Fearless Leader had a great post about Blair that I linked to, but that kind of got me thinking between the training camp dispatches--who should be next?
Over at the Vikings main page, there is a comprehensive list of current Ring of Honor members, and with the addition of Blair, that number is now 20. Reading that list is a walk through history and heritage, and as a quick aside, one of the things that has me stoked about the new stadium is the Vikings Hall of Fame that will accompany it.
But that's another post for another day.
If you've never read the bios over at the Ring of Honor page, I'm sorry, but you're not a true Vikings fan. Stop right now, go there, read every word on that page, then come back here.
Well, we're waiting............good. Glad you're back. Pick up your Official Vikings Fan Membership Card on the way out the door. Admiral Big Gun has them; he's the guy with the horns on his head and a Mastodon tusk of mead in his hand.
Anyways, I've gone through past rosters and come up with some players and a coach who I think make up the short list of 'Next'.
We'll go down the list, after the jump.
So, what are the qualifications for the Ring of Honor? To be honest, I don't know that there's an official set of guidelines set forth by the team. For me, it's kind of like the way pornography was described by the Supreme Court years ago: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.
And that's kind of how I'm approaching this list. When you look at the list of current members, there's not one guy that you can pick at and go "eh, I don't know about him. Borderline." They're all deserving, and I think that these guys I'm going to toss out there are deserving as well. Well, at least I hope so.
They are, in no particular order:
Robert Smith, RB: Smith's career started off slow, hampered by injuries and bad luck. But by the late 90's he had become one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL, and had a rare combination of size, speed, and hands that made him a threat either running or catching the ball. He was a true 'home run' threat, and could take a handoff anywhere from the field and house it. Although he will be passed by Adrian Peterson at some point this year, he is currently the Vikings all time leading rusher, and had he not retired at the height of his talent after the 2000 season, Peterson would probably be two or three seasons away from approaching his record.
Bobby Bryant, CB: A couple years ago I was fortunate enough to interview Hall of Famer Paul Krause, and in his opinion, he felt playing at a high level for a long period of time was a key component for making it into a Hall of Fame/Ring of Honor. Well, Bryant meets those qualifications. He played from 1968-1980, is second all time in team interceptions behind Krause, and lead the team in interceptions as late as 1978. He was one of the more overlooked guys on a team with the Purple People Eaters, Fran Tarkenton, and Chuck Foreman, but he is the team all-time leader in post-season interceptions, and he had some HUGE plays in his career that helped the Vikings make the post season and Super Bowl.
Gary Zimmerman, T: Zimmerman is a Hall of Famer, played for the Vikings 7 of his 12 seasons, but you could argue that the reason he made the Hall of Fame is because he won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Be that as it may, Zimmerman became a force on the Vikings, was a four time Pro-Bowler with Minnesota, and next to Randal McDaniel formed what is arguably the best G-T combination in team history, if ony for a few seasons. Zimmerman was one of the first big time players to take advantage of the new NFL free agency, or he probably would've been a Viking for a longer period of time. Still, he warrants serious consideration.
Fred Cox, K: Cox is simply the best kicker in team history. He retired after the 1977 season, and is still the all time leading scorer by more than 2:1 over the #2 guy, Cris Carter. He played at Met Stadium, under some challenging weather and field conditions (seriously, look at some old You Tube clips. At times, the field was nothing more than frozen mud that was spray painted green.) He wasn't as accurate as guys like Fuad Reveiz or Ryan Longwell, but he made a lot more big kicks than he missed, and was the mark of consistency for over a decade.
Dennis Green, Coach: Ah, the Sheriff. Denny's departure in 2001 left a bad taste in many people's mouths, and his inability to cultivate defensive talent late in his tenure was maddening. But that said, Green is the most accomplished head coach in team history not named Bud Grant. He has 97 career wins, went to the playoffs consistently, and got the Vikings to the NFC Championship twice. He also took a risk in drafting Randy Moss in 1998, and it paid off with the most prolific offense in NFL history.
Steve Jordan, TE: I had to go through the Ring of Honor list twice to make sure I hadn't overlooked Jordan, but no, he's not on there. Steve Jordan was one of the few offensive weapons on a team that had very little for the early part of his career, and was the best tight end in team history. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler, is third all time in team history with 498 catches (trailing only Randy Moss and Cris Carter), and was as good a blocker as he was a pass catcher. Seriously, it's not like all of these guys aren't deserving, but Steve Jordan isn't in? Really?
Joey Browner, S: Browner's not in, either? Seriously? Like Jordan, I had to do a double take on Browner. Browner doesn't have as many interceptions as Paul Krause, but Browner was one of the most vicious hitters I can remember watch play. He had 37 career picks, but seeminlgy twice as many big hits, and three times as many receivers got alligator arms coming into his territory. Browner was overshadowed for a good part of his career by Ronnie Lott, but on their best days, I'd take Joey Browner and not think twice about it.
Anthony Carter, WR: Again, really? AC isn't in the Ring of Honor? Before there was CC, there was AC, and for you younger fans, he was a lot like Percy Harvin--dual threat guy that when he got the ball in his hands, you felt he could go all the way, every time. Just an exciting player to watch, his defining moment was his momentous playoff game against the 49ers in 1987, where he had 10 catches for 227 yards. But people forget in the playoff rout against the Saints (seriously, FUCK THOSE GUYS) the week before, he had two TD's, including a long punt return that really helped to turn momentum to the Vikes favor.