This is the latest post in Kurt’s continuing series to identify the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player of All-Time. For an explanation of his methodology for choosing each franchise’s ultimate franchise player, and then how you and he will choose the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player from that list, click here.
Of Purple People Eaters and men…
The 50+ year history of the Minnesota Vikings has not been a bad one.
From 1969 through 1976 the franchise went 87-24-1, a regular season winning percentage of a cool .781.
All that is remembered though are the four Super Bowl losses. And now the franchise has not been back in the big game for 36 years and counting.
Incidentally, NFL Films offered to mic Bud Grant as they famously did counterpart Hank Stram in Super Bowl IV. Ice Cold Bud declined, part of the reason (besides the Vikes being dominated) Stram was made out as a rock-star in the NFL Films production while the Vikings look like a pro wrestling jobber just showing up.
There have been other chances for the Vikings since the 1970s. There was the dominating 15-1 team in 1998, perhaps one of the best teams ever not to make the Super Bowl.
Then of course there was Brett Favre and 2009.
What the purple does have is quality and legendary players from each decade, which helps to divide each era for my latest 32-player bracket for Ultimate Franchise Player. You can look up the pictures and profiles of the players chronicled here from a top-50 list the franchise itself did from a few years back.
BUD GRANT BRACKET
#1 Alan Page (DT 1967-78, HOF) v. #8 Joe Kapp (QB 1967-69)
Inducted into the Hall of Fame on the second ballot in 1988, Page remains one of the top defensive tackles of all time.
For his career he is unofficially credited with close to 150 sacks, and he recovered seven fumbles in the 1970 season alone. His Vikings career ended when he showed up at camp underweight one season and landed in Bud Grant’s doghouse and eventually on waivers. Page then played his final 3 ½ seasons with the rival Chicago Bears.
For the last two decades Page has been an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, and he started working on his legal career even before his football days ended. On and off the gridiron, Alan Page has been an incredible success story.
Joe Kapp was not with the Vikings or even in the NFL long. He played his first several years in Canada. Kapp did get the Vikings to their first Super Bowl however, and he also threw seven TDs in a game during the 1969 season.
The following year Kapp held out despite the fact that management had leverage in those days. Kapp ultimately signed with the Boston Patriots as a free agent, but the Pats had to give up a player and a future first-round draft choice as compensation. You can see Kapp on a horrible Boston team playing the Vikes on a sheet of ice at Harvard Stadium from late in the ’70 season here.
After throwing three touchdowns versus 17 interceptions, Kapp again butted heads with management over a contract. The Pats drafted a QB with the first overall pick in ’71, and Joe never played another down in the NFL.
Kapp ultimately won a lawsuit against the league, but he did not get monetary compensation. His case is often compared to that of Curt Flood in Major League Baseball.
#4 Paul Krause (S 1968-79) v. #5 Mick Tingelhoff (C 1962-78)
Yes, all four top seeds in the Grant Bracket are Hall of Fame Inductees. Krause is still the NFL’s all-time leading interceptor with 81 picks. He played 16 years in all, his first four seasons with the Washington Redskins.
Mick Tingelhoff went undrafted out of the University of Nebraska, but he wound up quickly becoming a starter and spent his entire 17-year career with the Vikings and has his number retired by the organization. Mick started 240 consecutive games and was a six-time Pro Bowler during the 1960’s.
Not bad for #4 v. #5…
#3 Carl Eller (DE 1964-78, HOF) v. #6 Bill Brown (FB/ST 1962-74)
Eller officially recorded 130 sacks while with the Purple, and he was a first-team All Pro on five occasions, along with being 1971 Defensive Player of the Year.
The greatest cross-sport tribute?? The Montreal Canadiens have had a player the past couple of years named Lars Eller, his jersey number is 81.
Bill Brown was a punishing runner from the early days of the franchise. He scored 76 times in his career and was a special teams contributor later in his career.
#2 Ron Yary (OT 1968-81, HOF) v. #7 Ahmad Rashad (WR 1976-82)
Many think of the University of Southern California as a running back factory through the years. The school has also been pretty good in terms of offensive tackles. Yary earned All-Pro recognition for seven consecutive seasons during the 70’s.
Rashad gets off the bubble and into the field on simply being a nemesis. 1980 Hail Mary v. Cleveland quickly comes to mind. I Also remember him burning the Packers on third-and –forever in overtime the previous season.
In his pre-Minnesota days, Rashad was also involved in a 98-yard play in which he somehow did not score.
Those left out by the selection committee include 1960’s offensive tackle Grady Alderman (six-time Pro Bowler) and running back/North Dakota alum Dave Osborne.
JERRY BURNS BRACKET
#1 Fran Tarkenton (QB 1961-66, 1972-78, HOF) v. #8 Tommy Kramer (QB 1977-89)
Tarkenton is like the loser of the ACC title game. He still gets a #1 seed, just in a different timeframe … just like Duke going to the West Regional.
Fran had two tours of duty in Minnesota, the first six years as the team was an expansion franchise and when he became famous for his scrambling ability. After spending five years with the NY Giants, Fran was traded back to the Vikes and had some of his finest seasons later in his career, completing over 60% of his passes in five of his final six seasons.
