[size=12pt]Rocky Flight Into First[/size]
Though jolted by salary disputes and charges of racism, the Vikings have soared to the top of the NFC Central
November 20, 1989
To many Minnesota Viking players, general manager Mike Lynn has long had a reputation as a miserly version of the Wizard of Oz. He's the invisible authority figure who decides destinies with a wave of his hand. "When I joined the team, the veterans took me aside and said, 'That's Mike Lynn. He's the guy you have to worry about,' " says cornerback Carl Lee, a seven-year veteran. "Players on this team are conditioned to fear him."
Until recently, Lynn, 53, did little to dispel this image. He's the only general manager in the league who doesn't attend training camp. He never goes to practice, and until the last few weeks he avoided the locker room on game days. With an estimated annual salary of $1.5 million, Lynn is one of the highest-paid executives in the league. He wears expensive suits purchased at Fred Hay-man of Beverly Hills and owns a national historic landmark mansion in Holly Springs, Miss., where Ulysses S. Grant lived with his family while preparing for the Vicksburg Campaign.
But share the wealth? No way. Lynn regularly boasts about his low player payroll. Going into this season, the Vikings ranked 18th in the league in pay. His rookie wage scale, with its year-and-an-option contracts, cheap salaries and minuscule signing bonuses, is legendary. According to NFL Players Association figures, a rookie who signs with Minnesota is almost invariably the lowest paid of the players drafted in a given round.
One of Lynn's standard lines to agents during stalled negotiations is, "Tell your guy, 'Good luck driving a truck.' " As if that's not insulting enough, when Lynn finally gets the player's name on the dotted line, he brags about how he signed the poor stiff for much less than the market rate.
Lynn offers no apology for his way of doing business. "I'm not here to win a popularity contest," he says. "My most important function is the acquisition of players. Once they're signed, they're the responsibility of the head coach. They're working for him. That has always been my management style."