A couple weeks ago I wrote a story titled “Danielle Hunter, the Greatest Vikings Defensive Lineman Ever.” I then, rightfully so, received a ton of criticism because of course Hunter isn’t the greatest Vikings defensive lineman ever, not yet anyway. I’ll admit that through my editing, I almost placed a question mark at the end of that title. It would have softened the blow a bit and hedged my stance.
It also would have kept me from pushing at something that I think is very important to keep in mind, we are almost always watching players who may be the greatest of all-time at their respective position. I mostly mean sports in general. Lebron James, Tom Brady, and the late Kobe Bryant all spring to mind as athletes in my lifetime that have a case for the GOAT label. We can break that down further though and say that individual players have a much better chance to be the greatest of all-time at their position, on their team.
So it brings me to the question of which Vikings have a chance to be a GOAT at their position in the franchise?
Kirk Cousins vs Fran Tarkenton
I’ll start it off with the most polarizing player on the roster. Cousins has stuffed the stat sheet in the last couple of years, and already is seventh overall in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and ranks second in completion percentage for quarterbacks who have recorded >500 attempts as a Viking.
On paper, he’s had the greatest two season stretch for a Vikings quarterback in recent years (Daunte Culpepper had 4098 passing yards and 64 touchdowns in 2003-04, but that was more than 15 years ago now) and he’s even got a playoff victory under his belt that included an overtime drive that was won with his arm. He’s also the highest paid Vikings player ever, and seems to be a huge reason why the man responsible for the single greatest play in team history, Stefon Diggs, wanted to be traded.
I understand the criticism of Cousins. He was supposed to be the missing piece in a championship team. Now, two years later, it seems like management is ready to reload and make a run in 2021 or later. Cousins is an excellent quarterback, and the most solid guy the Vikings have had for a long time, but he’s too old to come close to touching Tarkenton’s touchdown or yardage records, even in today’s pass happy league.
I think he has a chance to be remembered as the GOAT though and that is by bringing the Lombardi trophy to Minnesota. Any quarterback who does that will, I think, automatically get the title, even if they never sniff Fran’s records. Of course I’m also a Vikings fan so I know that’s never going to happen.
Likelihood of Cousins being the GOAT: 4/10
Dalvin Cook vs Adrian Peterson
If I was writing this article in week three of 2017, I might make the case for Cook to be the GOAT. He has the physical tools, and although he’s a completely different runner from Peterson, he had a chance to make a case based on his ability to catch the ball and run in a league that now values backs who can do both. However, multiple injury plagued seasons, and a confusingly strong contract market for running backs who can catch the ball, later and Cook may only stay in purple through his rookie contract.
Before Peterson’s last few years in Minnesota, I would have said that nobody could touch him. However, with the whole “discipling his child in a cruel and outdated way” thing, I think he’s put himself in Barry Bond’s territory. He’ll always be regarded as a great on-field talent, but should there be an asterisk next to his name in the record books?
I’m not here to answer that question. I will say that the door is open for another Vikings back to be the greatest, but it won’t be Cook. So much potential, but he’ll need to remain healthy and productive for a long time.
Likelihood of Cook being the GOAT 1/10
CJ Ham vs Jim Kleinsasser
Ok, admittedly this is a bit of a reach. Kleinsasser was only a fullback for four seasons according to pro-football reference, but I’m going to let it go on the basis of my dad’s logic of “Kleinsasser was a glorified tackle.” So, for this purpose I’m considering fullback to be just an extra blocker who can also occasionally get the ball.
Now, as far as Ham is concerned, he’s already got the leg up with his one pro-bowl. He’s also got a chance to win the emotional vote by being a home-grown player who essentially walked onto the team and has stuck ever since. This is despite Kleinsasser being beloved as the extra blocker tight end who would score the occasional touchdown.
It’s really going to come down to longevity for this one. Kleinsasser played 13 seasons as a Viking, and has been enshrined in the ring of honor. If Ham can play a similar length and put up slightly better receiving and rushing stats while also keeping up his excellent lead blocking, he’ll have Jim beat.
Likelihood of Ham being the GOAT 5/10