Taking a deep dive into the best quarterbacks to suit up for the Vikings
The Quarterbacks that have played for the Minnesota Vikings have been interesting. Outside of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Vikings haven’t had a long run of one guy at the position. Still, this is one of the winningest franchises in NFL history and has frequently made the playoffs more than 75 percent of the NFL. This is due to some really talented rosters but also because of some great quarterback play. Even though some guys didn’t stick around with the team for more than a few years they made a big impact.
Right now the NFL is in full offseason mode with no draft, training camps or major free agency speculation. So, right now it’s fun to take some time and look back on Vikings history. I’m only 20 years old so I wasn’t able to watch or remember some of these quarterbacks play live. Fortunately, through the power of being able to research through the internet, here is part one of who I think the greatest Vikings quarterbacks are.
First lets start with quarterbacks who are honorable mentions
Teddy Bridgewater (2014-2016): It seemed liked the Vikings had something going with Teddy Bridgewater. After four previous years of mediocrity, Mike Zimmer came and began building a great defense while also seeming to find his quarterback. Bridgewater improved from his rookie year in 2015 and 2016 looked promising. But, one of the greatest what ifs in Vikings history would be if Bridgewater didn’t tear his knee that pre-season.
Rich Gannon (1987-1992): Did the Vikings give up on Rich Gannon too early? Long before his MVP season in 2002, Gannon had some bright moments with the Vikings towards the end of the Jerry Burns run as coach and the beginning of the Dennis Green era. The Vikings got off to a 8-3 start in 1992 but Gannon struggled down the stretch and was benched. He was traded the following offseason, but it’s safe to say that his full potential wasn’t yet reached.
Case Keenum (2017): If the Vikings make the Super Bowl in 2017, Case Keenum is definitely in the top 10. The entire year was magical and Keenum produced a wild one-year wonder season. 38-7 still leaves a nasty taste in everyone’s mouth but, Keenum will forever be remembered for the greatest play in franchise history.
Brad Johnson (1994-1998, 2005-2006): Brad Johnson wasn’t elite but he wasn’t bad either. Like many quarterbacks of the time he was a game manager and he eventually won a Lombardi. He was a solid option for the Vikings and played well enough to have them in playoff contention. He returned in 2005 where he helped almost saved the Vikings season going 7-2.
10. Jeff George (1999)
One thing about Jeff George is that despite his conflicts with coaches he had one of the greatest arms and beautiful deep balls in NFL history. With the talent the Vikings had at the receiver, George was a perfect fit for the Vikings in 1999.
Saving the 99 season
The season didn’t start well though for Minnesota. Coming off a 15-1 year, the Vikings were 2-3 heading into the Silverdome. Down 19-0 at halftime against the Detroit Lions, the decision was made to switch from Randall Cunningham to Jeff George who was brought in to be the teams back up. Unfortunately, the Vikings would go on to lose on their way to a disappointing 2-4 start. George though went 10-12, 214 yards and 2 beautiful touchdowns to Cris Carter and Randy Moss. From that point on George led the Vikings the rest of the way.
The Vikings turned their season around going 8-2 the rest of way saving their season. George himself tossed for 2,602 yards, 21 touchdowns. His 7.0 touchdown percentage was second only to Kurt Warner and his 23 touchdowns through the air ranked 7th despite only appearing in 12 games.
Chargers vs Vikings Flashback – 1999 – Only Viking win vs SD in the 90s (just 2 games played). Huge day for Jeff George, Randy Moss & Cris Carter. Robert Smith goes over 100 yards. MIN has 547 yds offense & Robert Griffith seals it. @GRIFF24SEVEN @RandyMoss @Robert26Smith pic.twitter.com/v6sFHMBYtp
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) November 11, 2021
In the playoffs, George tossed for 3 scores in against the Dallas Cowboys and accumulated 423 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Greatest Show on Turf where the Vikings unfortunately loss. It was only for a year but George’s lone stint in Minnesota was a good one. He helped the Vikings return to the playoffs and maintained a top 5 offense and passing attack in the NFL.
9. Wade Wilson (1981-1991)
Being a back up quarterback in the 1980’s was far more important than in todays game. Back then starting quarterbacks got hurt all the time. This is why the Vikings were fortunate enough to have Wade Wilson. An eighth round pick in 1981, Wilson frequently stepped in for Tommy Kramer when needed in the early 80’s.
The 1987 season
It was in 1987 where Wilson became the Vikings primary starter. Wilson went 5-2 in games started while being the Vikings third leading rusher with 263 yards and a team high 5 touchdowns.
