This is likely the beginning of the long Viking tradition of not understanding the quarterback position, and making bad moves in support of that. Minnesota coveted Cuozzo, who was the backup to Johnny Unitas and the first starting quarterback for the then expansion New Orleans Saints. The Vikings gave up a first-round draft pick to New Orleans for a guy who threw more interceptions than touchdowns (43 TD, 55 INT).
1971 – Leo Hayden
The Vikings were in need of a running back, and the best available guy, John Riggins, was already off the board. Hayden racked up 1,395 rushing yards with seven rushing TDs in three years at Ohio State. This is why the Vikings made Hayden their first-round pick in the 1971 Draft. The problem was Hayden never gained a single yard for the Minnesota Vikings, and they passed over two future Hall-of-Famers (LB Jack Ham, T Dan Dierdorf) to pick Hayden.
1972 – Jeff Siemon
When the Vikings traded QB Joe Kapp to the Patriots, they got the 10th overall pick in the 1972 draft, which they used to select Siemon, a linebacker from Stanford. Two picks later the Steelers selected future Hall-of-Famer RB Franco Harris
1982 – Darrin Nelson
This may be the worst. The Vikings take Nelson, an undersized running back out of Stanford, with the 7th overall pick; two of the next three picks are Hall-of-Famers G Mike Munchak and RB Marcus Allen.
1983 – Joey Browner
While Browner was a pretty solid safety, a team that needed a quarterback passed on Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino.
1989 and 1990 – Herschel Walker
In what may be the worst trade in sports history… the Vikings wound up with the most overrated running back in the NFL; in return they basically gave the Cowboys two Super Bowl championships.
In this deal, the Minnesota Vikings received:
- RB Herschel Walker
- Dallas’s 3rd round pick – 1990 (54th) (Mike Jones)
- San Diego’s 5th round pick – 1990 (116th) (Reggie Thornton)
- Dallas’s 10th round pick – 1990 (249th) (Pat Newman)
- Dallas’s 3rd round pick – 1991 (68th) (Jake Reed)
In return, the Dallas Cowboys received:
- LB Jesse Solomon
- LB David Howard
- CB Issiac Holt
- RB Darrin Nelson (traded to San Diego after he refused to report to Dallas)
- DE Alex Stewart
- Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1990 (21st – traded this pick along with the 81st pick for the 17th pick from Pittsburgh to draft Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith)
- Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1990 (47th) (Alexander Wright)
- Minnesota’s 6th round pick in 1990 (158th – traded this pick to New Orleans, who drafted James Williams)
- Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1991 (conditional) – (12) (Alvin Harper)
- Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1991 (conditional) – (38) (Dixon Edwards)
- Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1992 (conditional) – (37) (Darren Woodson)
- Minnesota’s 3rd round pick in 1992 (conditional) – (71) (traded to New England, who drafted Kevin Turner)
- Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1993 (conditional) – (13th – traded this pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, who then to the Houston Oilers, who drafted Brad Hopkins)
If it weren’t enough that the Vikings gave up five established players, the Cowboys ended up with a total of six of Minnesota’s picks over the succeeding years. Just look at the names of the solid up to Hall-of-Fame players the Cowboys got as a result of this deal.
There’s more that aren’t even listed here. As a result stock-piling the draft picks, the Cowboys used them to make subsequent trades, one of which landed the first overall draft pick in 1991, which was used to draft Russell Maryland.
1993 – Robert Smith
Having Herschel Walker obviously whetted the Viking appetite for over-rated running backs. the Vikings used the 21st pick to take Smith out of Ohio State, who really never lives up to expectations. Smith’s eight-year career only ever sees him play a full season once, and while in that one season he actually looks like a first-round pick, meanwhile one can argue the Vikings get a much better bang for their buck by taking three-time Pro Bowl DT Dana Stubblefield with this pick.
1995 – Derrick Alexander
This one is easy to see as a huge mistake. The Vikings are in need of a big-time pass-rusher, which prompts them to take Alexander from Florida State with the 11th pick. With the very next pick, the Buccaneers select future Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp.
