Power Ranking the 25 Greatest Vikings of All Time

Bob Garman@@bgarmaniAnalyst IMarch 15, 2013

Power Ranking the 25 Greatest Vikings of All Time

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    Since their entry into the NFL in 1961, the Minnesota Vikings have become on of the league's most storied franchises. Minnesota has the eighth-best winning percentage in NFL history, has made 27 playoff appearances and four Super Bowl appearances.

    With such a record of success, it's clear that the Vikings have had some great players over their 52 years in the NFL.

    The following is a list of the 25 Greatest Vikings of all-time. Each slide will include the uniform number the player wore while in purple and list his tenure with the team. Achievements and Awards will also be noted.

    Those are just the numbers, however. There's more to being a great Viking than simply stats and duration of stint with the franchise. Each slide will also contain an explanation of why that player earned a spot on the list.

    Is there someone missing that should be here? Want to bring up your own candidates? Someone on the list that rubs you the wrong way? Speak your mind in the comments section below. 

    For now, click on to see the list of the 25 Greatest Vikings of All-Time.

25. Matt Birk: Center

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    Birk makes this list because he's a combination of the old-school and modern-day Vikings greats.

    His durability and intelligence at the center position are reminiscent of Mick Tingelhoff, the greatest center in team history. Birk, who recently retired from the Baltimore Ravens after winning a Super Bowl ring, has a legitimate chance to make the Hall of Fame one day.

    The Harvard grad grew up in Minnesota, and still lives in St. Paul. During his stay with the Vikings, Birk was a key component of some of the greatest offenses in team (and NFL) history.

    Uniform Number: #75, #78

    Tenure with the Vikings: 1998-2008

    Awards and Honors:  Six-time Pro-Bowler; NFL Man of the Year (2011)

24. Matt Blair: Linebacker

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     A member of the Vikings' Ring of Honor, Matt Blair played in three Super Bowls and was one of the leaders of a ferocious defensive unit in the mid-70's. While Blair was a great linebacker, he was an even more fearsome special teams player. During the course of his career, Blair blocked 20.5 kicks, a Minnesota record that stands to this day.

    Not satisfied being a standout on the field, Blair was also very active in the community. He served as the face of the Multiple Sclerosis Read-a-Thon for many years.

    Uniform Number: #59

    Tenure with the Vikings: 1974-1985

    Awards and Honors:  Six-Time Pro-Bowler;  First Team All-Pro (1980)

23. Gary Zimmerman: Offensive Tackle

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    Zimmerman possessed all the traits one could ask for in an offensive lineman. He was a force against the run and one of the all-time best at protecting the quarterback. He never seemed to get called for penalties and often went entire games without being mentioned by the play-by-play crew.

    Zimmerman quietly got the job done, game-in and game-out. He is one of the few players in the history of the league to be named to two of the NFL's All-Decade teams, the 1980's and 1990's.

    Uniform Number: #65

    Tenure with the Vikings: 1986-1992

    Awards and Honors:  Seven-time Pro-Bowler; Three-time First-Team All-Pro; Hall of Fame (2008)

22. Joey Browner: Safety

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    Browner was one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the history of the NFL. Famous for his strong hands, he often brought down runners and receivers by simply grabbing them by the jersey. The Vikings' first-round pick in the 1983 NFL draft, Browner played for the team for nine years, accumulating 37 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.

    The fearsome Browner was selected to the All-Madden team four times.

    Uniform Number: #47

    Tenure with the Vikings: 1983-1991

    Awards and Honors:  Six-Time Pro-Bowler; Three-Time First-Team All-Pro

21. Keith Millard: Defensive Tackle

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    The 6'6" Millard paired with Chris Doleman (also on this list) to form one of the most feared pass-rushing defensive lines of the mid-80's. The two behemoths combined for 39 sacks in 1989 alone. Millard's 18 sacks that season are still a record for a defensive tackle in the modern era.

    During his relatively short tenure with the Vikings, Millard recorded 53 sacks (including 21.5 in his first two years with the team) and seven fumble recoveries. While known primarily as a pass rusher, Millard was also effective against the run. He led the defensive line in tackles three times during his tenure.

    Uniform Number: #75

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1985-1990

    Awards and Honors:  Two-Time Pro-Bowler; Two-Time First-Team All-Pro; AP Defensive Player of the Year (1989)

20. Robert Smith: Running Back

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    Until Adrian Peterson came along, Robert Smith held the Vikings' record for career rushing yards, accomplishing the task in just eight seasons. Though injuries kept him from reaching the absolute peak of his potential, Smith provided Minnesota fans with many memories during his tenure.

