This weekend, the NFC-leading Green Bay Packers will cross the mighty Mississippi River to face the 4-5 Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Unless anything suddenly changes in regard to the playing status of their proudly unvaccinated quarterback (not to be confused with Green Bay’s “fully immunized” but also unvaccinated so-called “leader”), the Vikings will have Kirk Cousins starting under center on Sunday.
Since signing his mindbogglingly massive contract with Minnesota before the 2018 season, Cousins has played in all but one game. That recent consistency is a somewhat unfamiliar thing for the Vikings, who—much like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears—have experienced their fair share of shakeups at the quarterback position over the last two or three decades. In fact, since the true start of the 21st Century, a total of TWENTY different passers have started at quarterback for Minnesota. Some were Pro Bowlers or eventual Hall Of Famers, whereas others were…Spergon Wynn. Before Sunday’s game, we decided to rank all 20 of the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterbacks since the 2001 season.
20. Sean Mannion
We have to give Kirk Cousins a little credit for being durable. As we noted above, since becoming Minnesota’s starter in 2018, he’s only missed one start. That lone absence in 2019 was filled by longtime Rams backup Sean Mannion, who failed to lead the Vikings to victory in his sole start in purple. In three three total games he appeared in with the Vikes, Mannion threw for just 126 yards and no touchdowns, while tossing two interceptions.
19. Shaun Hill
In between stints with the Niners, Lions, and Rams, journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill started and eventually also ended his career in Minnesota. He didn’t throw a regular season pass as a rookie in 2005, but appeared in a total of seven games with the Vikings (including one start, which was a win) in 2015 and 2016. During those last two seasons, Hill managed 21 completions for just 257 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.
18. Josh Freeman
Following four seasons as the starter in Tampa Bay, Josh Freeman was released by the Buccaneers a few weeks into the 2013 season. The Vikings scooped him up a four days later on a one-year, $3 million deal. He wound up starting just one game with Minnesota that season, tallying 190 yards and throwing an interception in a losing effort.
17. Spergon Wynn
Spergon Wynn played very sparingly with the Browns during the 2000 season, his rookie year. However, the sixth round selection wound up appearing in three games with the Vikings the following year. In those games (two of those starts and Minnesota losses), Wynn threw just over 400 yards total and had exactly one touchdown, compared to SIX interceptions. He never played in the NFL again.
16. Brooks Bollinger
After proving to be a substandard starting QB with the Jets, former Badgers standout Brooks Bollinger returned to the Midwest and settled into a backup role in Minneapolis. In 2006 and 2007, Bollinger played in a total of seven games, but only had one start (a Vikings loss). During those two seasons, he had 537 yards through the air, one touchdown pass, and two picks.
15. Kelly Holcomb
If you know Kelly Holcomb at all, you likely recall him as a serviceable backup for the Bills, Colts, and Browns. In fact, he led Cleveland to a postseason berth in 2002 and actually played very well in their first round loss. Five seasons later, Holcomb was preparing to call it a career by playing one final NFL season with the Vikings. He filled in for Tarvaris Jackson (more on him later), starting three games in which he completed 42 passes, threw for 515 yards, tossed two touchdowns, had one pass intercepted, and was unable to lead Minnesota to a victory.
14. Joe Webb
Joe Webb is a very interesting player. The Vikings drafted him in 2010 and had every intention of using him as a backup to Brett Favre, but he also returned kicks, was occasionally slotted in as a receiver, and used in some rushing packages. When Favre’s consecutive games streak (and career) came to an end at the tail end of Webb’s first season, the versatile rookie got to start two games, where the Vikings went 1-1. In 33 career games under center with Minnesota—mostly in a backup capacity—Webb threw for 833 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. Packers fans might recall he also started a playoff game against Green Bay during the 2012 postseason…which Minnesota lost.
13. Todd Bouman
These entries don’t all need to be long, right? At age 29, Todd Bouman started three games for the 2001 Vikes while filling in for Daunte Culpepper. He went 1-2 in those starts and managed 795 passing yards and eight touchdown passes that season.
12. Donovan McNabb
After 11 years with the Eagles and a season in Washington, McNabb spent the final abbreviated season of his otherwise impressive career with the Vikings in 2011. It did not go well. The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback won only one of his six starts before being benched in favor of rookie Christian Ponder. In that six-game span, McNabb barely eclipsed 1,000 total passing yards and had just four TDs through the air. Minnesota released him two months into the season and he never played another NFL snap.
