This is the time of the year where you have to be creative if you blog about an NFL team.
Today I'm trying to be creative. The past couple of days I've been tooling around YouTube watching various highlights of Vikings doing wonderful things. It's made me nostalgic. And I got to thinking about some of my favorite Vikings over the years and why I liked them. So with very little to write about these days, I figured why not whip up a post on some of these guys - who aren't necessarily the usual Vikings suspects - guys like Moss, Tarkenton, Doleman, Randle, etc.
As my first memory of watching the Vikings play was the 1976 Super Bowl (ugh) and I didn't get to watch NFL games regularly until we got U.S. cable TV in 1985, my favorite Vikings have a very late 1980s and 1990s feel to it. And as you read this post (hopefully you'll read it), I ask you to think about who your favorite Vikings are from bygone eras?
I remember being supremely thrilled when the Vikings drafted Thomas in the third round out of LSU in the 1987 draft. Those were the days when as a teenager I actually watched a lot of college football and I knew Thomas had been a very productive player for a major football program. Thomas would become an important member of a dominant Vikings defensive line that included Chris Doleman and Keith Millard. From 1988 through to 1998 he never had fewer than six sacks playing defensive tackle or nose tackle. He ended up with 93.5 sacks in his career - pretty damn good for a guy nobody ever talks about anymore when they discuss great defensive tackles of the past. And he did this even though he was listed at 6'2 and 280 pounds, a bit small for an interior defensive lineman.
Nelson is the exact kind of player Pacifist Viking thinks Minnesota needs to help replace the production the team will lose if Percy Harvin is traded this offseason. Nelson never rushed for 1,000 yards, and really wasn't built to be a feature back anyway at 5'9 and 180 pounds. However, during his prime years from 1983-87, he averaged 675 rushing yards, 4.5 yards per carry and 40 catches per season (and never had more than 200 carries in a season.) As the seventh overall pick in the 1982 draft, some Vikings fans will say Nelson wasn't productive enough for such a high pick (and Marcus Allen was chosen by the Raiders three picks later, an inexcusable drafting error). Still, Nelson was a fun guy to watch - explosive, shifty - and a valuable member of those mid-80s Vikings teams. In today's NFL he'd fit in quite nicely as a Darren Sproles kind of back.
Just like current Vikings starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, McDaniel was drafted in the 5th round by Minnesota. Unlike Brinkley, McDaniel was actually a very good player. From 1994 through to 2001, the Clemson alum started 108 of the 110 games he played in, had 19.5 sacks and averaged 82 solo tackles per year. Oh how the Vikings could use a linebacker like McDaniel today.
Even in the 12-round draft era back in the 1980s, Jordan was a steal as a 7th round selection by the Vikings. Big and strong at 6'3 and 240, Jordan averaged 49 catches and 636 yards during an eight year stretch (1984-1991) where he made the Pro Bowl six times. Jordan's pass catching ability at tight end was a nice compliment to a Vikings aerial attack in the 1980s that also featured Anthony Carter, Hassan Jones and running backs like Nelson, Allen Rice and Ted Brown who could catch the ball well out of the backfield. It's true. Once upon a time, this franchise actually new what a forward pass was.
My lasting image of Griffith during his Vikings heyday came in a playoff game against the 49ers - I think it was in 1997 a week after they had pulled off that come-from-behind upset against the Giants. Anyway, the 49ers are pounding the Vikings, as expected, and a ball gets thrown down the middle to 49ers tight end Brent Jones. And then Griffith levels him - knocks him out, actually. That was Robert Griffith. What a devastating hitter. I just loved seeing him mess guys up.
What a great wide receiver lineage the Vikings used to have - Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, then Anthony Carter, followed by Cris Carter and Jake Reed, and finally, Randy Moss. I always felt Carter was badly underused his first three seasons with the Vikings - he never caught more than 43 passes. But what a weapon. In his first five years with the Vikings he never averaged less than 16 yards per catch. If you are too young to remember what kind of player Carter was at his peak - check out this clip and this clip. Michael Jenkins or Devin Aromashodu have never made those kinds of plays.