Sacks have only existed as an official NFL stat since 1982.
Consequently, it's understandably difficult to stack defenders' numbers against legends who took down quarterbacks in the earlier years.
But pro-football-reference.com is seeking to – at least unofficially – ease that challenge.
In the case of sacks, thanks to decades of research by John Turney and Nick Webster, we have a very thorough accounting of the statistic all the way back to 1960. […] This isn't terribly different from presenting RBI totals for baseball players from before 1920 (the first season the statistic was "official"). These additions allow us to print year-by-year and career sacks totals for not just legends such as Deacon Jones (173.5), Jack Youngblood (151.5), Alan Page (148.5), Carl Eller (133.5) and Joe Greene (77.5), but also for less-recognized stars like Coy Bacon (130.5), Cedrick Hardman (122.5) and Jack Gregory (106.0) whose greatness and impact can now be more readily quantified.
Turney and Webster, stalwart members of the Pro Football Researchers Association, have been compiling these numbers for nearly 30 years. […] The important things to know are that these numbers are based upon review of official play-by-plays, watching game film, photographs and coaches' stats. The work continues to this day as new information is discovered, particularly for numbers from the early 1960s.
Lynch noted that 99 percent of sacks from the 1970 merger to 1981 are accounted for, while it's closer to 95 percent from 1966-69 (including both the AFL and NFL). From 1961-64, Lynch noted, there is 80-percent coverage, while only "about two-thirds" of sacks from the 1960 season are accounted for.
While keeping Lynch's disclaimers in mind, it's certainly interesting to see the general area in which Vikings Legends and Hall of Famers have ranked in NFL history.
According to the site's Unofficial Leaders Table, the late Chris Doleman, who passed away in January 2020 after a battle with brain cancer, ranks No. 7 overall with 150.5 career sacks (he is fifth on the official list). Doleman was a first-round draft pick by the Vikings in 1985, starting as a linebacker before transitioning to defensive end. He played for Minnesota through 1993, after which he spent two seasons in Atlanta, three in San Francisco and then returned to the Vikings in 1999 for his final pro season.
Just below Doleman on the unofficial list at No. 8 is Page, who is credited with 148.5 sacks between 1967 and 1981. Page spent the first 12-plus seasons of his career in Minnesota before joining the Bears in 1978 and spending three-and-a-half seasons with the division rival.
Page and Doleman were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and 2012, respectively.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page.
Fellow Hall of Famer John Randle, who played for the Vikings from 1990-2000 and then spent three years in Seattle, is tied with Richard Dent at No. 14 with 137.5 sacks apiece (they are tied for 10th on the official list). And the leader of "Mullet Militia" himself, Jared Allen, is tied with Rickey Jackson at No. 16 (136.0). Allen ranks 12th on the official list, but Jackson moved up the unofficial list since his career began in 1981.
Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, who along with Page and Gary Larsen made up the famed Purple People Eaters under Bud Grant, are tied at Nos. 18 and 22, respectively, on the unofficial list. Eller's 133.5 credited sacks tied with John Abraham, while Marshall's 130.5 mirrored Bacon's.
Topping both lists is Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, the No. 1 overall selection in the 1985 NFL Draft who played most of his career for the Bills. All 200 of his are official. Reggie White, who spent his first eight seasons in Philadelphia before joining Green Bay, ranks No. 2 with his 198 credited sacks.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman.
Pro-football-reference.com also listed the single-season leaderboard, where Allen's 22 sacks in 2011 are tied for third on the unofficial rankings with Mark Gastineau (1984), Justin Houston (2014) and Deacon Jones, who reached the benchmark in 1964 and 1968 with the Rams.
Meanwhile, Doleman's 21 sacks in 1989 are tied with White for 10th-most in a season.
Michael Strahan (22.5 in 2001) is recognized as the official single-season sacks king.