Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Minnesota Vikings All Career-Year Team (or Why Vikings Fans Will Hate Us)

OPINION
By John Turney

Again, the drill here is to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will continue today with the Minnesota Vikings. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Alan Page's best two seasons and use both defensive tackle slots.

When you see the picks you may be able to see why Vikings fans may not like some of names on list, but I didn't miss kicks that would advance my team in playoffs and didn't sign Brett Favre in 2009 who had, perhaps, the best season of any Viking QB in history.
Matt Birk gets honorable mentions and you could pick any of his Pro Bowl seasons, but we went with Tingelhoff on the strength of his NFLPA Offensive Linemen of the Year Award, in addition to his All-Pro season of 1969. Loudermilk was All-Pro in 1988. Jeff Christy, 1998, also gets an honorable mention for his Pro Bowl season.
Mick Tingelhoff
Randall McDaniel? Pick any of maybe seven seasons. Hutch? Anyone of three. Ed White was respected by the NEA (Players) All-Pro Team and was First-Team in 1974.  Yary was many time All-Pro and in 1975 he won the third of his three NFC Offensive Lineman of the Year Awards by the NFLPA. Gary Zimmerman is the best left tackle in team history and 1987 and 1988 were his best seasons. 

Grady Alderman, 1969 (All-Pro), Tim Irwin (1988), and Matt Kalil, 2012 (Pro Bowl) all get an honorable mention at tackle.
Zimmerman
Ron Yary
Chuck Foreman had a pile of touchdowns in 1975, both rushing and receiving in 1975, Peterson, well, his 2,000-yard season was a no-brainer. I added one 1960s-style fullback and one 1990s-2010s type fullback. Vikings, in Jerry Burns's offense always threw to the backs, thought it was never called the "Minnesota Offense" he did lots of things that Bill Walsh did, using backs, using space to stretch field and had great ideas on how to get key players into space, like Walsh is given so much credit for.

Michael Bennett, 2002, gets an honorable mention for his 1200-yar season and over 5.0 yards per carry. So  does Bill Brown, 1964 when he had 16 TDs from scrimmage and Hugh McElhenny,  1961 (Pro Bowl on expansion team).

Moss had two dominant seasons, we went with 1998 with the higher yards per catch. Carter's season was the one where he caught the most touchdowns, since that's all he did.

Leaving off Anthony Carter's 1987 season was tough, but given the passing game and rules in the 1970s we went with Gilliam. Carter gets honorable mention. Gene Washington, 1969, Sammy White, 1976, Jerry Reichow, 1961 also get a special mention.

Kyle Rudolph, 2012 (9 TDs) gets and honorable mention at tight end.
Anthony Carter
How deep does your defensive end legacy have to be to leave off Jim Marshall? Well, Marshall's Second-team All-Pro season of 1969 (14 sacks) ranks fifth. Being true to this exercise we went with Carl Eller's 1969 15-sack season tied for his career high and also had his career high in tackles for loss with ten. He had the most MVP votes of any defensive player that season by AP and UPI, and was the runner-up to Dick Butkus in the NEA NFL MVP vote. In addition, he was the NFLPA NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year for 1969.
Joey Browner
Doleman edges out Allen for second-place. Doleman's 1989 season was DPOY-worthy as was Allen, but Doleman also had a 4-sack game versus Anthony Munoz, which put him over the top.  Doug Martin's 11-½ sack season in nine games and his Pro Football Weekly First-team All-NFL selection puts him at #4 above Marshall.
Jim Marshall
Jim Marshall is a Viking favorite; a Steve Sabol favorite, but he just didn't produce like other Viking defensive ends. He was never a First-team All-Pro and only went to three Pro Bowls in 20 years. His best season was 1969 when he had 14 sacks and was Second-team All-Pro, but it was far and away above his other seasons. 
Carl Eller
Again, how deep does you defensive tackle slot have to be to leave off Henry Thomas, who was maybe the most underrated defensive tackle of the 1990s and maybe all-time? In addition, how good are your tackles if John Randle cannot make the First-team?

Alan Page told PFJ, in an interview many years ago, that 1971 was likely not his best season. That he had seasons that were just as good, if not better. He mentioned 1970, 1974 and 1976. Well, 1976 was his career-high in sacks with 18. In 1971 he was the DPOY by AP when he had 42 hurries and nine sacks and was Hell on wheels. However, in 1970 he had 10½ sacks and seven forced fumbles and was All-Pro. Looking, comparing, and then just making a call, we went with 1970. 

Keith Millard was the AP DPOY in 1989 and had 18 sacks and 11 stuffs and an interception. Randle, like Randall McDaniel, has so many good seasons you could pick several and not be wrong. We went with 1997, partly because it was his career-high in sacks, but it was his career-high in stuffs with eight. He also played a lot at RDE on running downs. 

It was hard to leave out Henry Thomas, but he gets an honorable mention for 1991 when he was a Pro Bowler, had 70 tackles, 10.5 stuffs and 8.0 sacks. Gary Larsen's 1969 Pro Bowl season when he had 8 sacks. Pat Williams was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and had 62 tackles and we also give both an HM nod. Lance Johnstone is a strong HM for 2004, 31 tackles, 11 sacks, and 5 FF.
Keith Millard
There were some great linebacker names that got left out, Wally Hilgenberg, Fred McNeil among others, but as looking only at best seasons we had to go with who we thought were the best.

Matt Blair could have had 1978, 1979, and 1981, so we went with 1981 with his career-high 6 sacks, 12 passes defensed, over 150 tackles and four blocked kicks. In 1980 he was All-pro but it was not one of his best seasons, but that season may not have had the best OLBer seasons, so  he was top of a weaker group, in 1981 he just couldn't beat out rookies like Lawrence Taylor or Hugh Green, but 1981 he was simply great. We chose Blair's 1979 for special teams because it was his career-high in blocked kicks with five, but he had two other seasons with four blocked kicks/punts. He may be best-ever in that skill.

