Power Ranking the 5 Greatest Quarterbacks in Minnesota Vikings History
Welcome to the latest in a series of slideshows that power rank the greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time by position. Each week will feature a different position, and the best Vikings to 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 are taken into account, there are 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.
We talked about cornerbacks last week. That was the last of the position groups on defense. This week, we'll focus on quarterbacks. We'll finish the series with running backs next time around.
Quarterbacks are usually the glamour boys of the NFL. If your team is great, it typically has a great signal-caller. Though the Vikings have had some outstanding quarterback play over the years, the position has been oddly overshadowed in Minnesota.
Some teams were known for their fierce defenses. Other Vikings squads had prolific offenses but were led by receivers or running backs. Though the quarterback hasn't always been in the spotlight in Minnesota, we'll search out the top five.
Click on as we power rank the top quarterbacks in Minnesota Vikings history.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Honorable Mention: Randall Cunningham
When coming up with candidates for honorable mention on this list, it quickly became obvious that the Vikings have had two different types of quarterbacks in their history.
They've had career guys like Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Bob Lee and Brad Johnson, who started their careers in Minnesota and stayed for a relatively long period of time.
Then, there's the short-term solution category. More than just about any franchise in NFL history, the Vikings have signed veteran quarterbacks who were near the end of their careers. The theory behind this is to get a proven signal-caller on a team that seems to have all of the other parts to be competitive.
Players who fall under the second designation include Jim McMahon, Warren Moon and Jeff George.
After thinking it over, the answer became obvious. Wilson, Gannon, Lee and Johnson put up some decent numbers but never experienced great success as the signal-callers for the Vikings.
Moon, George and McMahon had more relative success but weren't around long enough to put up big numbers while in purple.
Since the point of playing in the NFL is to win games and hopefully reach the Super Bowl, Randall Cunningham gets the nod for honorable mention.
While he was with the Vikings for parts of three seasons, fans will always remember him for the 1998 season.
He started 14 games for Minnesota in that magical season, compiling a 13-1 record as a starter and achieving a quarterback rating of 106.0.
He threw 34 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, leading the Vikings offense to a then-NFL record 556 points. He was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year while playing with Cris Carter and Randy Moss. He was also named first-team All-Pro.
For his outstanding one-and-done season, Cunningham receives honorable mention as one of the greatest Vikings quarterbacks of all time.
5. Brett Favre
Speaking of one magic year...
Brett Favre was with the Vikings for two years, but only one of them is memorable for the right reasons.
A sure Hall of Famer for his exploits in Green Bay, Favre came to Minnesota in 2009 and proceeded to have the best season of his illustrious career.
He led the Vikings to a 12-4 record and a spot in the NFC Championship game. He compiled a quarterback rating of 107.2 while tossing 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
We won't discuss the 2010 season. Suffice to say that Favre finally missed a game during that ill-fated campaign and retired from football as soon as it was over.
Though Cunningham was in purple longer and actually compiled more wins in Minnesota, Favre brought a cachet to the team in 2009 that wouldn't have been there otherwise. He helped establish Percy Harvin as one of the more dynamic players in the NFL and pushed Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe to heights that neither had experienced before.
In fact, neither has been as good again.
Favre, for his aura and his ability to make the players around him better, unseats Randall Cunningham for the No. 5 spot on the list of best Vikings quarterbacks of all time.
4. Joe Kapp
The numbers don't really tell the story when it comes to the No. 4 quarterback to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
Joe Kapp was only with the team for three years, and his yardage and touchdown totals are both only good enough to rank him 10th on the team's all-time list. In fact, Brett Favre, the No. 5 choice, threw for more yards and touchdowns than Kapp in just over one season's work in Minnesota.
To be fair to Kapp, he did throw for a then-record seven touchdowns in one game against the Colts.
Kapp makes the list because of his grit, determination and leadership. Never a flashy player, the former CFL star joined the Vikings in 1968 and promptly led the team to its first playoff appearance. The next year, Kapp took the team to its first Super Bowl while being named to his only Pro Bowl squad.
While Favre definitely came in with more hype and played a big leadership role for the Vikings, Kapp might be the greatest leader in team history.
