There is no doubt that Fran Tarkenton is the best quarterback in Minnesota Vikings history. Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances and had his famed #10 retired. Since Tarkenton, however, the Vikings have had few reliable quarterbacks dawn the purple and gold.
Daunte Culpepper began the 2000’s and Kirk Cousins has been a mainstay for the past two seasons. In between those two, though, many have come and gone… and most were somewhere between “forgettable” and “game manager”..
Because I’m apparently a masochist, I decided to rank all of these Minnesota Vikings starting quarterbacks (since 2000). In order to be qualified for this list, they must have started at least five games in a season, during that time.
12.) Donovan McNabb | 2011 – 6 starts
McNabb’s brief stint with the Vikings was nothing short of a disaster. He was traded from Washington to Minnesota after the 2011 NFL lockout, the Vikings were hoping he still had something left in the tank.
He definitely did not.. McNabb went 1-5 as a Viking and threw just four touchdown passes. He wad then replaced by Christian Ponder and… well, more on that later. McNabb may have led Philly to a Super Bowl appearance but that wasn’t the guy who played here.
Do people even remember Donavan’s time in Minnesota?
Donovan McNabb in a Vikings uniform was a thing. pic.twitter.com/dVRyO7L5lo— Trevor Robb (@TrevorRobb_) June 16, 2020
11.) Gus Frerotte | 2003-04 – 2 Starts | 2008 – 11 starts
Frerotte started 11 games under center in 2008 and threw for 2,157 yards with 12 touchdown’s with 15 interceptions. He is also known for one of the longest passing touchdowns in NFL history, a 99-yard pass to Bernard Berrian on Sunday Night Football against Chicago.
Gus was the Vikings’ starting for a majority of 2008, but was more of a game manager at that stage of his career. That season was his final year in the National Football League.
10. Christian Ponder | 2011-14 – 36 starts
Christian Ponder came to Minnesota with huge expectations, after being taken with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft out of Florida State University. Rick Spielman‘s original plan was to sit Ponder for his rookie season and have him learn from Donovan McNabb, as mentioned earlier. We all know how that plan worked out.
Ponder won just two games his rookie season, after taking over for McNabb, but Vikings fans went into his Sophomore season still sure he was the guy. With help from MVP Adrian Peterson, Ponder led the Vikings to a playoff appearance but played the best game of his career in Week 17 to seal the deal. Rookie kicker, Blair Walsh, made a game-winning 29-yard field goal to send clinch it… but BARELY.
Unfortunately, he would also injure his knee that night and couldn’t play in the playoff game he earned. Joe Webb stepped in under center against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Wild Card round, instead of Ponder… and it was a complete disaster.
That Week 17 against the Packers would be the highlight of Christian Ponder’s NFL career. Following the ten-win 2012, Ponder would go on to win just three games over the next two seasons COMBINED. In his four years in purple, Ponder threw for just 6,658 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Christian Ponder may have been treated unfairly, during time throughout his run in Minnesota, but as a top-15 draft pick, that’s what you get paid for.
9. Brad Johnson | 2005-06 – 23 starts
Brad Johnson was originally drafted by the Vikings in 1992 and like Frerotte, came back to Minnesota for a second-stint in 2005. Johnson took over for Culpepper in 2005 and went 7-2 with 1,885 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes. He dug the Vikings out of a 2-5 start and led them to a 9-7 record, missing a wild card spot by just one game.
The following season, Johnson started 14 games and threw for 2,750 yards but had just nine touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions. Johnson had a nice 17-year career and retired after a stint with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008.
8. Tarvaris Jackson | 2006-10, 20 starts
Much like Ponder, Jackson’s best season was in his second-year as a pro in 2007. He proceeded to throw for less than 2000 yards and racked up more interceptions than he did touchdowns. Jackson had the Vikings on the brink of a playoff appearance in week 17… but the Vikings fell to Denver in overtime and destroyed those hopes and dreams.
The quarterback carousel with Frerotte and Jackson in 2008 set up Tarvaris’ only playoff appearance as a Viking. It wasn’t pretty… and would lead into a pivotal off-season. Minnesota was able to court a future Hall-of-Famer who will show up later on this list.
7. Matt Cassel | 2013-14, 9 starts
Matt Cassel deserves a ton of credit. He had a heck of a career in the NFL, despite being primarily a backup at University of Southern California.
Cassel was considered a “bridge” guy when signed by the Vikings and that’s exactly what he was. He wasn’t too bad (at least statistically) in 2013. He threw for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 60.2. Remember, those early Adrian Peterson teams didn’t ask much of their QB’s.
In 2014, Cassel started the first three games before getting hurt in the Super Dome against New Orleans. This set up the “Teddy Two Gloves” era.
6. Sam Bradford | 2016-17, 17 starts
Bradford was acquired from Philadelphia one week before the 2016 season. This was after the gruesome injury to Teddy Bridgewater.
Bradford had high expectations, especially after starting the season 4-0 (The Vikings started that season 5-0).
Bradford was unbelievable statistically, throwing for 3,877 yards and 20 touchdowns. That becomes even more amazing when you realize Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata were his main running backs. The former number one overall pick set the all-time completion percentage record for the season, completing passes at a 71.6 percent clip.
The reason Bradford sits at sixth, is because he failed to lead a team with Super Bowl aspirations to the playoffs. His stats were great, but much like his entire career, injuries and big game failures have pushed him down the list.
If you think this list was controversial, wait until we rank the top-five Vikings’ quarterbacks since 2000 in part two.
Hunter Plante | Minnesota Sports Fan