. Diamond urged Mitchell to talk with him on Sunday. Mitchell thanked him and said he would talk but wouldn't change his mind. He was a Lion.

Schmidt flew to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night, contract in hand. Mitchell signed just after noon on Sunday. "I'm going to a good football team, a team that really wants me and proved it," Mitchell said. "I'm at peace."....

Mitchell's Time with the Lions

Don Banks of Sport Illustrated summarizes Mitchell's 5 seasons with the Lions:

Mitchell's name often comes up as a cautionary tale for NFL executives who are ready to throw big money at back-up QB's that thrived as a fill-in and enter free agency.  (Rob Johnson, Matt Cassel, Matt Flynn, Kevin Kolb, etc.)

The Vikings dodged a bullet.

Vikings Plan B

The Vikings traded for Warren Moon.

Click on Article to enlarge.

Moon passed for over 4,200 yards in each of his first two seasons, but missed half of the 1996 season with a broken collarbone. The Vikings' starting quarterback job was given to Brad Johnson and Moon was released after he refused to take a $3.8 million pay cut to serve as Johnson's backup.
The Vikings made the playoffs in Moon's first year, but lost to the Chicago Bears 18-35.

No comments:

Post a Comment