Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fran Tarkenton

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If you’ve ever strapped on a helmet and shoulder pads, you know how violent football can be. From pancake blocks to open field collisions, its a sport that requires a certain toughness, and honestly, a certain level of recklessness. This is especially true for offensive and defensive linemen, who repeatedly crash headfirst into one another like trucks in a demolition derby.

In today’s league, the passing game and up-tempo offense are at a premium, but that doesn’t make the action in the trenches any less violent. Pull up any highlight reel on Youtube, try to ignore the flashy skill players, and fix your eyes on the battle of the “big uglies” — they punch,  dive, drive, and rip while slamming into a wall of muscle and aggression.

And this doesn’t happen once; it happens every single play.

With all that violence, it’s highly unlikely a player lines up for every offensive snap. Injuries are a part of the game, and they have a nasty habit of ruining single plays, multiple seasons, or even careers.

What if I told you one player never missed a game in 17 seasons? And what if I told you he was a Minnesota Viking? Better yet, what if I told you he was a seven-time All Pro at one of the toughest positions in all of football?

Meet Mick Tingelhoff, former Minnesota Vikings center and a 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee.

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The Minnesota Vikings have had 34 quarterbacks start games for this illustrious franchise. Andy ranks them #1 all the way through #34. There are a few Hot Takes in the rankings, most notably who’s at #32, #7, and #2 overall. (That’s a tease)

The Ranking Criteria Include (But are not limited to):
• Statistics
• Short Greatness vs Extended Averageness
• Lofty Expectations vs None
• The Grandma Scale™
• Andy’s Personal Opinion

So enjoy the rankings! If you agree or disagree, please let us know in the comment section or hit me up on Twitter @AndyCarlsonShow or @PurpleForTheWin!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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    The Vikings legend shares about the Purple People Eaters, outdoor practices, and his best friend Sid.

    Bud Grant Interview
    Blue jeans. One leg crossed over the other. He’s wearing a casual button-down shirt, tan and camo, and he proudly displays two baseball caps within reach. One—Vikings purple—covers silver-white hair, while the other—Winnipeg blue—sits near a can of Tab soda on the card table.

    He’s manning a garage sale, carefully counting out dollar bills and quarters, and it all seems rather ordinary… except he also signs autographs for the visitors.  “Bud Grant. HOF ’94,” he writes. Over and over again. On a worn leather football. The rod of a fishing pole. An old game program.

    Harry “Bud” Grant will forever be known as one of the top coaches in NFL history, and many remember him as the straight-faced coach who soldiered the sidelines and held players to an exceptionally high standard of conduct.

    “I wasn’t that tough,” Grant tells me. “I don’t think so. I suppose you’d have to ask the other players or coaches – I can’t answer that question. We had rules, but it was an easy job, really.”

    He breaks his signature stoic expression for a split second, just long enough for me to question his sincerity. I prod a bit, ask him about the no-heaters rule he implemented during winter games.

    “We had no indoor practice facilities in those days. We had to practice outside, so why not play outside?” He answers matter-of-factly. “We became acclimated, learned to play with no gloves, no heater, no underwear […] so Sunday was easy for us. It was tougher for other teams that wanted to come in and wanted to be warm. We were cold, but we still played.”

    For Grant, it’s all about practicality.

    Case in point, you may not know that the former coach stands alone as the only man to ever play in both the NBA and the NFL. In fact, Grant won the first championship in NBA history with the Minneapolis Lakers. He left the Lakers, however, to join the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive end. The decision proved a no-brainer.

    “The bottom line was that I could make more money playing football than I could playing basketball,” he explains.

    Grant viewed sports—playing or coaching—as just a job, a way to make one’s living, not concerning himself with the spotlight or the fame. For an icon like Grant, media requests are not uncommon, although he says they now come very few and far between. League reps and cable stations hounded the coach for appearances shortly after his career, asking him to audition for game-day commentary and halftime interviews.

    “I figured out it would be like 24 road trips,” he says, scoffing. “I’m out of this to stay home, not to get on the road again. My ego didn’t need it.”

    Eventually, people just stopped trying.

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    Here at Vikings Territory, we know better than most that it’s possible to find writing opportunities in all sorts of ways. Meet Tom Speicher. He got his start in 2003 when he entered a contest to be a Star Tribune web columnist for a year … and won.

    Speicher was awarded the column for a season, after which he looked for new venues to write for and came across Vikings Update, which had been transformed into a monthly magazine.

    “Eventually they hired me to write the ‘Where Are They Now?’ features on former [Vikings players],” Speicher explained. “It’s been a lot of fun! I have also had the opportunity to do assignments for the magazine at NFL Films and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

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    The NFL is a machine that runs during the fall and the winter, and spends the spring and summer months refueling.

    Now that the offseason has arrived for some teams like the Vikings, the process of refueling the fan base with optimism has begun, and nearly everyone has volunteered for the pit crew.  The owners, the general managers, the coaches, the players, and even the media all jump at the chance to renew hope in their organization and convince fans that the price of a ticket will be well worth it… next year.

    Take Fran Tarkenton for example.  He is apparently now the Pioneer Press’s slightly less delusional (but slightly more outspoken) answer to Sid Hartman.  He recently published an article titled “Vikings have hope, thanks to leadership and talent.”

    In the article, Tarkenton goes through a laundry list of things we have to be thankful for as Vikings fans.  Some of the items he listed are factual, some are opinion, and some are just downright goofy like this gem:  “Adrian Peterson will be back.”  That instills about as much hope into my purple heart as saying, “Adrian Peterson is not dead.”

    Tarkenton does bring up some good points, including the fact that five of this year’s playoff teams had 10 or more losses last season, so teams can reverse course in a hurry.  One of the teams on that list, of course, are the Lions and he neglects to remind us exactly how many years it took for them to turn things around.  You know how long it has been since they have won a playoff game on the road?  Look it up, you will be amazed.

    The Texans, another team on that list, will play their first playoff game since they came into existence one whole decade ago.

    My point isn’t that cheerleaders, the kind with pompoms and the kind with pens, don’t have a valuable place in sports.  My point is that many of the ones with pens mistakenly think it is helping matters by getting our hopes up and raising our expectations for the next season.

    The truth, of course, is that it is very, very, very hard to win in the NFL and the Vikings appear to be a long ways away from filling all the needs on their roster to do it on a consistent basis.  Rick Spielman could “hit” on all eight of his Draft picks in April, and I still wouldn’t be convinced the Vikings would be good enough to win the NFC North.

    After a 3-13 season, it would appear the Vikings have nowhere to go but up, but appearances can be deceiving and I would recommend to any of my readers that they keep their hopes in check.

    After one week, a few responsibilities have changed in Winter Park along with a few job titles, which is not enough to get me to believe this team is ready to make a playoff appearance next year.

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