In the playoffs, the Vikings went on an amazing run with Wilson under center. He came off the bench and played well in a 44-10 thrashing in the Superdome. The following week, Wilson was even more impressive amassing 328 total yards against perhaps one of the greatest 49ers teams. Against, Washington in the NFC title game, the Vikings came within one play of a Super Bowl birth.
Wilson would be the Vikings primary starter over the next two seasons. Minnesota would go 14-8 over that timespan. In 1988, Wilson had a Pro Bowl year finishing first in completion percentage while leading the Vikings to their last playoff victory until 1997.
30 plus years later, Wilson is still the last Vikings quarterback to play and win two consecutive playoff games.
8. Warren Moon (1994-1996)
There is plenty to say about Warren Moon and the Hall of Fame career he had. Moon shined in college, dominated the CFL and lit up the stat sheet with the run and shoot offense in Houston. Between 1992 and 1993 the Vikings had cycled through Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury and Jim McMahon, three quarterbacks not as talented as Moon. So, when Moon arrived via trade to Minnesota, the Vikings passing game took a huge leap in 1994.
Moon maintained a Pro Bowl level of play at age 38 during the 1994 season. He set a then franchise record 4,264 yards passing as the Vikings won the NFC Central title. The record books were rewritten the following season as Moon set franchise highs of 307 completions, 607 attempts (still stands) and 33 touchdowns.
The Moon era was over midway through the 1996 season. Like Jeff George, Moon had one of the greatest arms in NFL history and is still one of the most talented quarterbacks to suit up for the Vikings.
7. Kirk Cousins (2018-present)
A statement that is 100 percent true is that Kirk Cousins has been the best quarterback to play for the Vikings in the last 13 years. His arm strength is among the best and he’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks in league history. Missing one start over the past four seasons, Cousins is the most durable quarterback this franchise has ever had.
Statistically, Cousins has lit up that stat sheet. As a Viking, Cousins has passed for 3,500-plus yards while maintaining a completion percentage above 66 percent. He’s the only quarterback to throw for 25-plus touchdowns in every season since 2015.
Furthermore, 2019 was arguably Cousins best season as pro. Despite his numbers being down due to an excellent run game Cousins posted his his best QBR and rating as a Viking. He played lights out over the final stretch of year returning the Vikings to the playoffs. The reward was a stunning upset against the Saints.
So why is Cousins so low?
Outside of 2019, the Vikings have played .500 or below football which is the storyline of Cousins career. He’s not the sole reason why the Vikings have struggled but his play at times hasn’t helped their cause. That being said, we’ve seen Cousins play at a high level. With a new coach and scheme I have optimism that we’ll see Cousins and this offense take off in 2022.
The bottom line is that Cousins is a good but not elite quarterback. He was brought in to be the missing piece of a deep playoff run. If the Vikings do reach a NFC Title Game or dare to even say it a Super Bowl then Cousins will rise on this list.
6. Randall Cunningham (1997-1999)
Randall Cunningham was past his prime but he was still able to show how reliable he was as a passer. In 1997, Dennis Green convinced Cunningham to come out of retirement in a move that paid dividends. Cunningham replaced Brad Johnson towards the end of the 1997 season. In the Wild Card around against the New York Giants, the Vikings completed a thrilling comeback that saved Green’s job.
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) January 7, 2021
1998 MVP caliber season
Finishing second in the MVP voting, Cunningham let it fly by producing a career year through the air in 1998. With the three deep of Moss, Carter and Jake Reed, Cunningham produced a career high 3,704 yards and 34 touchdowns. The result was the greatest offense in NFL history to that point and the second greatest team in Vikings history.
October 5, 1998: @RandyMoss’ coming out party. Five catches for 190 yards, and 2 TDs in a 37-24 Vikings win over the Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football.
He would have had 3 TDs if not for a holding call in the first quarter that nullified a long TD catch. pic.twitter.com/kOaDTAv8Rp
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) October 5, 2020
Cowboys vs Vikings Wk Flashback – Thanksgiving Day 1998. Revel in the beauty of 1080p highlights B4 1080p existed! All remember Randy Moss, but Cris Carter, Randall Cunningham, Robert Smith & Leroy Hoard had huge days too! @BigMouthLeroy @Robert26Smith @criscarter80 @RandyMoss pic.twitter.com/NRYfqwtG3a
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) October 29, 2021
There would be a whole different perspective on those Vikings if things played out differently in January of 1999. As for Cunningham his 1998 season should be remembered as one of the best in NFL history.
In 1998, Randall Cunningham was:
• 2nd in TD passes (34)
• 1st in TD% (8.0%)
• 2nd in YPA (8.7)
• 1st in passer rating (106.0)
• 1st in ANY/A (8.54)
• 1st in DYAR (1,598)
• 1st in DVOA (45.1%)
— Mike Kennedy (@MikeKennedyNFL) June 11, 2022