I assume that many of you out there, just like myself, have somehow managed to get the day off today to celebrate Presidents Day. Above, you can see the unmistakable image of Mount Rushmore, which immortalizes four of America's greatest Commanders-in-Chief for the contributions they made to the formation of the greatest damn country on the face of the planet.
Seeing that sort of got me to thinking. . .if we were to immortalize four individuals, past or present, for the contributions they've made to the formation of the greatest damn football team on the planet, who would they be? I'll put my list after the jump. . .a couple of them were easy, and a couple of them I actually agonized quite a bit over. I'll do the easy ones first.Bud Grant - When any history of the Minnesota Vikings is discussed, there's one name that should come to the forefront above all others, and that's the name of Bud Grant. Professional football's third-winningest coach (behind only Don Shula and George Halas) with 290 victories, and the NFL's eighth-winningest coach with a record of 158-96-5, Grant is probably more vital to the history of the Minnesota Vikings than any other individual in the team's history. People tend to like to discount Grant's achievements as a coach because, while he led the Vikings to the Super Bowl four times, he never led them to a Super Bowl win. We in the business of writing about football like to refer to such people as "idiots."
One thing that I read about Bud Grant that I didn't know while I was looking up his bio for this story. . .the man required all of his players to stand at attention in a straight line for the entirety of the National Anthem on game day. . .and the team even had National Anthem practice. Yes. . .we're talkin' 'bout practice. There's no way a coach would be able to get away with that in today's NFL.
Fran Tarkenton - Before there was Favre, before there was Marino, Sir Francis of Tarkenton owned the passing section of the National Football League record books. From the Vikings' first game, in which the rookie Tarkenton came off the bench and threw four touchdown passes in a shocking 38-13 thrashing of the Chicago Bears, to being traded to the New York Giants in 1967 and coming back to the Vikings in 1972, he is as synonymous with Vikings' football as any individual player. When he retired from the game, he was the NFL's all-time leader in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yardage, and passing touchdowns, as well as rushing yards by a quarterback and victories by a starting quarterback. Here's where he ranks in those categories today, despite not having played a game since 1978:
Passing yardage - 6th
Pass completions - 8th
Pass attempts - 8th
Passing touchdowns - 4th
Victories by a starting quarterback - 5th
Rushing yards for a quarterback - 4th
Keep in mind, all of the seasons that Tarkenton played consisted of a 14-game regular season, rather than the 16 games of today.
Tarkenton is another one that people like to discount because his team never won a Super Bowl. . .and, again, to put it as simply as I can, anyone that would view Tarkenton as anything other than one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league is truly, truly ignorant about the sport of football. Really, there isn't a polite way to say it.
Strangely, in all the research I did about Tarkenton, I don't recall coming across any instances of fans burning his jersey or cheering for him to be injured when he was traded to the New York Giants, or during the time he played for them. Isn't that weird? Don't all fans do that when a legendary quarterback gets traded away from their team?
No? Oh. . .okay, then. Forget I said anything.
Alan Page - This one and the next one were selections I really agonized over. . .but the Purple People Eaters, one of the most dominant defenses of all-time, need a representative on this list, and Alan Page has a list of accomplishments as long as both of your arms, both on the field and off the field. We can start with his being the first defensive player in the history of the league to be named the NFL MVP, a feat he accomplished in 1971. When the Sporting News did their list of the NFL's 100 Greatest Players back in 1999, it was Page that was the highest-ranking Viking on the list, coming in at number 34 (Fran Tarkenton came in at number 59, the only other Viking on the list). He amassed 148.5 career sacks from the defensive tackle position, a was a member of the NFL's All-Decade team from the 1970s.
Oh, and he's also a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. He got his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1978 (while he was still active in the NFL), and was elected to the Court in 1993. Another impressive feat from one of the most impressive players. . .and one of the most impressive people. . .to ever set foot on an NFL field.
Adrian Peterson - Okay, this one is the one I agonized over more than any other, because there were a lot of guys that could have gone in this spot. I could have gone with Cris Carter. . .or Randy Moss. . .or Jim Marshall. . .or Mick Tinglehoff. . .or Ron Yary. . .or Chuck Foreman. . .or a host of others. But instead the spot goes to the guy that could end up being one of the all-time greats at his position.
In his first four NFL seasons, Adrian Peterson has pretty much crushed everything in his path. In his rookie year, he set a single-game rushing record with 296 against the San Diego Chargers, and he was only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 3,000 or more yards in his first two NFL seasons. Only four other running backs reached the 5,000-yard plateau as quickly as Adrian Peterson did, as it took him only 51 games. At this point of his career, only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders have averaged more rushing yards per game than AP has. He's the only running back ever to have two 200-yard games in his rookie season. . .and, if not for an illegal horse collar tackle in the aforementioned game against the Chargers, he would have put up the first 300-yard rushing performance in the history of the league.
Peterson entered the NFL with the "injury prone" tag, but has played in 60 of the 64 regular season games the Vikings have played over the course of his career, missing two games in 2007 and two more this past season. Next season, he will likely pass Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, and Robert Smith to become the leading rusher in Minnesota Vikings' history. Smith currently holds the franchise mark with 6,818 career yards, Foreman has 5,887, and Brown has 5,757. . .Peterson currently has 5,751. And, with the exception of the 2009 season, Peterson really hasn't had much of a passing game to support his efforts.
Adrian Peterson has a chance to be the greatest. . .the greatest running back of all-time, and the greatest Viking of all-time. That's why he's on this list.
So, if you were putting together a "Mount Rushmore" for the Minnesota Vikings, who would be on it?