Ed McDaniel had 18.5 run/pass stuffs plus a career-high in sacks with 4.5 in 1995, and in our view it was one of the best unknown seasons for an OLBer in history. Mike Merriweather's 1989 was special as well, over 90 tackles lots of stuffs and six forced fumbles set it apart.

In 1998 Dwayne Rudd had 93 tackles and two scoop and scores and two sacks. He leads a list of honorable mentions. Jesse Solomon, 1988, Wally Hilgenberg, 1973 (Second-team All-NFC), Carlos Jenkins, 1992 (2 defensive TDs), Fred McNeill, 1978 (6 FR and 2 INT) are also HMs. At MLB Jack Del Rio gets a nod for his 1992 season.

Krause's only consensus All-Pro season with the Vikings was 1975 when he had 1o interceptions. Browner's top strong safety season was 1990, but he had a couple others close, but overall, 1990 was the best. The corners were chosen in a combination of interceptions and All-Pro honors. Though good, they are not quite at the level of the safeties.

At CB our HMs are Ed Sharockman, 1964 (All-Conference) and Anthony Parker, 1994 (3 defensive TDs). The safety HMs are Robert Griffith, 2000, Karl Kassulke, 1970, Todd Scott, 1992, Pro Bowlers all.

We could have gone with Fred Cox's 1969 All-pro season, but Anderson and Walsh were also First-team All-Pros, but they also have a bittersweet taste in Viking fans's mouth for obvious reasons. But what must be remembered is they were a big part of reason Vikings advanced as far as they did those seasons (though we went with 2012 for Walsh). They had great seasons and were (are) excellent kickers. Jan Stenerud's 1984 season was considered as well, give him and Cox honorable mention.

Berger and Kluwe take the top spot with a strong honorable mention for Bobby Walden's 1964 season when he had 41.6 net punting average.

Returners were given a lot of weight on how many TDs they scored, but in this case, they als0 had great yards per return statistics. From this it looks like recent Vikings return game are in good hands and feet. 

The HM kick returners are Koren Robinson, 2005, and David Palmer,1998. Our PR HMs are Leo Lewis, 1987 and Mewelde Moore, 2006.

Browner and Blair are the special teamers, Blair for his amazing ability to block kicks. Honorable mention goes to Bill Brown in 1974 when he was still going downfield and covering kicks and busting wedges.

Okay, now for the quarterback. How can you argue against Favre's 2009? One game short of Super Bowl like Cunningham's 1998 and Culpepper's 2000? Favre had 33 TDs and only seven interceptions, the lowest interception percentage of any starting Viking in history. He also has some amazing games and throws that were for the storybooks. Favre's 107.2 passer rating was second-best in the Viking annals behind Duante Culpepper's 2004 season. Cullpepper, in 2000, threw for 33 touchdowns and ran for seven for a total of 40 touchdowns. How many QBs in NFL history have two 40-plus touchdown seasons? Culpepper has 2. 

We also considered Joe Kapp's 1969season. He only threw for 19 touchdowns, but the Vikings didn't throw much. Those 19 touchdowns accounted for 8% of his throws, the most in Viking history for qualifiers. He also got some MVP support.

Randall Cunningham got a lot of MVP/Offensive Player of the Year support in 1998 with his 34 touchdown passes and 106.0 passer rating. It was, though a disappointment in the NFC Championship game, a fantastic season. 

Also considered was Warren Moon's 1995 season with 33 touchdowns and 4,228 yards but the team record knocked that one out.

Finally, we looked at Fran Tarkenton's seasons, and there were several. We went with 1975 when he was a consensus MVP. True, the stats don't measure to the more recent players, but it was 1975 with different rules and 14 game seasons. He was a consensus MVP and All-Pro. We went with him. You think we'd go with Favre? No way.

In the end it was (1) 1975 Tarkenton, (2) 1998 Cunningham (3) Favre, 2009, (4) 2000 Culpepper (5) Kapp, 1969, (6) Culpepper, 2004 and (7) 1995 Moon and numbers 3-7 all get an honorable mention.

Here is final chart:

Tarkenton


 Agree or disagree? Tell us why in comments.



3 comments:

  1. No arguments with your selections, John. I'll add honorable mentions to Dave Osborn's 1967 season (second in rushing yards to Leroy Kelly), Gene Washington's 1969 season (21.1 ypg and 9 TDs) and Paul Flatley's 1963 and 1965 seasons, even though he made his only Pro Bowl in 1966.

    It's hard to believe that Paul Krause was only a consensus all-pro once in his brilliant Vikings career. I know he has a reputation of being a "soft" player but I don't know how deserving of that he is. All I know is that he was a tremendous ballhawk, the best of all time if you go by the numbers, and he was the glue of a secondary, made up mostly of no-names, that was virtually impenetrable for 10 years, beginning immediately after his acquisition in 1968. It's a damn shame that he and other Vikings, like Mick and Carl, had to wait a ridiculous length of time to be inducted into Canton because of their Super Bowl losses.

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  2. It's tough to dispute any of the selections. Personally, I'd rank Culpepper's 2004 season higher but I doubt that it would be high enough to crack the top 2. He was unreal that season and probably would have been MVP if Manning wasn't more unreal. I might have Lance Johnstone as one of the DPRs. It felt like whenever he was on the field he left it after a sack.

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    1. Fair comments. Only thing holding Culpepper's 2004 season back was the 8-8 record. Lance Jonstone was probably a better choice than Griffen and Holloway. Good call.

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