    He didn't really hit his stride until 1997 and was an utter terror for the next four years, rushing for over 1,000 yards in every season from 1997 through his retirement after the 2000 campaign, a year that saw him rush for 1,500-plus yards with 10 total touchdowns.

    Uniform Number: #20 & 26

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1993-2000

    Awards and Honors:  Two-Time Pro-Bowler; Former Vikings Career Rushing Leader

19. Chris Doleman: Defensive End

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    Doleman was one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL during his tenure with the Vikings.

    In 1989 alone, he accounted for 21 quarterback sacks. Doleman left the Vikings in 1993 and had a few productive years with Atlanta and San Francisco before returning to Minnesota to finish his career in 1999, adding 8 sacks to his total.

    Few defensive ends ever combined Doleman's speed, strength and athleticism.

    Doleman tallied 31 of his 44 forced fumbles and 96.5 of his 150.5 sacks (fourth in NFL history) with the Vikings.

    Uniform Number: #56

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1985-1993, 1999

    Awards and Honors:  Eight-Time Pro-Bowler; Two-Time First-Team All Pro; Hall of Fame (2012)

18. Ahmad Rashad: Wide Receiver

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    No Vikings fan will ever forget Rashad's catch against the Cleveland Browns in 1980 to give Minnesota a miracle comeback and the NFC Central Division championship. That catch cemented Rashad as one of the all-time Vikings greats in the hearts of everyone who bleeds purple.

    Though Rashad only topped 1,000 receiving yards twice in his career and never scored more than nine touchdowns in a single season, every catch he made seemed to big a big one.

    Uniform Number: #28

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1976-1982

    Awards and Honors:  Four-Time Pro-Bowler

17. Fred Cox: Kicker

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    Even after all these years, Fred Cox is still the Vikings' all-time scoring leader.

    One of the last of the true straight-ahead kickers, Cox was surprisingly accurate. In his 15-year career, Cox hit on over 62 percent of his field goal attempts, this is in an era when anything over 50 percent was considered pretty good.

    He even did double duty as the Vikings' punter during his first season with the team in 1963.

    Uniform Number: #14

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1963-1977

    Awards and Honors:  Pro-Bowler (1970); First-Team All-Pro (1969); All-Time Vikings Scoring Leader

16. Jared Allen: Defensive End

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    Allen hasn't been a Viking for all that long, but he's one of the most popular players in the NFL.

    Since arriving via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Allen has recorded 73 sacks, including 22 in 2011.

    Allen's enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude make him a huge favorite with the Minnesota faithful. Though most know Allen for his colorful personality, he is also a very smart player. If he continues to ring up double-digit sack totals (as he has in seven of his last eight seasons), Allen will eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.

    Uniform Number: #69

    Tenure with the Vikings:  2008-Present

    Awards and Honors:  Five-Time Pro-Bowler; Four-Time First Team All-Pro; Vikings Single-Season Sack Record

15. Antoine Winfield: Cornerback

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    Winfield is a warrior. Always one of the smallest players on the field, Winfield is still one of the most feared hitters in the NFL.

    He may be the best tackling cornerback in the history of the league. Winfield has amassed nearly 900 tackles in his career, a tremendous number for a corner. His versatility is remarkable as well. Winfield is effective on the edge or lined up in the slot. Winfield has served the Vikings well as a leader both on and off the field and his ferocious, competitive spirit is exactly what one would expect of a legendary Viking.

    Uniform Number: #26

    Tenure with the Vikings:  2004-Present

    Awards and Honors:  Three-Time Pro-Bowler

14. Paul Krause: Safety

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    Krause is truly one of the great old-school Vikings. The NFL's all-time leader in career interceptions played in all four of the Vikings' Super Bowl losses.

    Though never regarded as a great hitter, Krause's tackling was solid. As evidenced by his 81 career interceptions, he had a nose for the ball and a knack for making big plays.

    Krause was truly ahead of his time, playing the safety position like a cornerback. While the defensive line got most of the ink, Krause was the true heart of the great Minnesota defenses of the 1970's.

    Uniform Number:  #22

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1968-1979

    Awards and Honors:  Eight-Time Pro-Bowler; Three-Time First-Team All-Pro; NFL Career Interceptions Leader; Hall of Fame (1998)

13. John Randle: Defensive Tackle

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    Randle had a motor that just wouldn't quit. The former Vikings' standout is one of the few undrafted free agents ever to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his record of eight consecutive double-digit sack seasons by a defensive tackle may never be equaled.

