Power Ranking the 5 Greatest Tackles in Minnesota Vikings History
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Welcome to the latest 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 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 coming out of their face masks. Those are the quintessential Vikings to many fans.
Certain players, such as Mike Morris and Scott Studwell, 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 epitomize what it means to be a Viking.
Last week, we covered defensive ends. This week, we'll focus on offensive tackles. Offensive tackles get most of the glory on the offensive line. Of course, they earn it by going head-to-head with the best pass-rushers on a weekly basis.
The Vikings have had some great tackles in their history. It was tough to leave some guys off the list.
Click on as we power rank the top-five offensive tackles in Minnesota Vikings history.
(All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.)
Honorable Mention: Korey Stringer
Stringer's life was cut tragically short.
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This was a tough honor to give. Lots of great Vikings tackles had to be considered for the list, and lots of great Minnesota tackles ended up being left off.
Steve Riley, who, like Ron Yary, was a first-round pick from USC, didn't make the list despite starting over 120 games for the Vikings.
Matt Kalil, the top-flight rookie from USC—and yet another Trojan tackle taken by the Vikings in the first round—didn't make the list, though his stellar first season indicates that he might make the top of this list before he's through.
Bryant McKinnie, who started 131 games at left tackle and made the pro Bowl in 2009, didn't even make the list. Much to the great joy of some Vikings fans, to be sure.
Honorable mention goes to Korey Stringer. Though Stringer died tragically at the age of 27 in 2001, he still had a dramatic impact on the franchise. In his six-year career, Stringer started 91 games and made the Pro Bowl after the 2000 season. He was widely regarded as one of the best right tackles in the game, and if he'd been able to play through his prime, he likely would have won many more honors.
For his remarkable contributions in too short a time, Stringer gets honorable mention as one of the greatest tackles in Minnesota Vikings history.
5. Todd Steussie
Steussie protected Moon's blind side.
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Todd Steussie was drafted as the 19th pick in the first round of the 1994 draft out of Cal. He came in as a rookie and took over the left tackle position. Over a seven-year stint with Minnesota, Steussie started all 111 games he played and was part of one of the most dominant offenses in NFL history in 1998.
Steussie was a punishing run-blocker and strong pass-blocker. With Steussie anchoring the left side of the offensive line, the Vikings went to the playoffs in all but one of his seven seasons. He also worked with some great teammates, such as David Dixon, Randall McDaniel, Korey Stringer and Jeff Christy to provide the Vikings with one of the best offensive lines of the era.
Steussie made the Pro Bowl after both the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He left the Vikings after the 2000 season and went on to play seven more years with the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams.
His versatility was evident, even late in his career. He played right tackle in Tampa Bay and both guard positions in St. Louis.
For his contributions to one of the greatest offensive lines in Vikings history and his part in one of the greatest offenses of all time, Steussie just edges out Korey Stringer for No. 5 on this list.
4. Tim Irwin
Irwin started 181 straight games for the Vikings.
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The Vikings selected Tim Irwin in the third round of the 1981 NFL draft. He was a giant, standing 6'7" and tipping the scales at 300 pounds. Irwin was more than massive, however. He was dedicated, diligent and tough as nails.
Irwin took over the starting right tackle position in 1982. He didn't give it up for 12 years, starting 181 consecutive games in the process. That total is good for third on the Vikings all-time consecutive starts list. Particularly strong against the run, Irwin was one of the better right tackles in the league in the mid-to-late '80s.
Irwin was the definition of strong and steady. He wasn't spectacular, and in fact he usually didn't draw much attention from fans or officials. Irwin was never named to the Pro Bowl, but you can bet that a decade's worth of Vikings quarterbacks were glad he was there.
For his incredible longevity and consistency, Irwin edges out Steussie for the No. 4 spot on the list of greatest Vikings offensive tackles.
3. Grady Alderman
Grady Alderman (No. 67 in the video) was an original Minnesota Viking. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1960 and selected by Minnesota in the expansion draft before the 1961 season. He took some snaps at guard early in the season but was primarily a left tackle.
By primarily, we mean almost permanently. Alderman missed only one game in the Vikings' first nine seasons and only three games in the first 14 years of the franchise. His 193 games played in Minnesota place him third on the seniority list for offensive linemen.
Alderman's durability is even more impressive when his size is considered. He stood 6'2" and weighed just 242 pounds. That's an average quarterback in today's NFL.
He was named to six Pro-Bowl squads and was a first-team All-NFL selection in 1969. Though many Vikings fans don't remember him, Alderman was a cornerstone of the franchise during its formative years and one of the best players in the NFL during his tenure.
For his contributions to building the franchise, his longevity and his outstanding performances, Grady Alderman is No. 3 on the list of all-time greatest Vikings tackles.
2. Gary Zimmerman
Zimmerman at the 1990 Pro Bowl
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Gary Zimmerman wasn't the most friendly player ever to don purple and gold. He was especially averse to the media. In fact, after Zimmerman felt a reporter twisted some of his postgame comments early in his career, he decided not to talk to the press at all. It was a practice he continued throughout his career.
Zimmerman let his play do his talking.
His actions spoke volumes on the field. Zimmerman arrived in Minnesota after spending two years in the USFL. He immediately took over as the left tackle and held the position for the next seven years. In all, he started 108 games for the Vikings. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times in his seven Minnesota seasons and was a first-team All-Pro selection twice.
Despite his frosty relationship with the media. Zimmerman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also named to the Hall of Fame's All-1980s and All-1990s teams. He is one of the few players honored in both decades.
A dominant blocker over the course of two decades, Zimmerman deserves to be No. 2 on our list of the greatest tackles in Vikings history. He beats out Grady Alderman by virtue of his sheer dominance at the position and because of his Hall of Fame credentials.
1. Ron Yary
The Minnesota Vikings owned the first pick heading into the 1968 NFL draft, which it used on USC tackle Ron Yary. It was the first time in league history that an offensive lineman had been drafted with the top pick in the draft.
Yary certainly had the credentials. He was a two-time All-American at USC and won the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best lineman in college football, following his senior season. Yary's resume was so impressive that the Vikings traded Fran Tarkenton to the New York Giants in order to get the first pick.
Yary more than lived up to the hype. He became the starting right tackle midway through the 1969 season and never missed another game until an ankle injury sidelined him for two games in 1980. During his 14 years with the Vikings, Yary started 180 games and was the best tackle in the NFL.
Yary was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a first-team All-Pro selection six times. He was named the NFC Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1973, 1974 and 1975. He played in all four of the Vikings' Super Bowls and helped lead the team to 11 division titles.
Yary was a trailblazer, a dominant performer and durable. He was a vital cog in the supreme Minnesota teams of the '60s and '70s and is a member of the Hall of Fame. For all of these attributes, Yary is No. 1 on the list of the greatest tackles ever to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
Check in next week for the next power ranking of all-time Vikings.
Is someone on the list who shouldn't be there? Have a player you'd like to nominate? Speak your mind in the comments section below.
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