1996 - Duane Clemens and Moe Williams
This is the same mistakes as the Vikes made in the previous season, yet it is compounded by who the Vi-queens passed on to take a player who garnered just 18.5 sacks in his entire career: WR Marvin Harrison, G Pete Kendall, and LB Ray Lewis.
A 3rd round pick from the University of Kentucky, Moe Williams only ever had one decent year in his career, 2003: when he posted 745 rushing yards and 644 receiving yards. But he never amounted to much more than a quasi-useful 3rd-down back, not something for which the Vikings should have passed over LB Tedy Bruschi or WR Terrell Owens.
1998 – Randy Moss
Sharpen you crayons, Viking Fans, because this is Part I of “Stuff you are going to write me hate mail about.”
Granted, Randy Moss was one of the most exciting players in NFL history, and he was for a time the best receiver in the business. Seriously, the guy had amazing hands and had some physical tools that defied belief…
There are a few facts which almost completely obviate his talents during his tenure in Minnesota. When you are assessing whether a player is correctly valued, EVERYTHING has to be taken into account, not just the “sexy” or the “feel-good” stuff.
FACT: Moss disappeared in the play-offs.
FACT: Moss only played half of his career in Minnesota; being traded away largely because he was such a douchebag.
FACT: Moss’ tendency to play “when he wanted to” completely eroded his over-all value. Not being a complete player when you have superior talent makes you inferior.
This is why the Vikings would have been better served taking 6-time All-Pro G Alan Faneca with this pick. Faneca was a 9-time Pro Bowler, one of the best at his position throughout his career, and not a total dick.
1999 – Daunte Culpepper and Dimitrius Underwood
Here’s Part II of “Stuff Viking Fans are going to write me hate mail about.” Face it, 1999 is the year of the over-rated quarterback, and the Vikes fell for it. In the first round of that year, five QBs were selected: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Culpepper, and Cade McNown.
The Vikes blew a 12th round pick on Culpepper, a lunch-wagon sized deep-ball artist from Central Florida. The trouble was that was all he could do; Culpepper never had a season worth mentioning without Randy Moss. The Vikings could have eliminated a lot of the offensive line problems they would have in the following decade as T John Tait, C/G Damien Woody, T Matt Stinchcomb, G Luke Petitgout, and T L. J. Shelton were all available.
But 1999 is a double feature; later in the first-round the Vikings inexplicably blow the 29th pick on Dimitrius Underwood, defensive lineman from Michigan State who was both highly regarded as being an above average player, but also came with a warning label that he had some serious psychological issues which were clearly going to be an impediment to his moving to the next level as a player. Underwood didn’t even make it through a week of training camp before the personal issues which would be his downfall became apparent.
2001 – Michael Bennett
If Wal-Mart sold a Guatemalan-made, low-quality knock-off of Robert Smith, it would be Michael Bennett. Bennett only lasts five seasons in Minnesota, during which time he only tops 500 rushing yards in a season once. The Vikes pass on WR Reggie Wayne, TE Todd Heap, and if they hadn’t made the Culpepper mistake two years prior, this is where they could have ended their quarterback problems by taking Drew Brees.
2002 - Bryant McKinnie
Where do we start here: Is it his nearly complete failure to live up to the hype which surrounded him? Or was it his complete failure to be more than overpaid, overweight bag of cold cuts? Or is it the staggering number of top-flight NFL players that were selected after him ( S Roy Williams, DE Dwight Freeney, WR Donte Stallworth, TE Jeremy Shockey, DT Albert Haynesworth, CB Philip Buchanon, S Ed Reed, and CB Lito Sheppard)?
2005 – Troy Williamson and Erasmus James
Taken with the 7th pick overall, Williamson was supposed to be a replacement for Randy Moss as he was a “vertical threat” blessed with monstrous natural speed. Too bad he couldn’t catch the damn ball.
Meanwhile, James was selected as a defensive end with the 18th overall pick from Wisconsin. In college, he was a one-man wrecking crew on the D-line, racking up 124 tackles (25.5 for losses), 18 sacks, 28 quarterback hurries, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and six pass deflections. In the NFL, was just a wreck; he only notched five sacks in four years.