    Randle's personality was a big as his bulging biceps. He was known for terrorizing opposing quarterbacks almost as much with his mouth as with his fearsome pass rush.  

    Uniform Number:  #93

    Tenure with the Vikings:   1990-2000

    Awards and Honors:  Seven-Time Pro-Bowler; Six-Time First-Team All-Pro; Vikings Official Career Sack Leader; Hall of Fame (2010)

12. Ron Yary: Offensive Tackle

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    Yary is another Viking great from the glory days of the 1970's. The USC alum was the first offensive tackle ever selected first in the NFL draft and lived up to that potential every time he took the field.

    Equally gifted as a run or pass blocker, Yary utilized a combination of awesome strength and flawless technique to earn seven Pro-Bowl nominations. Yary is the greatest offensive tackle ever to play for Minnesota and one of the top 10 of all-time.

    Uniform Number:  #73

    Tenure with the Vikings:   1968-1981

    Awards and Honors:  Seven-Time Pro-Bowler; Six-Time First-Team All-Pro; Hall of Fame (2001)

11. Jim Marshall: Defensive End

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    If one player in the history of the Vikings epitomizes the heart and soul of the organization, it's Jim Marshall.

    Marshall joined the Vikings in their first season, and went on to play for the team for 19 years. Marshall played in all four Minnesota Super Bowls and was a stalwart on the defensive line for two decades. Marshall played in 282 consecutive regular-season games, a record that stood for decades before being broken. Though often overshadowed by his flashier teammates, Marshall outlasted them all.

    He should be in the Hall of Fame.

    Uniform Number:  #70 (retired)

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1961-1979

    Awards and Honors:  Two-Time Pro Bowler; Former NFL Record Holder for Consecutive Games Played

10. Cris Carter: Wide Receiver

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    Carter may not have been the most popular player with teammates or members of the media, but he was a fan favorite during his entire stay with the Vikings.

    Former coach Buddy Ryan once said that all Carter did was catch touchdowns. He did a lot more than that. At one time, Carter was in the NFL's all-time top five in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. No one ever had better hands and no one could make a sideline catch like Carter.

    Uniform Number:  #80 (retired)

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1990-2001

    Awards and Honors:  Eight-Time Pro-Bowler; Two-Time First-Team All-Pro; Vikings Career Leader in Receptions, Receiving Yards, and Receiving Touchdowns; Hall of Fame (2013)

9. Carl Eller: Defensive End

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    Where Jim Marshall was the heart behind the great Vikings defenses of the 1970s, Carl Eller was the muscle of the Purple People eaters.

    Though the NFL didn't keep quarterback sacks as an official statistic during Eller's career, film study shows that he ended up with 133.5, which would have placed him in the NFL's all-time top-10 pass-rushers. As impressive as his numbers were, Eller's presence was even more intimidating.

    Longtime Vikings fans will never forget his incredible speed and wingspan coming off of the edge as he bore down on opposing quarterbacks.

    Uniform Number: #81

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1964-1978

    Awards and Honors:  Six-Time Pro-Bowler; Five-Time First-Team All-Pro; Vikings (Unofficial) Career Sack Leader; Hall of Fame (2004)

8. Chuck Foreman: Running Back

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    Long before Ray Rice, Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig came on the scene, Chuck Foreman was the original dual threat at running back. A talented runner, Foreman broke the mold for running backs by serving as a viable as a receiving threat, once recording 73 receptions in a single season. He amassed 336 catches in seven seasons with the Vikings. In 1975, Foreman scored 22 touchdowns rushing and receiving, an NFL record at the time.

    Much of today's West Coast offense can be traced to the way the Vikings used Foreman. Even in today's NFL, there are few who can boast such versatility.

    Uniform Number: #44

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1973-1979

    Awards and Honors:   Five-Time Pro-Bowler; First-Team All-Pro (1975); Former Vikings Career Leader in Rushing and Rushing Touchdowns

7. Mick Tingelhoff: Center

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    Tingelhoff was the mainstay of the Vikings' offensive line throughout the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s. As Jim Marshall was to the defensive front, Tingelhoff was to the Minnesota offensive line, a steadying presence who was simply always there and nearly always did his job to perfection.

    Tingelhoff is second on the Vikings' list for all-time games played and the team retired his number as a tribute to his contributions.

