The New York Giants (8-5-1) and the Minnesota Vikings (11-3) face off in a key NFC battle this Saturday that has postseason implications.
The two sides don’t have much of a history with each other, having played just 29 times since 1961in which the Vikings hold a 16-10 edge.
There were three postseason meetings, in which the Giants won two, including the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
Perhaps the most common thread the teams have with one another is Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who was traded to the Giants from Minnesota in 1967 and then traded back in 1972.
There was another significant trade between the two teams that rarely gets much recognition. It happened in 1986 when the Giants traded the rights to offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman to the Vikings for two second-round selections in that year’s NFL draft.
The Giants selected cornerback Mark Collins and safety Greg Lasker with those selections. Both players became key contributors on the Giants’ Super Bowl XXI championship team.
Zimmerman had a long career in the NFL, playing first with Minnesota and then with Denver. He was named to seven Pro Bowls and made All-Pro eight times. In addition, Zimmerman was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 1980s and 1990s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
The mystery of why Zimmerman never played for the Giants still remains. He was a perfect fit for the George Young/Bill Parcells team of the 1980s: a versatile lineman who could both pass protect and open holes for the running game.
Here’s the lowdown…
In 1984, the NFL held a supplemental draft for players who signed with other leagues, such as the USFL and the CFL, so that there was no bidding war once these players became free agents. The NFL did not believe the USFL would last and foresaw a glut of free agents hitting the open market when the USFL folded, which it did in August of 1986.
The rights to Zimmerman were selected by the Giants in the first round (third overall) of the 1984 Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players. The Giants chose Zimmerman over defensive end Reggie White, whose rights were taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with the next selection.
Zimmerman, who played three seasons with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, had told the Giants he had no intention of playing in New York.
Over time, the Giants attempted to sign Zimmerman anyway, as per The New York Times, “offering him $1.4 million over four years. But he refused to play for the Giants, saying he did not like New York City, and he unsuccessfully sued to have the N.F.L.’s draft of U.S.F.L. players declared void.”
So, they sent him to Minnesota during the 1986 NFL draft and the rest is history. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, so few cared about Zimmerman and his career afterward.
The Giants went in another direction with their offensive line and fared just fine, winning two Super Bowls. Zimmerman did not get his Super Bowl ring until his final season, 1997, with the Denver Broncos.
It’s just as well Zimmerman did not play in New York. He did not mix well with the media and snubbed them for most of his career. As we know, that doesn’t play well in the media capital of the world.
Still, we wonder “what if.” What if the Giants opted for Reggie White instead of Zimmerman? What if Zimmerman decided to play in New York?
We’ll never know the answer to those questions. Chalk it all up to fate.