20. Sean Salisbury (1990-1994)
Started nine games over five seasons in Minnesota, none bigger than the team’s playoff-clinching win against the 49ers on the last day of the 1994 season. Salisbury would rack up a total of 2,772 yards in Minnesota with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In later years he would come to be known as a controversial TV personality. Today he tweets hot takes.
19. Christian Ponder (2011-2014)
Was a reach with the #12 overall pick, there’s no question about it. History will credit Ponder with “leading” the Vikings to the playoffs in 2012 even though that season was all Adrian Peterson. The annals of football must also record that Ponder didn’t even play in the playoff game he “led” the Vikings to because his arm swelled up. The Vikes spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons slowly convincing themselves to give up on Ponder, eventually replacing him with journeyman Matt Cassel. Fairly or unfairly, Ponder will remain the symbol of quarterback futility in Vikings fans’ minds for many years to come.
18. Jim McMahon (1993)
McMahon didn’t put up big numbers but he was a winner. That was the mantra when the Vikings picked up the former Super Bowl champ ahead of the 1993 season. Indeed, McMahon did not put up big numbers in ’93, but the Vikings did go 8-4 in his starts. His most memorable moment in purple came on his heave to Eric Guliford to set up a game-winning field goal against the Packers. Jimmy Mack got the Vikings into the playoffs but they made a quick exit.
17. Matt Cassel (2013-2014)
The Vikings tried three different starting quarterbacks in 2013 and Cassel was the only one who was close to effective, but alas Cassel’s efforts were nowhere near enough to rescue the Vikings from a dismal season. He returned in 2014 to be a bridge quarterback to Teddy Bridgewater but bowed out early after being injured. The best thing you can say about Matt Cassel is at least he wasn’t Christian Ponder.
16. Steve Dils (1979-1984)
Legend has it that Bill Walsh wanted to draft Steve Dils instead of Joe Montana but was talked out of it. I’d say it all worked out for Walsh and the Niners. Steve Dils went on to have a decent little career as mostly a backup QB for the Vikings, his one chance to shine coming in 1983 when he started 12 games. His passer rating that year? A decidedly sub-Montana 66.8.
15. Jeff George (1999)
No fan who witnessed it will ever forget Jeff George’s run as a starter in 1999. With Cris Carter and Randy Moss as targets, the howitzer-armed George led the Vikings on an 8-2 rampage during which he threw for 2,816 yards and 23 touchdowns while averaging 14.7 yards-per-completion. George and the Vikings continued on into the playoffs where they fire-bombed the Cowboys, finally being stopped by the juggernaut Rams team in the divisional playoff round. The Vikings could have brought George back for 2000 but elected to let him walk and elevate Daunte Culpepper to the starting job, against the valid protestations of Carter and Moss.
14. Gus Frerotte (2003-2004, 2008)
The Vikings’ 2008 playoff run would not have happened had Brad Childress not benched Tarvaris Jackson early in the season in favor of Gus Frerotte. Unfortunately, Frerotte broke a bone in his back late in the season and T-Jack was forced into action for the playoff game against the Eagles, a game the Vikings lost. What if Frerotte had stayed healthy and started for Minnesota against the Eagles?
13. Teddy Bridgewater (2014-present)
The jury is still out on Teddy Bridgewater. The 2014 first-round pick out of Louisville has done some good things in his short career and he’s done some bad things. He’s shown some toughness and smarts, some elusiveness in the pocket, some late-game playmaking ability. But he still needs to answer questions about his downfield accuracy. His winning personality has helped make him a fan favorite.
12. Rich Gannon (1987-1992)
The Vikings won with Rich Gannon in 1991 and again in 1992, but for some reason they didn’t have faith in their young QB and traded him away to Washington, kicking off a revolving-door quarterback era in Minnesota. Vikings fans don’t need to be reminded of what ultimately happened: Minnesota would fail to make the Super Bowl, while Gannon would go on to win a ring with the Raiders. What if the Vikes had shown some patience in Gannon instead of spending the better part of a decade rotating through a parade of veterans? The question will continue to be asked as long as old-time Viking fans have breath in their lungs.
11. Bob Lee (1969-1972, 1975-1978)
Bob Lee may have been good enough to start for the Vikings in the early seventies but he never broke through. Lee finally got a chance to show the Vikings what he could do when, as a member of the Falcons, he beat a 9-0 Minnesota team on Monday Night Football. Proving there were no hard feelings, the Vikings brought back Lee for a second stint as Fran Tarkenton’s backup. He got into the Super Bowl in relief against the Raiders and threw a TD pass, and led the Vikes to a playoff win in Tarkenton’s absence in ’77.