Minnesota Vikings: Greatest All-Time Offense

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings have a wealth of spectacular individual players in their long history. If all the great Vikings had a chance to play together, they would pillage and plunder games from their opponents like the vikings of old.

Part one of the Greatest Minnesota Vikings of All Time focuses on the offense. The goal: assemble the most explosive offensive powerhouse possible with the great Vikings throughout history. This purple pack of players isn’t limited to the most skilled or the most iconic Vikings. It doesn’t lean on the Hall of Fame for selections, either. It will be both awesome and arguable, and I await you comments (@eddiechisham).

Quarterback: Fran Tarkenton

Shocking, right? Fran Tarkenton retired from the NFL as the record holder for all four major passing stat categories. Those records wouldn’t be broken until Dan Marino came along decades later. Drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings in 1961, Fran Tarkenton started his career with a bang–throwing four touchdown passes against the Chicago Bears in a 37-13 beating.

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Tarkenton continued that hot season with an NFL record 13 consecutive completed passes in a 42-21 win over Los Angeles. In 1974, 1975 and 1977, Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to three of their four Super Bowl appearances.

While his stats are undeniably unfathomable for that era of football, his tape was even more impressive. Tarkenton still remains the greatest scrambling quarterback in the history of football. He rarely looked to run past the line of scrimmage. All of his improvisation happened behind the line, giving his receivers time to burn the defense. He wasn’t only the best quarterback of an entire era, he is one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

Tarkenton is the ideal quarterback to lead this high flying offense. With all the weapons you are about to see at his disposal, a man with the ability to make extra time for downfield throws is extremely valuable.

Honorable mentions: Tommy Kramer, Warren Moon, Daunte Culpepper

Running backs: Adrian Peterson and Robert Smith

Adrian Peterson is a future Hall-of-Famer, and already one of the greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time. His rare combination of size, speed, agility and vision have made him a home run threat throughout his career.

In this scenario, Robert Smith is the third down back. Adrian Peterson’s bane throughout his career has been his inability to catch and occasional streaky ball-carrying. In the high-flying Minnesota Vikings offense of 1998, Robert Smith averaged a combined 105.6 yards rushing and receiving.

In that year, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception. He was often the third or fourth target of that offense, and still put up those numbers. As the third-down running back of this All-Time offense, Robert Smith would be a dependable go-to for sticky situations.

For every full season Adrian Peterson has played, he has put up at least 1,266 yards. His career average per carry is 4.9 yards. Peterson still holds the single game rushing record of 296 yards, and he came just eight yards short of the single season record with 2,097 yards in 2012.

In this writer’s humble opinion, it was much more impressive than Eric Dickerson’s record season due to an utter lack of talent around him and the fact that he faced 8-9 man boxes on every play. The fact that Peterson still draws eight man boxes is what gives him the most pull for this position.

Honorable mentions: Chuck Foreman, Herschel Walker

Wide receivers: Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed

Why split this trio up? Many people forget that Jake Reed had four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings where he put up over 1,100 receiving yards. Another key strengthening Reed’s case is that he played the vast majority of his career in Minnesota from 1991-2001. Reed’s best attribute was his ability to play complementary football with two of the all-time greatest receivers in the game.

Cris Carter is the best possession receiver of all time. Period. Carter might have the best hands of all time (in this writer’s opinion, he does). Forget his stats (which are absolutely amazing), Carter is on this team because he is an all-time watchable player. Go watch the tape–the ball doesn’t move an atom when it touches his soft hands or hand. He is one of the best jump-ball artists of all time, timing balls perfectly with his athletic vertical and sure-phalanges.

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Need I say anything defending the argument of Randy Moss? No disrespect to the legends that came before him, but Randy Moss was the first of his kind. He was the first prototypical wide receiver. His combination of speed, height, strength and an underrated ability to run routes made even the most talented of announcers to use hyperbolic terms like “freak” to describe him.

Randy Moss supplies the downfield element of the game. Cris Carter is the sure-handed third down and red zone target. Jake Reed will always be open when the team needs him. Moss and Peterson present a unique challenge to opposing defenses. Moss makes corners and safeties back off the line, and Peterson makes them play closer to the line. Good luck guarding that.

Honorable mentions: Ahmad Rashad, Anthony Carter, Troy Williamson (just kidding)

Tight ends: Steve Jordan and Jim Kleinsasser

Face it: Jim Kleinsasser is your favorite Minnesota Viking of all time. Kleinsasser not only played all 13 years of his NFL career in Minnesota from 1999-2011, but he also looked like a viking. People forget that Jimmy Kleinsasser had athletic days in his early NFL career. As time went on, he became one of the most dependable blocking tight ends in the league. His secret weapon was his unpredictability as a receiver. It wasn’t pretty, but Kleinsasser reeled in six touchdowns and 8.8 yards per reception.

Steve Jordan also played his entire career with the Minnesota Vikings from 1982-1994. In a long stretch from 1986-1991, Jordan made six consecutive pro bowls. Important in the passing game, Jordan averaged 12.7 yards per reception and had 28 career touchdowns. In 1986, 1987 and 1989, Jordan was an all-pro. A great blocker and a dependable receiver, Steve Jordan makes an excellent compliment to a team that wants to grind you with the run and throw deep down the field.

Offensive line: Bryant McKinnie, Randall McDaniel, Mick Tingelhoff, Steve Hutchinson and Ron Yary

Say what you will about left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but with this coach (see below) on the field, he would play to his ceiling–and what a high ceiling it was. McKinnie was a brick wall in pass blocking and a bulldozer in run blocking.

Randall McDaniel is an all-time great guard in the NFL. McDaniel was famous for combining his crushing strength with quick feet, gliding side to side while keeping prominent defensive lineman idle.

Mick Tingelhoff got the Vikings starting center gig in 1962. He went on to start all 240 games until his retirement in 1978. Tingelhoff made six pro bowls in a row and started in four Super Bowls.

Steve Hutchinson was the catalyst of Adrian Peterson’s early career success. Peterson was one of the rare running backs in the league, preferring to run left behind Hutch and McKinnie. Hutchinson was a master of blocking downfield and was famously the architect of keeping the team together following the disappointment of the 2009 season.

Right tackle Ron Yary makes that three for Hall-of-Famers on this offensive line. Yary was the Minnesota Vikings’ first pick in 1968, and played there for 14 seasons. He played four Super Bowls for the Vikings, and, even more impressively, was named all-pro six consecutive times.

Honorable mentions: Korey Stringer, Matt Birk, Gary Zimmerman

Next: Minnesota Vikings: Defense and Special Teams Playing Amazing

*Bonus* Head coach: Bud Grant