At 6’1”, Fran remains a classic case on how an elite quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to be tall.
Tommy Kramer was drafted late-first round in 1977 to become Tarkenton’s eventual successor. Kramer had a checkered and sometimes controversial career, marked by a couple of documented battles with the bottle.
Before a Vikings/Bears game in 1986, Kramer was brought on-air on a Chicago radio station to talk about the upcoming contest. The segment wound up being infamous as Kramer went on-air with slurred speech, leading many to believe he may have been under the effects of some sort of alcohol/concussion combo.
Midway through the interview one of the hosts (possibly fearing the station was being Catfished) interrupted Kramer and asked – ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL??’, then followed up by asking Kramer the location of Vikings Training Camp.
After the phone conversation, the two hosts spent several minutes debating if it was really Kramer that was on the phone.
Ironically Kramer had his best season as a pro that year and led the league with a 92.6 passer rating.
#4 Gary Zimmerman (OT 1986-92, HOF) v. #5 Chuck Foreman (HB 1973-79)
Zimmerman split his Hall of Fame career between the Vikings and the Denver Broncos following a stint in the USFL.
Chuck Foreman earned Pro Bowl berths in his first five seasons in the league, and twice went over 1,700 yards from scrimmage in 14-game seasons. Like many running backs, Foreman flamed out quickly and in all lasted only last eight years in the league.
Doleman recorded 96.5 sacks during his ten years with the Vikings, and 150.5 sacks for his career. He led the league with 21 sacks in 1989 and also had five fumble recoveries.
Keith Millard recorded an amazing 18 sacks out of the defensive tackle position in 1989, but tore up his knee soon after and would never again be nearly as dominant a force in the league.
#2 Jim Marshall (DE 1961-79) v. #7 Matt Blair (OLB 1974-85)
If Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ was based on Jim Marshall’s life it would not be a surprise.
He was one part of a snowmobile party that became stranded during a blizzard, Marshall and others literally burned money to light a fire and stay alive.
He accidentally shot himself cleaning his gun in 1964, the same year of his infamous ‘wrong-way run’.
Marshall has also wrecked his hang-glider, suffered broken ribs and a broken vertebrae in a 2001 car crash, was once pronounced dead on the operating table, and also beat prostate cancer.
He also started 282 consecutive games in the National Football League, the final 270 as a member of the Vikings, including the week after he shot himself. He still ranks second to punter Jeff Feagles in consecutive games played.
Marshall amazingly is still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Part of the case against him is that he only earned Pro Bowl recognition twice.
Matt Blair made the Pro Bowl six consecutive years at the height of his 12-year career, was also remembered as a force on special teams blocking opponent’s kicks.
Burns Bracket Omissions: Wally Hilgenberg played 12 years with the Vikings and participated in all four Super Bowls, but was never a Pro Bowl selection. Inside backer Scott Studwell (1977-90) patrolled the middle and recorded a ton of tackles.
DENNIS GREEN BRACKET
#1 Cris Carter (WR 1990-2001, HOF) v. #8 Matt Birk (C 1998-2008)
Cris Carter was infamously cut by Eagles coach Buddy Ryan early in his career because ‘all he can do is catch touchdowns’.
Carter wound up catching 110 of his 130 career touchdowns in purple, and he caught 122 passes in both the 1994 and 1995 seasons, with 1,004 catches for the Vikings overall.
Later in his career Carter wound up being a #2 to Randy Moss, but his overall career work finally earned him a berth in the 2013 Hall of Fame class.
Matt Birk became a starter at center in 2000, and he earned Pro Bowl recognition six times during the 2000s.
Here was the defensive secondary at USC, circa 1980 – a guy named Ronnie Lott, another corner named Jeff Fisher, a safety known as Dennis Smith, and then this guy. Pac-10 opposition probably elected to go underneath a lot!!
Robert Smith gets lost in the shuffle, but he was the team’s all-time leading rusher when he abruptly called it quits at age 28. Smith’s final season was his best, accounting for 1,869 yards from scrimmage. Tall for a RB at 6’2”, Smith suffered a variety of injuries in prior seasons.
Known as a highly intellectual man, Smith elected to retire early while still in one piece.
#3 John Randle (DE 1990-2000, HOF) v. #6 Anthony Carter (WR 1985-93)
A constant Brett Favre nemesis in the day, Randle was famously featured in an ad campaign in which he sewed a miniature #4 Packers jersey before placing it on a chicken he chased around. Randle recorded 113 sacks in his last ten years in Minnesota.
After finishing top-ten in Heisman Trophy balloting in his final three years at the University of Michigan, Anthony Carter stayed in the Detroit area and starred with the USFL Michigan Panthers before joining the Vikings in ’85. AC become a three-time Pro Bowler in the late 1980’s and scored 52 TD’s in nine seasons.
#2 Randall McDaniel (OG 1988-99, HOF) v. #7 Randall Cunningham (QB 1997-99)
Coach Mike Tice proclaimed that McDaniel went undefeated in his career in regards to winning his matchup with the opposing D-lineman. In terms of All-Pro selections (seven) and Pro Bowl berths (10), McDaniel is the most decorated player in team history.
