6 Vikings Players That Surprisingly Never Reached a Pro Bowl
During a 60-season history, the Minnesota Vikings have had several players that were worthy of Pro Bowl selection but never formally received the honors.
It’s not an occurrence exclusive to the Vikings. All NFL teams have head-scratching scenarios where notable players never received the coveted Pro Bowl nod.
During the last decade, the Vikings lavishly outpaced their division rivals via Pro Bowl selections. Since 2010, 24 Vikings players have been tapped for Pro Bowl recognition.
The Pro Bowl is not gospel in determining greatness, though. Instead, it’s a bestowment that looks fancy on a player’s resume and is often adjudicated when a generational player flirts with Hall of Fame ambitions.
For example, on the fallibility of the Pro Bowl, former Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes earned the Pro Bowl call in 2019, and he flat-out wasn’t very good. His Pro Football Focus grade was 45.4 that season. In this case, his reputation strangely masked his suspect 2019 performance.
Among various positions on the field, the Vikings have an assortment of players that one might think should have been Pro Bowlers but never were. Here are some notorious examples.
For some reason, Ryan Longwell played with the Packers for the first nine years of his career before joining the interstate rival Vikings in 2006. Outside of one tumultuous year with Green Bay in 2001, Longwell was quite reliable for the Packers in those nine seasons.
When he signed on with Minnesota at the start of the Brad Childress era, Longwell was equally as reliable.
Of all placekickers that attempted 100 field goals or more from 2006 to 2011, Longwell was the seventh-most accurate qualifier. He also drilled 98 percent of extra points during his tenure with Minnesota.
Considering the extra-point performance the Vikings have endured in the last half-decade, Longwell’s 98-percent mark invokes jealousy.
All in all, no kicker since Longwell has been as dependable for the Vikings. And that’s a nasty, eight-year-long running statement.
Vikings linebacker Roy Winston is one of the most underappreciated players in team history. Period.
Winston was a Vikings lifer. His problem was that he never quite gained the stardom as the other “Purple People Eaters” like Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Alan Page. Winston was not as proficient as those legendary figures, but he was a damn good linebacker.
Winston appeared in 75 percent of Minnesota’s appearances in the Super Bowl. He notched 12 interceptions during his career, which deserves a tip of the hat for a linebacker. Winston also recovered 14 fumbles and scored three touchdowns. The man was versatile.
Oh, and he played in 191 career games with Minnesota. That’s more than Cris Carter played in purple and gold, and the eighth-most games played all-time by a Vikings player.
A relatively local find, Jim Kleinsasser was drafted in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft from the University of North Dakota. Like the aforementioned Winston, he was a Vikings lifer in that he never departed for another team during his 12 years with the organization.
When it was all said and done for Kleinsasser, he wound up playing more games with Minnesota than icons Fran Tarkenton and John Randle.
You won’t find anybody anywhere that would call Kleinsasser an overly prolific football player, but he did do the dirty work. Kleinsasser scored seven touchdowns in 181 games and he played under four head coaches during his time with the Vikings that included Dennis Green, Mike Tice, Brad Childress, and Leslie Frazier.
Kleinsasser was showcased in a pass-blocking and run-blocking capacity while playing fullback and tight end with the team. He never made a Pro Bowl, which would be understandable based on his rudimentary numbers.
However, throughout 13 seasons, it’s odd that he was never seriously considered for the honors based on his blocking alone. He was also extremely durable as he played all 16 games in eight of his 13 seasons.
In 2019, Anthony Harris led the NFL in interceptions, but it didn’t result in a Pro Bowl selection.
Leading the league in picks is not a guarantee to get a player any sort of award, but at the very least, it should have sent Harris to the Pro Bowl, if only in a reserve role. His secondary stablemate, Xavier Rhodes, was granted Pro Bowl admittance, and Rhodes was flat-out bad that season.
If the interception total doesn’t tickle your fancy, let’s pivot to his Pro Football Focus grade. Harris scored a 90.5 in 2019 which is impressive for two main reasons. First, it was the best grade any Vikings player received. Not Dalvin Cook, Danielle Hunter, or Stefon Diggs was graded higher than Harris last season.
Next, it was the best Pro Football Focus score of any safety in the NFL. That’s right, it was better than all of the usual suspects like Jamal Adams, Earl Thomas, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and his teammate Harrison Smith.
Smith wasn’t nearly as good for the Vikings in 2020, so the franchise allowed him to walk via free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brad Johnson was never a put-the-team-on-his-shoulders type of quarterback on any team that he played for during his 15-year career. But he was good enough to be classified as a winner.
A caveat to Johnson’s inclusion on this list is that he was elected to the Pro Bowl in 1999 with the Washington Football Team and in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Johnson never received the honors in Minnesota.
While in Tampa Bay, Johnson, along with head coach Jon Gruden and a bloodthirsty defense, won a Super Bowl. The Buccanneers knocked off Rich Gannon and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The year was 2002 and Johnson had the best season of his life tallying a 22 touchdown to six interception split on the season.
With the Vikings, he never played pinball with box scores. But he did guide the team to a 28-18 record during his seven seasons with the team.
From 1994 to 1997, Vikings wideout Jake Reed produced seasons with at least 1,100 receiving yards in every year. The highest number of touchdowns he scored during the period was nine, and that occurred in 1995.
Reed was a stalwart in catching the ball opposite fellow Minnesota wide receiver Cris Carter. On the whole, Reed was not all-out ignored for recognition because of Carter, but his zeal was dwarfed to a degree.
In his prime with the Vikings, 1994 to 1997, Reed had just 59 fewer receiving yards than his Hall of Fame teammate. Reed’s 4,800 receiving yards in those four years were the fifth-most in the business behind Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Michael Irvin, and Carter.
For the duration of the 1990s, the 6,124 receiving yards that Reed hauled in was the 17th-most in the NFL. He complemented this output throughout the decade with 32 touchdowns.
His role with the Vikings diminished when Randy Moss came to town in 1998, but Reed was still worthy of Pro Bowl consideration nonetheless — and he never received the appreciation.