|Birth: ||Aug. 31, 1927|
St. Louis County
|Death: ||May 8, 1994|
LUNG CANCER KILLS SAINTS' FINKS: - May 10, 1994
Jim Finks, the New Orleans Saints' president and general manager who nearly became National Football League commissioner in 1989, has died of lung cancer. He was 66.
Mr. Finks died Sunday night (May 8, 1994) at his home, Saints spokesman Rusty Kasmiersky said.
A front-office dealmaker for the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings as well as the Saints, Mr. Finks also had success in baseball, helping the Chicago Cubs win the National League East title in 1984.
Five years ago, he was the choice of a six-man selection committee to become commissioner of the NFL, a league he had been in for 40 years as a player, coach and general manager. However, he was able to get only 18 of 21 votes from the owners.
The job, given up by Pete Rozelle, eventually went to Paul Tagliabue, who made Mr. Finks chairman of the competition committee - the body that recommends rules changes.
Tagliabue called Mr. Finks a great contributor to football.
"Jim Finks had a vision for the game that stood the test of time," Tagliabue said in a statement. ". . . He contributed enormously to sports and also to the communities in which he lived."
Rozelle said Mr. Finks' versatility was evident in 1964, when he began building the Vikings into a championship team.
"Jim Finks was one of those rare individuals in sports who could do it all, and in fact did it all very well," Rozelle said. "It wasn't a coincidence that he subsequently built winning clubs in Chicago and New Orleans."
Mr. Finks, a heavy smoker, battled lung cancer since April 1993. Doctors diagnosed an advanced case of the disease when he went to the hospital after the NFL draft.
After undergoing chemotherapy in 1993, he was unable to return to work. Saints owner Tom Benson retained him as a consultant but did not replace him as president and general manager.
When Mr. Finks joined the Saints in January 1986, the team had gone 19 years without a winning season and was best known for its fans wearing paper bags over their heads and calling themselves the "Aints" during the 1-15 season in 1980.
In Mr. Finks' first season, the Saints finished 7-9 - their only losing record after his arrival.
The next year, the Saints went 12-3, their first winning season and the second best in the NFL, and won their first playoff game.
By 1991, the 25th anniversary of the franchise, New Orleans won the National Football Conference West Division with an 11-5 mark.
"He meant so much to this organization," said Saints coach Jim Mora, who was hired by Mr. Finks. "He was the glue that held everything together. When Jim was here in the office you felt like everything was going to be OK. He had a very positive influence on everyone who came into contract with him."
Despite Mr. Finks' reputation as a tough man to deal with at contract time, Mora said there was a totally different side that most never saw.
"He was always able to come around when things were tough and pick everybody up," Mora said. "He could always bounce back quickly from adversity, from a tough loss. He would always think about the positive and say, 'Hey, let's go on to the next goal and the next objective.' "
Mr. Finks, a native of Salem, Ill., entered the NFL as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1949. He played three seasons as a defensive back, then moved to quarterback when the Steelers switched from the single wing to the T-formation. He also played professional baseball in 1949 and 1950.
He made the Pro Bowl in 1952, and in the preseason of 1955 beat out Johnny Unitas to keep the quarterback job with the Steelers. "I threw 26 interceptions that season and retired," Finks joked. "And Johnny Unitas was never heard from again."
In 1956, Mr. Finks joined Calgary of the Canadian Football League as a scout and moved up to general manager the next season. He helped Calgary win the Grey Cup, the CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl, then moved to Minnesota in 1964.
He hired Bud Grant in 1967, and the Vikings went on to dominate the NFC Central, advancing to the Super Bowl twice in Mr. Finks' stay, 1969 and 1973.
He assumed additional duties of executive vice president in 1969. In his last four seasons with them, the Vikings won 47 games.
Mr. Finks joined the Bears' front office two days before the regular season in 1974, restoring a leaderless team that had faltered since its championship in 1963.
Before his departure in 1983, Mr. Finks constructed one of the NFL's most dominating teams. He acquired 19 of the 22 starters for a Bears team that compiled a 15-1 record in 1985 and crushed the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl
Mr. Finks is survived by his wife, Maxine, and four sons - Jim, David, Dan and Tom. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Maxine Anne Stemmons Finks (1930 - 1999)*
Sacred Heart Cemetery
Created by: L Winslow
Record added: Nov 02, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 31085753
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DEAR JIM--BLESS YOU. I WISH YOU WERE ALIVE AND WELL AND BE THE GM FOR THE BEARS. WE ALL MISS YOU.|
Added: Dec. 16, 2014
Added: Nov. 10, 2014
Much respect. God bless you Mr. Finks.|
Added: Jan. 21, 2011
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