Minnesota Vikings: Ranking the 10 Best Seasons in Team History

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IJune 15, 2011

Minnesota Vikings: Ranking the 10 Best Seasons in Team History

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    11 Aug 2001: Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings chats with a teammate during the pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-21. DIGITAL IMAGE . Mandatory Credit: Ronald Mart
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The history of the Minnesota Vikings is filled with memorable household names (like that guy above, Cris Carter), indelible in-game moments and yes, even great seasons.

    So today, I thought I would highlight the 10 best seasons in team history.

    But each passing great season always seemed to have a terrible ending so, with that said, I suppose the caveat here is that no season I mention here comes equipped with a Super Bowl ending.

    But that doesn’t take away from what the season had in store for the fans which is what we’re paying attention to today.

    So let’s take a quick look.

1988

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 1:  Running back Alfred Anderson #46 of the Minnesota Vikings looks for room to run against Jeff Fuller #49 and Greg Cox #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during the 1988 NFC Divisional Playoffs at Candlestick Park on January 1, 1989
    George Rose/Getty Images

    The 1988 season was an interesting year, but a modest year.

    One of the more notable aspects was the fact that it was the year the Vikings drafted eventual Hall of Famer Randal McDaniel.

    The Vikings team, however, were highlighted by their on-the-field accomplishments of being ranked first in defensive yards allowed, takeaways, point differential and yardage differential, alongside being ranked second in points allowed.

1970

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 16: Retired NFL defensive Carl Eller speaks to members of the media after leaving court-ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on May 16, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mediation was ordered after a hearing on an antitrust lawsuit
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    After the AFL-NFL merger, the Vikings found themselves atop the division with yet another crown.

    What is noteworthy here, is the Vikings defense became the second defense in NFL history to lead the league in fewest points allowed and fewest total yards allowed for two consecutive seasons.

    To boot, the Vikings won the first-ever NFC Central title, finishing 12-2 before losing to the San Francisco 49ers at home in the NFC Divisional Playoff game.

1971

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    What became so difficult in the seventies, was the fact that the Vikings were always considered a Super Bowl bound team or, at the very least, a contender.

    But they never actually brought the trophy back to Minneapolis.

    After stellar seasons in 1969 and 1970, the ball kept rolling for the Vikings in 1971 as they finished with a record of 11-3.

    They swept division rivals Green Bay and Detroit, but eventually fell to the reigning Super Bowl champions Dallas Cowboys in another divisional playoff loss.

1973

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    NEW YORK - MAY 03:  Former MLB player Dave Winfield attends the New York Gala benefiting The Steve Harvey Foundation at Cipriani, Wall Street on May 3, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Steve Harvey Foundation)
    Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

    After a curious sub-par season in 1972, the Vikings were again back on top in 1973 and they gave every Vikings fan something to believe in that year, beginning the season on a nine-straight-win tear.

    After winning the division with a record of 12-2, they had destroyed the monkey on their back by defeating the Redskins in the divisional playoff game, and gave the fans even more to be excited about when they defeated the Cowboys in the championship game en route to a showdown with the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl.

    Needless to say, the buck stopped there.

    As a side note to the season, then tight end Dave Winfield was drafted by four teams in three different sports.

    The San Diego Padres selected him as an outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the MLB draft and both the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and the Utah Stars (ABA) also drafted him.

    Winfield is currently one of two players ever to be drafted by three professional sports (the other being Dave Logan).

1975

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    The Vikings had developed several traits in the seventies that many older fans are quite familiar with.

    They usually opened the season with nine or 10 straight wins, and always seemed to fall to the Dallas Cowboys.

    Enter in 1975, a season that awarded the Vikings their third straight NFC Central title.

    But the 1975 season, and postseason, offered a barrage of interesting points, namely the Vikings offense and defense being in the top three overall (ranked first defensive yards allowed, and first in yardage differential).

    The 1975 season’s end is best known for coming at the hands of Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” pass that eventually won the game.

