Entries about Minnesota history from MNopedia are made available through a partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society and with funding from the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Cold comfort: the Vikings are actually one of the NFL’s most successful franchises

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Helmet worn by Minnesota Vikings safety Paul Krause in the late 1970s.

The Minnesota Vikings professional football club has competed in the National Football League (NFL) since 1961. The team ranks amongst the most successful franchises in the NFL, with seventeen divisional titles since 1970. They have reached the playoffs in twenty-eight of their fifty-six seasons and made four Super Bowl appearances. Eleven former players, one coach, and one general manager from the Vikings have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio.

Minnesota became the fourteenth franchise added to the National Football League on January 28, 1960, at the NFL owners’ meeting in Miami, Florida. On September 27, it was announced that the team would be called the Minnesota Vikings in recognition of the Nordic traditions of the Northern U.S. The team’s official colors are the now-iconic purple and gold.

The Vikings played their first regular-season home game at Metropolitan Stadium on September 17, 1961. Rookie quarterback Fran “The Scrambler” Tarkenton led the team to a 37-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. The team finished its first season with just three wins and eleven losses. By the end of the decade, however, the Vikings emerged as one of best teams in the NFL.

The Vikings’ fortunes began to change in 1967 when Bud Grant, a former Golden Gopher standout athlete and four-time Canadian Football League Grey Cup winner, became the franchise’s second head coach. Coach Grant, with general manager and fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Finks, built winning teams in the late 1960s and 1970s that featured strong defensive play. The legendary “Purple People Eaters” defensive line and quarterback Fran Tarkenton anchored the team.

The Vikings earned their first divisional title and playoff appearance in 1968. The team finished the following season with an NFL-best record of twelve wins and two losses. They won the 1970 NFL Championship 27–7 over the Cleveland Browns on January 4 at Metropolitan Stadium. This victory led to the first Super Bowl appearance for the Vikings. In 1971, defensive tackle Alan Page, the leader of the “Purple People Eaters,” became the first defensive player in NFL history to be awarded the league’s Most Valuable Player trophy.

By the 1979–1980 season, the Vikings had clinched eleven divisional titles along with the four Super Bowl appearances: 1970, 1974, 1975, and 1977. Five players from the 1970s teams would eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1982, the Vikings moved into their new home stadium at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. In 1988, the team made its fifth appearance in an NFC championship game. In 1989, star running back Herschel Walker was acquired by trade, and the Vikings won their twelfth divisional title.

The Vikings earned their thirteenth and fourteenth divisional titles in 1992 and 1994 under the leadership of the team’s fifth head coach, Dennis Green. In the 1998 season, the Vikings offense led the way to a franchise record of fifteen wins while setting an NFL scoring record of 556 regular season points—a record that held until 2007.

The offense was led by quarterback Randall Cunningham and featured Hall of Famers Chris Carter (wide receiver), Randall McDaniel (guard), NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Randy Moss, South African-born place kicker Gary Anderson, and running back Robert Smith. On the defensive side, Hall of Famer John Randle (defensive tackle) helped the Vikings reach their sixth NFC Championship game, in which they suffered a 30–27 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Metrodome.

The Vikings have continued to enjoy success in the twenty-first century. They played in six playoff series and appeared in NFC Championship games in 2000 and 2009, led by quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Brett Favre. The Vikings played their last game at the Metrodome on December 29, 2013. They played the next two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota before moving to US Bank Stadium. The Vikings won the inaugural game at the new stadium on September 18, 2016, finishing with a score of 17-14 over the rival Green Bay Packers.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Rick Johnson on 12/06/2016 - 01:12 pm.

    General Manager

    The General Manager with Bud Grant was Jim Finks, not Jim Fink.

  2. Submitted by Howard Miller on 12/09/2016 - 09:31 pm.

    But for key injuries

    we’d be counting on another division championship and playoff run.

Leave a Reply