The Wilf family and the Minnesota Vikings organization will honor the 1998 team during Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. The 15-1 team scored a then-NFL record of 556 points and included four members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It’s another fine notion of the Wilf family and the Minnesota Vikings organization that they have decided to honor one of their most exciting rosters of the past in the first game of the 2018 season.
20 years ago, a Vikings team came to Minnesota and absolutely electrified the NFL.
It was a team that will always be a bittersweet memory to all Vikings fans old enough to remember the high-flying victories of that wonderful season as well as the anti-climatic defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship.
But let’s stay on the sunny side of the street for this little party of players and memories.
Only the third team in NFL history to win 15 games, the Vikings started the ’98 season with quarterback Brad Johnson under center. In the first game of the year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home inside the Metrodome, the crowd was introduced to rookie wide receiver Randy Moss in legendary fashion.
The tall, skinny, and outrageously fast kid from Marshall torched one of the league’s best defensive secondaries for two touchdowns, each of them bombs.
In game two of the year, Johnson got hurt. To replace him, Minnesota head coach Dennis Green brought in former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, who had not started at under center in years.
In fact, Cunningham had retired from football in 1996.
Convinced to join the Vikings by Green in 1997, the ex-Eagles star stepped onto the field and set the stage for a season Minnesota fans will never forget.
In 1998, Cunningham threw 34 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions, totaling 3,704 yards, his best season by far.
His wide receivers that season were Moss, future Hall of Famer Cris Carter, and Pro Bowler Jake Reed. Hard to believe Moss was actually number three on the Vikings’ depth chart for a few weeks in 1998.
During the 1998 season, Minnesota led the league with 52 plays of 25 or more yards. They also had 22 offensive plays of 40 or more yards. No other NFL team was even close.
The Vikings used two excellent running backs that year, Ohio State track star Robert Smith and bulldozer Leroy Hoard for a true thunder-and-lightning combination against opposing defenses.
Behind one the best offensive lines in the league that season, which included Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel, the Vikings rushed for 1,936 yards in 1998. With Moss on the field, the safety was always out-of-the-box with a leg back.
In two very special games to a legion of Minnesota fans, No. 84 destroyed his competition like Shaquille O’Neal used to shatter backboards.
In his Monday Night debut at Lambeau Field against the defending NFC champions and division rival Green Bay Packers, Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. His performance that night helped the Vikings whip Brett Favre and the Packers 37-24.
On Thanksgiving afternoon, all the Minnesota rookie receiver did was catch three passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings destroyed the Dallas Cowboys in front of their home fans at Texas Stadium.
Good times, people. Good times.
On defense in 1998, the only name that might stand the test of time is of Hall of Fame defensive tackle, John Randle.
However, players like hard-hitting safety Robert Griffith and run-stuffing nose tackle Jerry Ball contributed to the Vikings being a top 10 NFL defense during the season. They were led by a true tough guy in defensive coordinator Foge Fazio.
It is true that Minnesota stumbled in the last game of 1998. But no one needs to be reminded of that when we watch the old guys come together inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Those 1998 Vikings were special and we were lucky to have them. That’s what the Wilf family and their NFL franchise will be celebrating on Sunday.
Bravo to both teams.