    There was a situation surrounding that pass that suggests the refs should’ve called an interference penalty on the Cowboys that eventually led to referee Arman Terzean (the one who did not make the call) getting hit in the head from a whisky bottle thrown from an angry fan.

    While this particular highlight is not what most would consider great, it was the season itself and the type of separation play the Vikings accomplished, that made it great.

1976

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    The 1976 season was one of the greatest for reasons that many may not initially be aware of, or even consider.

    The culmination of what head coach Bud Grant preached, peaked and “died” in 1976.

    His message of control, and “do whatever it takes to win” was on display every Sunday in 1976, and it was that year they had the most success in that realm of control.

    They had more plays per game, led the league in ball control, and were one of the most consistent teams in the league in regard to moving the ball downfield.

    In addition to these accomplishments, the Vikings also led the league in blocked kicks (15) which was the reason for their lone 10-10 tie with the Rams in the second game of the season.

    Unfortunately, it is currently the last season the Vikings ever made it to the Super Bowl, losing to the Oakland Raiders 32-14.

1964

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    The 1964 season is one of the best seasons in team history for one simple fact: it was the team’s first ever winning season as a NFL team.

    Their first three years in the league, the Vikings went a combined 10-30 before 1964, where they finished in a complete turnaround fashion with a record of 8-5-1.

    The team was led by a modest but potent defensive line that featured three key players in Carl Eller, Carl Robinson and Monte Kiffen. The offense finished fourth in total offensive points, which was a first for the team.

2009

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates the Vikings first touchdown against the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Forget about how the 2009 season ended, because the season itself was one of the best of all time, and even Brett Favre himself said it was the best season he ever had as a player.

    The 2009 season—coupled with the 2008 season a year before—was rather reminiscent of the Vikings’ dominating times in the 1970s.

    It would be the first time the Vikings had retained the divisional title since those days in the seventies, and they even had to go through Dallas in the divisional playoff game to get to the New Orleans Saints.

    The Vikings had ten Pro Bowlers and four All-Pros on their roster; both league-highs for the season.

1969

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    The ’69 season was only the ninth season played in Vikings history, but it rapidly became one for the ages.

    The Vikings were a NFL-best 12-2, leading the league in total points scored (379) and fewest points allowed (133).

    In addition to that accomplishment, the Vikings also scored 50 or more points in three different games and garnered 12 straight victories; the longest single-season winning streak in 35 years.

    To add to all of this, the Vikings became the first modern NFL expansion team to win a NFL championship, and were dubbed one of the top 25 greatest NFL teams to not win a Super Bowl on America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, a then annual documentary by the NFL films.

1998

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    Arguably the best season the Vikings ever had in their history, the 1998 season set a then-single season scoring record of 556 points (later beaten by the 2007 Patriots).

    It was a banner year for then-rookie Randy Moss, veteran Cris Carter and running back Robert Smith.

    In fact, the Vikings led the league with 52 plays of 25 yards or greater and had 22 offensive plays of 40-plus yards.

    No other team had more than 16 plays of that length.

    Even quarterback Randall Cunningham had a career year with the team.

    The ironic twist to the 15-1 Vikings, who basically led the league in damn near everything, was the fact that the loss in the championship game against the Falcons was due to a bizarre call by then-head coach Dennis Green, called the "Take a Knee Game," when he opted to have Cunningham take a knee instead of going for it on the final play of regulation, sending the game into over time.

    And I don't need to remind anyone of what happened then.

    But despite the terrible ending, it was the magic of the season that gave Vikings fans 16 weeks of sheer exhilaration and pride. It was a season that is still to, this day, like none other in Vikings history—which is why I have it here today at number one.

    I hope you guys enjoyed and hey, you don't have to agree with my own rankings. Tell me where you think these seasons—or others should fall.

    And for you fantasy football fans, come check out my Early Fantasy Football WR Rankings.