When he was called to the podium to receive the team's MVP award following the 1969 season, Kapp famously refused to accept. He stated that there were 40 MVPs on the Minnesota roster and that no one player should be put above the team.
For his phenomenal leadership abilities and his place in the hearts of Vikings fans, Joe Kapp slips past Favre into the No. 4 spot on the list of greatest-ever Minnesota quarterbacks.
3. Tommy Kramer
Perhaps only one Vikings quarterback ever had a flashier debut than Tommy Kramer. A rookie from Rice, he saw his first action in Week 12 of the 1977 season.
The San Francisco 49ers came into town, laying waste to the Vikings. Kramer came into the game late in the second half with his team trailing by three touchdowns. He went berserk in the fourth quarter to lead Minnesota to a comeback victory. That performance is still one of the most astounding in team history.
Kramer became the full-time starter in 1979. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of one of the worst eras in Vikings history. During his tenure, the team hovered right around .500, and Kramer actually lost two more starts than he won. The downturn in fortunes couldn't be blamed on "Two-Minute Tommy."
A master of the comeback, Kramer was a prolific passer. His yardage (24,755) and touchdown (159) totals are both second on the team's leaderboard. His swagger on the field reminded many fans of Kapp. His other famous comeback led the Vikings past the Cleveland Browns to clinch the 1980 division title.
For his last-second heroics and his spot near the top of the record books, Tommy Kramer is No. 3 on the list of greatest Vikings quarterbacks ever.
2. Daunte Culpepper
If a cataclysmic knee injury had not struck, it's possible that Daunte Culpepper could have risen even higher on this list.
He was drafted 11th overall by the Vikings in the 1999 draft. He spent a year on the bench, learning the ropes from Randall Cunningham and Jeff George, and then took over as the starter in 2000.
It was a spectacular debut. He threw 33 touchdowns and led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. He was named to the first of his three Pro Bowls following that initial season.
Then the roller coaster ride began. For all of his great arm strength and ability to run with the ball (he scored seven rushing touchdowns in 2000 and 10 in 2002), Culpepper had a tendency to fumble. His 81 fumbles are still a franchise record.
After a couple of up-and-down seasons, he exploded in 2004, leading the league with more than 4,700 passing yards and an average of nearly 300 yards per game. His quarterback rating was 110.9. Only an equally phenomenal season by Peyton Manning kept Culpepper from being the league's MVP.
Disaster struck in Game 7 of the 2005 season, however. Playing against the Carolina Panthers, Culpepper took off on a scramble and was taken down at the end of the run. As a result of the play, he suffered a knee injury. The injury required major surgery, and he never played for the Vikings again.
Culpepper's career yardage (20,162) and touchdown (135) marks are good for third on the Vikings' all-time list. He moves past Kramer into second place on the list because of his higher impact on the club during his best seasons and his ability as a dual-threat quarterback.
1. Fran Tarkenton
The selection of Fran Tarkenton as the greatest quarterback ever to play for the Minnesota Vikings was a no-brainer.
The numbers support the choice.
Tarkenton threw 239 touchdowns as a member of the Vikings. That's 80 more than Tommy Kramer's second-place number. Tarkenton's all-time total of 342 is still fourth on the NFL's list.
His 33,098 passing yards in Minnesota is nearly 9,000 yards more than any other Viking. His career total of 47,003 is still sixth in NFL history.
His legacy is about more than just statistics, however. Tarkenton's legend was cemented in the first Vikings game ever. The rookie from Georgia was a surprise starter, throwing four touchdowns and leading the team to a win over Chicago in its inaugural game.
Tarkenton went on to lead the Vikings to three Super Bowls and to break nearly every meaningful NFL passing mark. His scrambling style paved the way for a new generation of quarterbacks and changed the way that teams played the game.
Because of his assault on the record books, his significant role in the glory days of the franchise and his impact as a groundbreaking player, Tarkenton is the easy choice as the greatest Vikings quarterback ever.
Check in next week as we wrap up this 14-part series on the greatest Vikings of all time. We'll talk about the running backs in our finale.
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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