Cunningham gets in the field based on his MVP 1998 campaign, in which he led the league with a 106.0 rating. The team went 15-1 and should have been the NFC Champion that season.
Green Bracket Omissions: The massive Korey Stringer played tackle six years, earning his first Pro Bowl berth in 2000. His death due to heat stroke on an insanely hot day at Vikings camp the following summer remains a dark day in Vikings history. RB Herschel Walker was an incredible talent, and sure helped the Dallas Cowboys become team of the 1990’s with all the draft picks they received from Minnesota for Walker.
BRAD CHILDRESS BRACKET
#1 Adrian Peterson (RB 2007-present) v. #8 Antoine Winfield (CB 2004-present)
Now with over 10,000 total yards in six seasons in the league, AD has earned the #1 seed amongst the very recent players.
Winfield now has 14 years in the league, the last nine in purple, made the Pro Bowl following the 2008-10 seasons.
#4 Kevin Williams (DT 2004-present) v. #5 Steve Hutchinson (OG 2006-11)
Part of the famed ‘Williams Wall’, Kevin Williams was a perennial All-Pro selection in the late 2000s on a front four that was nearly impossible to run on.
Hutchinson spent only six years with the team, splitting his career between the Vikes and Seahawks. His career body of work is good enough to eventually merit him consideration for Canton.
#3 Jared Allen (DE 2008-present) v. #6 Daunte Culpepper (1999-2005)
Keep in mind Allen spend his first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. As a Viking, Allen has 74 sacks in five seasons and is close to becoming a HOF lock.
The Culpepper story is a shame as his knee was wrecked early in the ’05 season, and he was merely a shell of himself after that with various teams. The previous season Culpepper threw 39 TDs versus just 11 picks (110.9 rating). At 6’4” 260 lb, Daunte was a physical freak with a cannon arm along with running ability.
#2 Randy Moss (WR 1998-2004, 2010) v. #7 Brett Favre (QB 2009-10)
Moss recently proclaimed himself to be the best wide receiver in league history. Is he? Let’s just say if he had his head into it every play for ten years+ he would definitely be in the conversation. It seemed like Moss was in the Cities forever, but he only spent his first seven years with the Vikes, plus the short-lived 2010 cameo.
Out of his 20-year career in the league, Favre’s best season unexpectedly happened in 2009, leading the league with a 107 passer rating and leading his team within a play of reaching the Super Bowl.
Already selected as the Packers Ultimate Franchise Player, I say Favre overthrows Moss to record a first-round upset – we all need a good bracket buster once in a while.
Omissions: DT Pat Williams earned three Pro Bowl berths, but only spent six years (2005-10) with the team. OLB Chad Greenway has now made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, but is already age 30 – he missed his rookie campaign in 2006 due to injury.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS UFP SELECTION
This is one of my toughest calls yet. Let me start by selecting the bracket winners.
- I have to go with Alan Page out of the Grant Bracket.
- Fran Tarkenton remains an iconic figure in team history and an easy pick from the Burns Bracket.
- The Dennis Green Bracket is up for debate – Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel, and John Randle all have being very close. You can’t go too wrong with any of those three.
- At this point Adrian Peterson blows by Randy Moss, and I do not consider Moss a top-five player for the franchise all-time.
That leaves me with Tarkenton, Page, Peterson, and the Green Bracket winner.
From the NFL Network Top 100 list from a few years back, Alan Page was ranked 43rd, Randy Moss is #65, Fran Tarkenton is #91. Adrian Peterson is unranked, but keep in mind the Top 100 series aired during the 2010 season.
Pro Football Reference has Alan Page ranked top-ten of all players all-time, which I think is slightly high but also gives an idea on just how highly he is regarded. On the same site Gary Zimmerman is ranked #22, Randy Moss #52, Carl Eller #53.
Pro Football Reference also has Randall McDaniel at #123, John Randle at #118, and Cris Carter at #117.
The point is that there are several players in which a very strong argument could be made.
So where does this leave Adrian Peterson, fresh off a historic season in which he averaged six yards per carry and nearly broke the single-season rushing record?
At age 28, I see 2-3 more strong seasons out of AP. Being conservative, I am estimating 4,000 more rushing yards by the end of 2015, obviously if he avoids injury.
That would put Adrian at close to 13,000 career rushing yards. That would get him into the top-ten all-time, around where Tony Dorsett (12,739 yards) is now. He would need two more strong seasons after that to get into the territory of Barry Sanders, who currently ranks third (15,269 yards).
Also, all-time #5 rusher LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684 yards) is ranked a mere 61st on the NFL Network list.
A large part of me really wants to go old school with Alan Page. The Adrian Peterson book is impressive, but it is also unfinished. Selecting AP as all-time best player is a bet at this point. Should he leapfrog the RPIs of ALL of the other deserving players??
In the end, I have to go with a Purple People Eater. My nomination for Minnesota Vikings Ultimate Franchise Player is…