Taking a Stab at the Vikings Mount Rushmore

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To be sure, the Vikings Mount Rushmore discussion is open to plenty of debate and disagreement.

Fan and analyst alike have ventured down this path, seeking to clarify who belongs in the illustrious final four. In truth, the debate is unlikely to yield anything resembling clear-cut clarity. Minnesota has been blessed with some marvellous talent over the years, making the exercise supremely difficult (a good problem, to be sure).

Dec 26, 1999; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; FILE PHOTO; Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss (84) catches a pass against New York Giants defenders Shaun Williams (36) and Percy Ellsworth (43) at Giants Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY NETWORK

Just take a moment to consider who deserves consideration: Fran Tarkenton, Randy Moss, John Randle, Chris Doleman, Cris Carter, Mick Tingelhoff, Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Alan Page, Paul Krause, Jim Marshall, Anthony Carter, Steve Hutchinson, Korey Stringer, and several others.

Bringing that list down to just four people is no small task.

The Vikings Mount Rushmore

Given my age, I missed the careers of many of the franchise’s all-time best players. The end result is a less informed opinion than someone who has the benefit actually following the team through the decades.

Nonetheless, following Minnesota for more than 15 years and then writing about the team for a few years has allowed me to glean some knowledge about Vikings history.

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Aug 8, 2015, Canton, OH, USA; Mick Tingelhoff (right) and presenter Fran Tarkenton pose with the bust the 2015 Pro Football Enshrinement Cermony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Part of what allows me to distinguish between different players is to give some preference to those who were consequential in some of the franchise’s best teams. In other words, preference is given to players who not only enjoyed tremendous individual success but also proved instrumental in some of the team’s best moments.

Overemphasizing the team component would involve plucking a foursome out of the Purple People Eaters era and then moving on. After all, that’s the era that saw Minnesota travel to 4 Super Bowls. Instead of doing so, I incorporate a player from late-90s excellence and then the remarkable ’09 season.

The Top 4: A QB, a Pair of DTs, and a RB

1) Fran Tarkenton, QB

The Vikings have been to the Super Bowl four times (losing each one). The quarterback leading the charge in three instances was Mr. Fran Tarkenton, nicknamed The Scrambler for his ability with his legs.

He finished his career with a 124-109-6 record, passing for 342 TDs and 266 INTs. He is in the Hall of Fame, is a 9-time Pro Bowl player, an MVP, and Offensive Player of the Year winner. His 18 years in the NFL mostly came as a Viking, where he had 13 seasons. He’s the franchise’s best ever quarterback.

2) Alan Page, DT

An all-time great defender, Alan Page has lived one of the most remarkable lives in recent history. He is in the NFL Hall of Fame. He has been to the Pro Bowl 9 times and on the All Pro team 5 times. He was the league MVP in 1971 as a defensive tackle, a truly sensational feat that’s unheard of in the modern NFL. He also was the Defensive Player of the Year in that season.

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Oct. 31, 1976; Chicago, IL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page (88) runs around Chicago Bears defenders at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Page played in the NFL for 16 seasons, 12 of which came for the purple and gold. While with the Vikings, Page piled up 108.5 sacks, 4th-most in team history. Has he done anything notable since retiring? Well, he snagged a law degree, served on the Minnesota Supreme Court, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Truly a man of many talents who deserves a ton of respect.

3) John Randle

Never shy about talking while on the field, John Randle remains a legend in Minnesota. Over a 14-year NFL career, Randle played in Minnesota for 11. He was a cornerstone defensive player, helping the Vikings climb to a historic 15-1 record in 1998. And, of course, that was the team that was a missed kick away from getting to the Super Bowl for the first time since Page and Tarkenton were running the show.

Randle finished his career having gone to 7 Pro Bowls. He was a 6-time All Pro who piled 137.5 sacks, 114 of which came for the Vikings. The only Vikings with more sacks are Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, both of whom deserves consideration for the list. During the tremendous ’98 season, Randle finished runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. He is now in the Hall of Fame.

4) Adrian Peterson, RB

If the criteria is only what happened on the field, then Peterson belongs on the list. Nicknamed All Day, Peterson carried the Vikings offense for a long, long time. No one is even in the same stratosphere as Peterson for franchise records. His 11747 rushing yards easily eclipse the 2nd player: Robert Smith’s 6818 yards. His 97 TDs easily clear Chuck Foreman’s 52 TDs. Even his 4.9 YPC average is stunning when we remember that he (again) easily leads the team in attempts: 2418 (which is followed by 1627 attempts from Bill Brown, the 2nd-place finisher).

Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook
Sep 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) talks with New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson (28) following the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

AP was a key part of the Vikings’ ’09 team that fell short in overtime of the NFC Championship Game. In 2012, he won MVP for the Vikings while surpassing 2000 yards rushing, still only 1 of 8 players to have eclipsed the yardage mark (he finished 2nd in Comeback Player of the Year voting that season). Eric Dickerson is perched atop the list with 2105 yards and Peterson is just below at 2097. He went to the Pro Bowl 7 times and was an All Pro 4 times. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and won Offensive Player of the Year. When he officially decides to retire, Peterson will become a Hall of Famer.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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