Worse yet, here is another example of the Culpepper effect. Because the Vikings were in love with this lard-ass, they passed TWICE on Aaron Rodgers.
2006 – Chad Greenway
A “role player at best” linebacker drafted in front of a “shutdown corner” (Antonio Cromartie), a legit “big-play” receiver (Santonio Holmes), and the best center in the game (Nick Mangold).
2008 – Tyrell Johnson and Jared Allen
There’s a reason why you never heard of Tyrell Johnson. The Vikings didn’t have a first-round pick in 2008 thanks in part to the exceptionally-stupid Jared Allen trade, but there was really no excuse for taking a safety from Arkansas State who would never be more than a role-player when play-makers like RB Matt Forte, WR DeSean Jackson, and RB Ray Rice were still on the board.
Let’s go back to that Jared Allen trade for a minute. This completes the “Stuff Viking fans will write me hate mail about” trilogy.
Kansas City sent Allen and a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 for the No. 17 overall pick, two third-round picks and a sixth-round pick. Kansas City turned the picks into T Branden Albert, RB Jamaal Charles, S DaJuan Morgan, and WR Kevin Robinson. The Vikings turned the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick into C John Sullivan.
In other words, the Vikings provided the Chiefs with a feature running back, a better-than-average offensive tackle, and two non-factors for a barely-mediocre center and a bloated contract for a one-dimensional pass-rusher who gets fat on C-list offensive line talent. More importantly, it’s time for a dirty little football secret: Sacks are the most over-rated stat in football.
Don’t believe that? Consider the following: Out of the top ten individual sack leaders going into this weekend’s schedule, only two play on play on a defense in the top ten in passing yards allowed; Cullen Jenkins (5 sacks) and Jason Babin (7 sacks). They both play for the Eagles, who are ranked 10th. Jared Allen leads the league with 8.5 sacks, and the Vikings rank 24th in passing yards allowed. Obviously, having a guy that piles up sacks doesn’t help your overall pass defense.
Now, for the final nail in the Jared Allen coffin – he gets paid a shockingly high amount of money for fractionally more than one sack per game. Jared Allen’s salary counts for $11.6 million against salary cap, or roughly $1.36 million per sack. That’s the bottom line, and that’s for a guy who only offers a pass-rush; Allen has proven he is worthless against the running game. There’s literally tons of quality defensive ends out there for far less money and who can actually play against the run.
2009 – Percy Harvin
I will admit, it may be early to say this, but this guy can’t get on the field with regularity and he underperforms when he does (but in his defense it’s not like the Vikings have had a quarterback to get him the ball). More worrisome is the guys developing a s real playmakers who the Vikings passed up, such as LB Clay Matthews, and WRs Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt.
2010 – Randy Moss (again)
You ran this guy out of town once, then literally gave away a 3rd round draft pick for 13 receptions. The worst part is with that pick, The Patriots may have taken the quarterback you should have.
The Christian Ponder era starts on Sunday, and while nobody knows what the future will bring, the Vikings past history makes me nervous. The problem is the Vikings emulate their fans; at the end of the day they are both decidedly Minnesotan.
Trust me, I lived there for 15 years. Those phlegmatic descendants of Northern Europeans who wore real horns on their helmets never, ever change their ways no matter how obviously wrong they are. They don’t trust anybody who doesn’t live within 150 miles of the town they were born in, they bitch endlessly about things they can easily be changed rather than changing them, and they ostracize anybody who dare challenge this Minnesota mantra. Naturally, their football team which wears painted-on horns emulates those characteristics.
Maybe I’m to blame. After all, I’m the one who is continuing to watch the re-runs of “Golden Girls” and expecting Rose to get smarter. Whether you are an individual or a team, if you’re going to make the jump from “good” to “great,” you have to address the key issues. You have to want to improve and you have to address the proper things.
If you are the Vikings or their fans, this mean confronting your own ineptitude and your own choke artist tendencies. If you do that, you’ll stop wasting your time calling your opponents bad people, blaming the referees, and generally brooding over yet another loss.
Who am I kidding? It’s not like it is ever going to change. For some people, the escalator of evolution quit running a while ago. Most Minnesotans are goofy as hell, so is their team, and I just have to live with it.