Welcome to the second in a series of slideshows that power rank the greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time by position. Each week, a different position will be featured. The best Vikings to ever take the field at that position will be ranked from fifth to first.
How does a guy get on the list?
It's all about being a Viking. While stats will certainly be taken into account, there will be other, more subjective, criteria as well. There's a certain feel to those classic Vikings, standing on the sideline at Met Stadium in freezing conditions with steam roiling out of their face masks. Those are the quintessential Vikings to many fans.
There are certain players (Mike Morris, Scott Studwell) who would have fit perfectly in that era. Those are true Vikings. Other players (particularly Adrian Peterson) would have been fun in ANY era.
These lists are filled with players who simply epitomize what it means to be a Viking.
The first group was the kickers. This week, we'll focus on the punters. Though punters are often overlooked, they are critical to teams. Without a good punter, you lose the field position battle. A good punter can make a team's defense seem much stronger than it would otherwise.
Click on as we power rank the top five punters in Minnesota Vikings history.
(All statistics courtesy of pro-football-reference.com)
When reviewing the history of Vikings punters, it's difficult to come up with a top five. A majority of the team's punters spent only a year or two with the squad. In general, punters don't get much recognition, and it's often difficult to tell how much impact they have on the team as a whole.
That being said, Bob Lee was an easy choice for the list. Lee gets honorable mention status because he was Minnesota's primary punter in 1969 and 1971, and he was the top backup at quarterback both seasons. Though Lee wasn't the best punter or QB in the league, he managed to be good enough at each job to save the Vikings a roster spot.
Lee's best season was 1971, when he punted 89 times for over 3,500 net yards. His two-year average was just under 40 yards. Back in the '70s, that was a very respectable number. Lee left the Vikings to quarterback Atlanta in 1973 and 1974 before returning for four more years in purple.
For his versatility, Bob Lee gets honorable mention on the Vikings' all-time list of top punters.
Neil Clabo punted for the Vikings from 1975 to 1977. Though he wasn't with the team for a long time, he had a significant impact. While Bob Lee was a backup quarterback and a solid punter, Clabo was a standout. He earned second-team All-Pro honors in 1975.
Clabo makes the list at No. 5 because he was part of a dominant Vikings defense during his three-year tenure. In 1975, the Vikings were the NFL's No. 1 defense. Minnesota was sixth overall in 1976 and 11th in 1977, according to Vikings.com.) When a team dominates like the Vikings did, particularly in 1975, field position plays a big part. When you talk about field position, you talk about punting. Clabo was the guy who set the table for those Purple People Eater squads.
The Vikings went 32-9 during Clabo's tenure. Though his stats (225 punts for a 39.9 yard net average) aren't overly noteworthy, he clearly was part of the team's success. For being a key part during an era of Viking dominance, Clabo makes it to No. 5 on the list.
Harry Newsome came to the Vikings from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1990 and was Minnesota's punter for the next four seasons. He retired following the 1994 season at the age of 30.
Newsome had a middling year in 1990, averaging 42.3 yards per kick. His best years were 1991 and 1992, when he averaged over 45 yards per kick, including an 84-yard bomb in 1992. He came back to earth a bit in 1994, averaging just under 43 yards per kick.
Newsome makes it to No. 4 on the list because his 43.8 yard career average is second all-time on the Vikings list (for punters with more than 75 attempts). He wasn't a part of a stellar defense during his tenure in Minnesota, but many Vikings fans remember Newsome's booming punts. If he had been in Minnesota for longer than four years, he would have risen higher on the list.
Mitch Berger in 1998
Mitch Berger may be better known for his booming kickoffs than for his punting prowess, but he was a solid member of the Vikings special teams units for six years beginning in 1996.
Berger is third on the team's all-time list for net average with a mark of 43.5 during his Minnesota tenure. He edges out Harry Newsome, who had a slightly higher average, because of his ability to kick off in addition to punting and because he spent two more years with the Vikings than Newsome did.
Berger was infamous for eating candy bars on the sidelines and for getting into arguments with his long snapper, Mike Morris. However, his steady performance as a punter makes him No. 3 on the list.
Greg Coleman came very close to making it to No. 1 on this list. Coleman had the longest tenure of any Vikings punter in history, kicking for the team from 1978 until 1987.
Coleman didn't have the biggest leg in the NFL, averaging just under 41 yards per kick in his Vikings career. His specialty was kicking the ball out of bounds inside the opponents' 20-yard line. When it came to directional punting, no one was better than Coleman. His net yardage of 29,391 yards is still a team record.
Coleman makes it to No. 2 due to his longevity and ability to drop punts deep into opposing territory. He still works with the Minnesota broadcast team as a sideline reporter and helps with special teams at training camp. Coleman is a true Viking. That's something rare for a special teamer.
Chris Kluwe punts against Dallas
Who is the best punter in the storied history of the Minnesota Vikings? In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chris Kluwe made his opinion known. Just before being cut by the team in late April, Kluwe said: "Statistically, I'm the best punter the Vikings have ever had."
While many players make proclamations, Kluwe's assertion has merit.
His net average of 44.4 yards per punt is No. 1 in Vikings history. His yardage total of 27,683 net yards is second. He was a very good directional punter as well, and served as the holder for Minnesota's field goal kickers during his eight seasons with the team. (His longevity is second on the all-time list).
Kluwe became famous near the end of his Vikings tenure for being an outspoken advocate of several causes. This rubbed some coaches and teammates (and fans) the wrong way, but he was always direct in his statements and stood behind his beliefs. While these outside activities sometimes caused controversy, there is no doubt that Kluwe is the best punter ever in Minnesota.
Check in next week for the next power ranking of all-time Vikings.
Is someone on the list that shouldn't be there? Have a player you'd like to nominate? Speak your mind in the comments section below.
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