Daughter: First Vikings coach, former Eagle Van Brocklin 'would have been excited' for Philadelphia Super Bowl win
ATLANTA—When Karen Vanderyt has guests in her Atlanta home to watch football, there is one important rule.
"If you're going to talk, you have to go to a different room because I'm serious about watching my football," she said.
Vanderyt was even more locked in than usual after inviting 10 family members and friends to her home for Super Bowl LII on Sunday. She is the daughter of the late Norm Van Brocklin, the quarterback who led the Philadelphia Eagles to what had been their last NFL title in 1960.
That changed when the Eagles, behind Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles at quarterback, defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 at U.S. Bank Stadium. While talking during the game might have been frowned upon by Vanderyt, cheering was fine.
"I was jumping out of my seat," she said. "Everybody was rooting for the Eagles."
Vanderyt, 67, was 10 when she attended Philadelphia's previous title game victory, a 17-13 decision over the Green Bay Packers at chilly Franklin Field on Dec. 28, 1960.
The family then moved to the Twin Cities when Van Brocklin became the first coach of the expansion Vikings in 1961, a job he held through the 1966 season. Vanderyt remained in Minnesota until graduating from Wayzata High School in 1968.
Vanderyt's daughter, Janna Tebbs, lives in Chanhassen with her family. She was rooting for the Vikings in their 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game Jan. 21 at Philadelphia.
Van Brocklin, nicknamed "The Dutchman," was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and also coached the Atlanta Falcons from 1968-74. He died of a heart attack at his farm in Social Circle, Ga., at age 57 in 1983.
With the Eagles celebrating their first championship in 57 years, Vanderyt's mind flashed back this week to their first one. She doesn't remember much about the game other than being "very cold" sitting in the stands in 28-degree temperatures. Most of her memories are about the celebration.
"I went to the game with both my grandmothers, my mother and my two sisters," Vanderyt said. "My mother (Gloria) stayed back after the game and partied with my dad, and the rest of us rode the train back. ... My grandma Ethel Mae, my father's mother, was on Cloud 9. She was singing and everybody was just having a grand old time. She was so proud of her son. She kept saying, 'Hot diggity dog,' over and over again."
The enthusiasm wore off shortly after a season in which the brash Van Brocklin was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. Van Brocklin, who played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1949-57 and the Eagles from 1958-60, had planned to retire as a player and was expected to take over as head coach from the retiring Buck Shaw.
"He had been promised the head-coaching job at the end of the season," Vanderyt said. "He had a handshake deal. There was nothing in writing, and that was his mistake. They said they wanted him to come back as player-coach, but he wanted to retire on top. He said, 'That's not what we agreed upon.' So he left Philadelphia on a bad note."
The Eagles hired Nick Scorich, who had been a Philadelphia assistant, as head coach, and Van Brocklin headed to Minnesota. In six seasons, Van Brocklin's Vikings went 29-51-4 and never made the playoffs. Their only winning season under him was 8-5-1 in 1964.
"My father was a proud man and he worked very hard and was very demanding," Vanderyt said. "He pushed himself, and I guess he assumed that everybody else would do that, too. It worked in his college years (at Oregon) and when he played in the NFL because his teammates saw how demanding he was of himself, but somehow it didn't translate, I don't think, when he was a coach."
The stubborn Van Brocklin had a legendary feud with Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, whom he wanted to be more of a pocket passer than a scrambler. Tarkenton balked and demanded a trade, and Van Brocklin's strained relationship with the quarterback played a role in his Feb. 11, 1967, decision to resign.
"Toward the end, I think my dad was hurt by Francis Tarkenton," Vanderyt said. "They truly had a clash. It hurt my dad on a personal level. He thought Francis was more interested in himself than the team. ... I'm sorry that Tarkenton has held a grudge against my father all these years, but for my father it eventually was history as far as he was concerned."
Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants on March 7, 1967, three days before Bud Grant was named to replace Van Brocklin, but returned to play for Minnesota from 1972-78. He couldn't be reached for comment.
In a 2015 interview, while touring the hall of fame in Canton, Ohio, with family members, Tarkenton provided an indication he didn't have anything good to say about Van Brocklin. "That's my first coach," Tarkenton said, pointing to Van Brocklin's bust. "We'll move on."
While it didn't end well for Van Brocklin in Minnesota, Vanderyt said her memories of his time with the Vikings are mostly positive.
"My father and my mom always had a barbecue at the house before they'd go off to training camp, and all the players and their wives and their children would come," she said. "And after the season, my mom and my dad always had a Christmas party for them. My mom would make cookies and fudge.
"I can remember (defensive end) Jim Marshall coming over and (defensive end) Carl Eller. I mean, Eller was so huge. I just remember being in awe of him walking down the hall."
Van Brocklin and his wife had three children. Lynne, 66, lives in Atlanta, and Judy is deceased.
Shortly before the family left Minnesota for Atlanta, the Van Brocklins adopted three children. One, a son, is deceased, and one son and one daughter live in Georgia.
Gloria Van Brocklin died in 1987 at age 63. Shortly after her husband's death, Vanderyt said her mother donated his 1960 MVP trophy, his Eagles No. 11 jersey and other items from Van Brocklin's career to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At her home in Atlanta, Vanderyt has a replica Van Brocklin jersey as well as other trophies and memorabilia from his playing and coaching days.
In 2010, the Eagles invited Vanderyt and family members to a 50th anniversary celebration for the 1960 championship team at a game against the Vikings on Dec. 28, 2010, at Lincoln Financial Field.
When the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC championship game last month, Vanderyt said she remained neutral because her father had ties to both teams.
"My attitude was, may the best team win," she said.
Tebbs, though, was pulling for the Vikings. Her husband, Adam, got a job last year as a financial analyst with Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie. So the couple moved to Chanhassen with their two children.
"I wanted (the Vikings) to be able to play in the Super Bowl right here," said Janna Tebbs, 37, a communications specialist. "One of our neighbors is a diehard Vikings fan and he was sort of surprised when we told him that my grandfather was the first coach. ... That's deep history, but some folks do remember the name."
Vanderyt is a writer and has written about her father's football career. She said he eventually got over not being named Eagles coach, and Vanderyt figures he would have been pleased with their Super Bowl victory on Sunday.
"I thought about that after the game," she said. "I know he would have been very excited. My father was terribly hurt (at not getting the job), but you pick yourself up and you move on. He remained close to number of players from that team. That was a unique season for him in 1960, and this was such an exciting story for the Eagles."