    Uniform Number: #53 (Retired)

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1962-1978

    Awards and Honors:  Six-Time Pro-Bowler; Five-Time First Team All-Pro

6. Alan Page: Defensive Tackle

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    Jim Marshall was the heart and Carl Eller the muscle of the famed Purple People Eaters, while Alan Page provided the star power. No defensive tackle in the history of the NFL has ever possessed the blinding speed and agility that Page boasted.

    Opponents so feared him that he became the first defensive player ever to win the NFL's MVP award in 1971.

    Page also displayed great intelligence on the field, an attribute he carried all the way to a seat on Minnesota's Supreme Court.

    Uniform Number:  #88 (Retired)

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1967-1978

    Awards and Honors:  Nine-Time Pro-Bowler; Six-Time First-Team All-Pro; NFL MVP (1971); Hall of Fame (1988)

5. Adrian Peterson: Running Back

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    Peterson is rapidly climbing the list of all-time Vikings. Since being selected with the Vikings' first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Peterson has been the NFL's best running back.

    "AD" has rushed for over 8,800 yards in his six NFL seasons, already claiming the Vikings' all-time yardage record. His 2,097 yards in 2012 was the second-biggest total in NFL history and came after Peterson underwent reconstructive knee surgery in the offseason. The incredible feat earned him the NFL's MVP award.

    If he keeps up his current pace, Peterson is surely bound for Canton.

    Uniform Number: #28

    Tenure with the Vikings:  2007-Present

    Awards and Honors:  Five-Time Pro-Bowler; Three-Time First-Team All-Pro; NFL MVP (2013); Vikings Career Leader in Rushing Yards and Touchdowns

4. Randall McDaniel: Guard

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    Perhaps no player in the history of the Minnesota Vikings has embodied quiet excellence like Randall McDaniel.

    A first-round pick in 1988, McDaniel was elected to a record 12 straight Pro Bowl games from 1989-2000. His stance was awful and his technique was even worse, but he kept defenders out of the Minnesota backfield. McDaniel was a gifted athlete, able to dunk a basketball from a flatfooted start.

    He currently teaches third grade at a Minneapolis elementary school

    Uniform Number: #64

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1988-1999

    Awards and Honors: 12-Time Pro-Bowler; Seven-Time First-Team All-Pro; Hall of Fame (2009)

3. Bud Grant: Head Coach

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    No one in the history of the NFL personifies a franchise like Bud Grant does the Minnesota Vikings. Most longtime fans will say that the image of Grant, stoically standing on the sidelines with his "Great Stone Face," watching his teams destroy the opposition is the first image that comes to mind when they think of the Vikings.

    Grant's famous speech when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994 still stands as one of the most notable addresses in the history of the shrine. 

    Uniform Number: N/A

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1967-1983, 1985

    Awards and Honors:  Vikings Career Record Holder for Most Wins; Hall of Fame (1994)

2. Randy Moss: Wide Receiver

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    While there are many who question Randy Moss' attitude or work ethic, there was no doubting his abilities as a receiver.

    Perhaps no player in the history of the franchise had such an immediate and dynamic impact as Moss. When he burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1998, Moss set the league on fire, catching 17 touchdown passes and rolling up over 1,300 receiving yards.

    Teams in the NFC North changed their draft strategies just to find cornerbacks able to contain Moss. They never did.

    Uniform Number: #84

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1998-2004, 2010

    Awards and Honors:  Six-Time Pro-Bowler; Four-Time First-Team All-Pro; Single-Season Receiving Touchdowns (2007)

1. Fran Tarkenton: Quarterback

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    Finally, the greatest Minnesota Viking of all-time.

    For a franchise with a storied history, it's amazing to note that Fran Tarkenton is the only quarterback to make this list.

    Tarkenton helped the Vikings win their first-ever game, and he changed the league with his scrambling and short-passing game. At one time, he held every major NFL passing mark, and still ranks in the top 10 in most categories, despite the fact that he never played in a pass-happy NFL like many of the modern-day signal callers.

    He was the first of the legendary Vikings to be voted into the Hall of Fame and, for many fans, he will always be the most iconic player ever to don the purple and gold.

    Uniform Number:  #10 (Retired)

    Tenure with the Vikings:  1961-1966, 1972-1978

    Awards and Honors:  9-Time Pro-Bowler; First Team All-Pro (1975); NFL MVP (1975); AP Offensive Player of the Year (1975); Vikings All-Time Record Holder for Most Passing Yards and Most Passing Touchdowns; Hall of Fame (1986)