3 Vikings Make 'NFL's Most Influential' List for SI's MMQB
In a follow up to the preseason predictions of "The MMQB 100," *Sports Illustrated *writer Gary Gramling listed the NFL's top 100 most influential players for the 2015 season.
The Super Bowl is the biggest story in any given NFL season, but an NFL season encompasses so much more than who hoists the Lombardi: franchise relocation, MVP race, player discipline, free agency, rule changes, media coverage and everything in between and beyond.
Among those featured on Gramling's list were three Vikings names: running back Adrian Peterson (31st), Head Coach Mike Zimmer (65th) and kicker Blair Walsh (80th). In the original preseason list, Peterson ranked 11th, while Zimmer and Walsh did not make the top 100.
Gramling said there was uncertainty surrounding the 30-year-old Peterson after missing the 2014 season, but Peterson made a statement in his return.
He responded with his third career rushing title, helping the Vikings to their first NFC title in six years.
Gramling went on to give the Vikings kudos for giving Zimmer his first head coaching gig.
It took too long for someone to hire Zimmer as a head coach. Now he's showing why he deserved the job. In his second season, he took the Vikings to an NFC North title, their first since 2009.
Walsh made Gramling's list due in part to his missed field goal attempt in the Jan. 10 Wild Card game but also due to his response to the miss and subsequent visit to the first graders that sent him encouraging messages and cards.
It was a stunning miss on a freezing day. After drilling kicks from 22, 43 and 47 yards in subzero temperatures, the reliable Walsh pulled a 27-yarder wide left in the final seconds of a 10-9 Wild Card loss to Seattle. Walsh will have an offseason to think about the kick. But hopefully he moves past it and remembers the important things: that he is handsome, and puppies are cute.
Topping the list in the first three spots were Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Los Angeles Rams Owner Stan Kroenke, respectively. Rounding out Gramling's rankings at No. 100 was Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. In Gramling's preseason rankings, Manning came in 9th, Newton 51st, Kroenke 8th and Griffin III 28th.
A case for Jim Marshall to make the NFL Hall of Fame
On Tuesday, Talk of Fame Network's Clark Judge made an argument for former Vikings defensive end and Ring of Honor member Jim Marshall to be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was one of the best players on one of the best defensive lines in NFL history – Minnesota's feared "Purple People Eaters."
Marshall played 282 consecutive games during his career, never missing one. He set a league record with 29 fumble recoveries and was one of just 11 players on the roster of all four of the Vikings Super Bowl appearances. Judge also pointed out that, while sacks only became an official statistic in 1982, Marshall is credited with 127 during his Vikings tenure – more than Andre Tippett, Charles Haley and Derrick Thomas, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
But that's not all. Only six Vikings had their numbers retired. The late Korey Stringer is one. The others are Page, wide receiver Cris Carter, quarterback Fran Tarkenton, center Mick Tingelhoff … and Jim Marshall.
Page, Carter, Tarkenton and Tingelhoff are in the Hall of Fame. Jim Marshall is not.
Judge reminded readers that Marshall was made a Hall of Fame finalist by voters in 2004, and he makes the case that Marshall should at least be in the conversation for induction.
I'm not saying Jim Marshall belongs. What I am saying is that I'd like his case to be revisited by the Hall's senior committee. Like L.C. Greenwood of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marshall was an upper-tier defensive end who gets lost in the galaxy of stars around him – in this case, Eller, Page and safety Paul Krause. But the guy made so many big plays for the Vikings that when Bud Grant was asked to name the "greatest player" he coached he didn't waver.
"It's normally very hard to choose," he said. "But I don't hesitate to say Jim Marshall."
View some of the best images of the linebackers from 2015.
Review of 2015 linebackers and position needs for 2016
*Star Tribune *writer Matt Vensel continued his offseason review of the Vikings roster, this time tackling the linebackers. Vensel highlighted former UCLA teammates Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, saying the duo "injected youth, speed and athleticism into the position."
Along with Kendricks and Barr, veteran Chad Greenway added to a strong linebacker corps. Vensel wrote:
Greenway played better in his second season under Zimmer and the coach raved about his leadership after the season. But the 2015 campaign could be Greenway's last with the Vikings, as the 33-year-old is a free agent.
In looking ahead at the Vikings needs for 2016, Vensel identified the linebacker position as a "moderate" focus for the NFL Draft.
Zimmer and the Vikings drafted four linebackers in the past two drafts, including late-rounders Brandon Watts and Edmond Robinson. But they will likely have to draft at least one more to help round out the depth at the position. If Greenway is not re-signed, the Vikings could look to bring in a part-time middle linebacker to play on running downs and slide Kendricks over to Greenway's weak-side position.