11. Matt Cassel
Best known for being an impressive fill-in for New England the season Tom Brady missed almost all of due to injury, Matt Cassel was unable to recapture the success of that storybook season when he became the starter in Kansas City. When he flamed out there, he bounced around as a backup for five other teams, including a two-year stop in Minnesota. However, Cassel wound up starting a total of nine games as a Viking between 2013 and 2014. During that two-year span, he threw for 2,232 yards, with 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and had a 4-5 record as a starter.
10. Gus Frerotte
For a guy who’s probably best known for being a below average QB and injuring himself when he headbutted a wall in the end zone, Gus Frerotte managed a lengthy career. Three of his 14 professional seasons found him playing in Minnesota, where he put up Cassel-like numbers, but somehow went 10-4 as a starter.
9. Tarvaris Jackson
Prior to the 2006 season, the Vikings used a second round pick on a quarterback they thought might be the future of their franchise. As we all know now, it didn’t quite work out that way, but dammit if Minnesota didn’t give Tarvaris Jackson a few chances. Between late ’06 and the end of the 2010 season, Jackson started a total of 20 games for the Vikings and went 10-10. Five seasons, 3,984 passing yards, 28 combined rushing and passing touchdowns, and 22 interceptions later, Minnesota parted ways with Jackson, who went to Seattle and won a Super Bowl as Russell Wilson’s backup. Jackson tragically died in a car accident last year at the age of 36.
8. Case Keenum
While Case Keenum’s sample size as a Vikings starter is small, it’s extremely impressive. When Sam Bradford was lost for the year due to a knee injury in Week 2 of the 2017 season, the former Texans and Rams backup stepped in and played admirably. He led the Vikings to 11 of their 13 wins, the division title, and one playoff victory while throwing for more than 3,500 yards and 22 touchdown passes (compared to just seven interceptions) in the process. In spite of that impressive showing, Minnesota instead opted to sign Kirk Cousins before the next season, leaving Keenum to sign with the Broncos to become their starter before subsequent stops in Washington and his current club in Cleveland.
7. Sam Bradford
Former number one overall pick Sam Bradford was mostly ineffective and often injured during his four-year stint with the Rams, but he actually put together a decent season with the Eagles in 2015. That prompted the Vikings to trade for Bradford just before the following season, which found the once-heralded quarterback winning seven of his 15 starts that season as he threw 20 touchdowns to just five INTs. He started the next season 2-0 before getting injured and opening the door for Keenum’s great 2017. With more yards and touchdown passes in close to as many games, Bradford narrowly edges out Keenum for seventh spot on this list.
6. Christian Ponder
In 38 games spread over four seasons, Christian Ponder—whom the Vikings drafted 12th overall in 2011, ahead of Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick—threw 38 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, and led the guys in purple to just 14 wins in games he started. It took a lot of other quarterbacks somehow being much worse for Ponder to wind up this high on our list. Yikes.
5. Teddy Bridgewater
In a different world, Teddy Bridgewater could have been the number one quarterback on this list. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the 2014 first rounder and 2015 Pro Bowler suffered a horrific leg injury that essentially ended his career in Minnesota (excluding one offensive series late in the 2017 season). While in Minnesota and healthy, the current Denver starter won 17 of the 28 games he started, tossing 28 touchdown and amassing a total of 6,105 yards through the air.
4. Brett Favre
Yep, in just shy of two full seasons under center with Minnesota, former Packers great and current embarrassment Brett Favre effortlessly climbed the Vikings all-time quarterback ranks. He even led Minnesota to an NFC Championship meeting with the Saints. We forget how that game ended…
3. Brad Johnson
Honestly, Brad Johnson probably shouldn’t be this high on the list if we’re only taking his second Vikings stint into account…but what the hell, we lumped his 1994-98 stats in there too. We’re crazy like that. Fun fact: Brad Johnson has won more Super Bowls (1) than the entire Minnesota Vikings franchise (0).
2. Kirk Cousins
LOL. It’s funny but it’s true.
1. Daunte Culpepper
Even though the Vikings, quite surprisingly, lost more games that Daunte Culpepper played in than they won, he put up some pretty solid numbers during his seven years in the Twin Cities. He had 135 passing touchdowns (plus 29 rushing TDs) and threw for more than 20,000 yards. Though Cousins could very well eclipse him soon, Culpepper currently ranks third—trailing Frank Tarkenton and Tommy Kramer—in almost every Vikings passing category.