32 players from the Minnesota Vikings have been anointed First-Team All-Pro in the franchise’s 60-season history. The most popular names include Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson, Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter, Alan Page, John Randle, Fran Tarkenton, and several others. The less-remembered personnel are men like Gary Anderson, Audray McMillian, and Blair Walsh.
No Vikings players received the honors in 2020 as the team finished the year with a dispiriting 7-9 record and a basketful of injuries to nurse back to health for 2021. The only realistic chance any Minnesota player had at First-Team All-Pro recognition was Dalvin Cook, but his candidacy was doused by two missed games and a herculean 16-game season by Derrick Henry in Tennessee. Almost quietly in a gridiron society that incessantly salivates for passing the football instead of rushing, Henry concocted the fifth-best season in NFL history for rushing– 2,027 yards. By the way, he also catered 17 touchdowns to that platter on a Titans team that will host a playoff game on wildcard weekend in the 2020 postseason.
Cook had no visions of grandeur in surpassing Henry for First-Team All-Pro by season’s end. But the 25-year-old did have a reasonable case to seize Second-Team All-Pro accolades. Cook was the engine to the Vikings offense – even during a season when quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 4,265 yards and 35 touchdowns. Minnesota is, indeed, a run-first organization and has arguably maintained this philosophy since the 2007 NFL Draft.
Before Americans sat down in their living rooms to watch football on Christmas day, Cook was in the driver’s seat for an “All-Pro” etching on his career resume. The Vikings defense killed those aspirations.
Outshines Kamara in Total Yards
Various criteria are weighed in the determination of All-Pro designations for running backs. How many yards does the player have? Is he frequently visiting the endzone? What is his impact on team success? Are his accomplishments far superior to his peers?
On the first question, Cook deserved the honor more so than the man that was awarded glory – Alvin Kamara. The Saints tailback registered 1,688 yards from scrimmage. This ranked third in the NFL behind – you guessed it – Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. Kamara has the luxury of utilization with the New Orleans Saints offense via rushing and receiving. He is closer to Le’Veon Bell stylistically than he is Jerome Bettis. Remember a few years ago when Le’Veon Bell wanted wide-receiver money because of his pass-catching acumen? The same case should be exalted for Kamara.
Cut and dry, though, Cook had more yards from scrimmage than Kamara – to the tune of 230 yards in one less game played. The Vikings halfback ended 2020 with 1,918 yards from scrimmage — second-most in Vikings history. Only Adrian Peterson topped Cook’s 2020 output during the 2012 season that placed an MVP trophy on Peterson’s mantel.
But Not with Touchdowns
Had voters solely gauged 2020 All-Pro laurels on yards, Cook was their man.
But they evidently had a thirst for touchdowns, which is fair. Kamara tabulated 21 touchdowns in 15 games whereas Cook fell short with 17 scores in 14 games. Four touchdowns is relatively noteworthy, so the complaint is not that Kamara’s receipt of the award is unjust.
The precedent should forthrightly state that touchdowns are more crucial than yards. Are four touchdowns greater than 230 yards? Apparently so. It is the only justification for Kamara becoming an All-Pro in 2020 and Cook left out in a cold Minnesota winter.
Perhaps it is win-loss records, although that would be a wee bit strange as a running back is not singularly subject to win-percentage metrics. There is enough of that for quarterbacks. Ask Kirk Cousins. Nevertheless, the Saints will host a home playoff game this weekend while the Vikings ponder free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft on Zoom calls.
Defense Cost Cook All-Pro Honors and Playoffs
How did we get here?
Simple. The Vikings defense disallowed Cook from the acceptance of his first career All-Pro prize. In Week 16, Minnesota traveled to New Orleans where they were bludgeoned by a score of 52-33. Some Cajun folks coined it revenge for the Vikings shenanigans in two playoffs games over the last three years. If that is vengeance, Vikings loyalists are more than happy to trade a regular-season loss for season-ending moments that abruptly ended Drew Brees’ end-of-career Super Bowl dreams – twice.
In the Week 16 showdown versus Minnesota, Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns. It should have been seven paydirts, but the Saints chose to give Taysom Hill – the backup quarterback – a goaline carry during Kamara’s pursuit at history. Instead of Kamara scoring seven rushing touchdowns on Christmas day, he was “stuck” with six on the afternoon.
If the Vikings defense contained Kamara to a “normal” big performance – let’s say two touchdowns – his season total would have capped at 17. That’s the same number of touchdowns Cook had in 2020. Then, Cook would have the yards-from-scrimmage ace in the hole for All-Pro voters to consider. But nope. Minnesota’s defense allowed six scores to one man.
Defensive disappointment, of course, was not limited to an individual player’s chagrin. The Vikings offense finished the season ranked fourth in the league for offensive yards gained. Conversely, the defense checked in at fifth-worst in yards per game allowed.
Poor defense subverted the Vikings 2020 playoff ambitions – and Dalvin Cook’s All-Pro commendation.