HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 30, 2006

Chester is on the run for Vikings

By Matt Kane

For a little more than a day last week, Minnesota Vikings running back Chester Taylor was the NFL’s rushing leader with 590 yards through the first seven weeks (six games).

Taylor’s time at the top of the leader board was short-lived, as the Giants’ Tiki Barber rushed for 114 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

Going into Week 7, Barber held a 112-yard advantage over the man in purple, but, thanks to a 95-yard run and 169 total rushing yards Oct. 22 against the Seahawks, Taylor, who was named NFL player of the week, has shrunk the difference to 57 yards.

That got me wondering, when the last time a Vikings running back led the NFL in rushing.

The first name that comes to mind is Robert Smith, who carried the football for Minnesota from 1993-2000.

Smith, however, did not win a rushing title in his eight seasons in the NFL. In 2000 Smith finished second to Edgerrin James with 1,521 yards. James had 1,709.
The surprising thing about Smith is he is not even in the top 50 of all-time leading rushers. He finished with 6,818 career yards, a crawl compared to Emmitt Smith’s NFL leading 18,355 yards.

After researching further, I found that no Viking has ever won a single season rushing title, leaving the door open for Taylor, a lifetime backup before this season, to become the first.

I realize Minnesota is not exactly the Holy Grail of franchises when it comes to NFL running backs, but there have been a few good ones who have run across the frozen tundra of Metropolitan Stadium and the carpet of the Metrodome.

Chuck Foreman ran for the Vikings from 1973-80, but never came closer than fifth (1975) in rushing yards for a season. He did, however, lead the NFL with 73 receptions in 1975 — not just among running back, but among all players.

Foreman finished with 5,950 yards on the ground for his career.

Before Foreman made his name with the Vikings, Bill Brown took the hand-offs in the Minnesota backfield. Brown never rushed for 1,000 yards in his 14 NFL season, the last 13 with the Vikings. His best year was an 866-yard campaign in 1964.

It turns out, the best career rusher that at one time wore the Viking horns was Terry Allen. Allen currently ranks 24th on the all-time list with 8,614 yards, which were accumulated over 11 NFL seasons. He ran for the Vikings for three season (1991, 1992, 1994), eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in two of them. Allen rushed for 1,201 yards in 1992 and 1,031 in 1994.

Closest he ever got to leading the league was fifth in 1996, when he ran for 1,309 yards with the Washington Redskins. Allen led the league in touchdowns that season with 21.

Don’t even think about Allen Rice, Eddie Payton, Rick Fenney, Oscar Reed, or Hugh McElhenny making the top 50 list. The only other former Viking in the top 50 is — everybody brace yourselves — Herschel Walker.

Walker’s best season with the Vikings was his third and final in 1991. He rushed for 825 yards that year before heading east to Philadelphia. Walker ranks 28th all-time with 8,225 yards on the ground.

Just the name Herschel Walker makes most Vikings fans cringe. This point certainly won’t help things: One of the draft picks Minnesota traded to Dallas for Walker eventually resulted in the Cowboys selecting Emmitt Smith in 1990.

But let’s not worry about what happened in the past. Let’s worry about the present and near future, and Taylor’s bid for a rushing title.

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