professional football team and one of five teams in the Central Division
of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take
affect in 2002, the Vikings will move into the North Division of the NFC.
The Vikings play at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, and wear uniforms of purple, gold, and white. The team’s name
refers to the Nordic peoples who were ancestors to Minnesota’s large
population of Scandinavian Americans.
Since the late 1960s, the Vikings have been one of the most consistently
successful franchises in the NFL. During the 1970s head coach Bud Grant
steered the team to four Super Bowls. Quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who
spent much of his career with the Vikings, became the most prolific
passer in NFL history, compiling the most career yards, completions, and
touchdown passes during his 15 years in the league. (Tarkenton’s records
were broken by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins in 1995.) Grant also
assembled one of the fiercest defenses in NFL history. Known
collectively as the Purple People Eaters, players such as linemen Carl
Eller, Jim Marshall, and Alan Page “devoured” opposing offenses.
The Vikings joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1961 and selected
Fran Tarkenton in the NFL draft. The franchise got off to a slow start,
producing only one winning record in its first seven seasons. In 1967
Minnesota traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants for the rights to four
draft picks. These picks yielded several talented rookies, including
In the 1968 season Bud Grant guided the Vikings to the NFC Central
Division championship. A year later, Minnesota’s defense, the league’s
toughest, powered the Vikings to Super Bowl IV, where the team lost to
the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings’ offensive performance in 1969 was
also the league’s best. Quarterback Joe Kapp directed a balanced unit
that relied on both running and passing.
In the 1970s safety Paul Krause and linemen Page, Carl Eller, and Jim
Marshall anchored the era’s most feared defensive unit, which ranked
first in the NFC five times from 1969 to 1976. Minnesota dominated the
NFC Central Division during this time, and in 1971 Page became the first
defensive player to receive the most valuable player (MVP) award.
Tarkenton returned to the Vikings in 1972 and subsequently piloted the
team to three Super Bowl appearances. Running back Chuck Foreman and
wide receivers John Gilliam and Ahmad Rashad were his favorite targets.
An elusive scrambler, Tarkenton also used his agility to confound
opponents. He was named league MVP in 1975.
Although they were clearly the NFC’s dominant club, the Vikings
repeatedly fell to their American Football Conference (AFC) opponents in
the Super Bowl. Minnesota lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7 in 1974, to
the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-6 in 1975, and to the Oakland Raiders 32-14
Many of the star Viking players retired by 1979, and the team entered a
period of decline, but Minnesota soon recovered its success with a
collection of new stars. From the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, the
Vikings consistently recorded winning records, and the club reached the
NFC Championship Game after the 1987 and 1998 seasons. Stars for the
Vikings during this time included quarterbacks Tommy Kramer, Warren
Moon, and Wade Wilson, and wide receiver Anthony Carter, who produced
three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Safety Joey Browner and linemen
Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, and John Randle were among the league’s
premier defensive players.
1970 Super Bowl IV Lost to Kansas City Chiefs, 23-7
1974 Super Bowl VIII Lost to Miami Dolphins, 24-7
1975 Super Bowl IX Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-6
1977 Super Bowl XI Lost to Oakland Raiders, 32-14
NFL History Guide