Heads still shake 20 years after Walker deal

Herschel Walker

Twenty years ago this week, the Minnesota Vikings made a bold play for a veteran player they felt was the missing piece to a championship puzzle. The Herschel Walker deal Oct. 12, 1989 did build a champion. Unfortunately for the Vikings, it was for Dallas, not them.

From the moment the Vikings signed Brett Favre, the immediate reaction was that his presence would vault the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Why? With stars on both sides of the ball, the thinking was that all that was missing from the Vikings was a top-end quarterback.

Twenty years ago tomorrow, much the same line of thinking was in play. On Oct. 12, 1989, the Vikings made one of the biggest trades in the history of the NFL, giving up a king's ransom for running back Herschel Walker. At the time, the Dallas Cowboys were in dire straights, but had a star power player in Walker. The previous year, the Vikings had sent a slew of players to the Pro Bowl and were viewed as only being a dominant running back away from being in the big time.

As history painfully taught us, the Walker trade was one of the biggest debacles in NFL history. The Vikings traded running back Darrin Nelson, cornerback Isaac Holt, linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard and eight draft picks – half of them first-rounders.

The Cowboys used the picks to build a dynasty. The Vikings never got the championship that was expected, Walker never meshed in the Vikings' trap-run offense and, when Dennis Green came on as the new head coach, one of his first moves was to simply release Walker, getting nothing in return.

It took the Vikings years to get over the lack of draft talent lost in the Walker trade and it wasn't until they were able to use first-round draft picks to select talent like Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper, Kevin Williams, Bryant McKinnie, Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin that they're being mentioned as Super Bowl contenders again.

Clearly, the impact Favre has brought to the Vikings has been more significant and difference-making than Walker ever was, but perhaps the best thing about No. 4 is that he didn't cost the Vikings any draft picks (or players).

For those too young to remember the Walker trade, consider yourself lucky.

VIKINGS-RAMS BY THE NUMBERS

  • The Vikings have the 19th-ranked offense in the NFL (10th rushing, 21st passing) and the 11th-ranked defense (9th rushing, 12th passing). The Rams have the 30th-ranked offense (13th rushing, 30th passing) and the 19th-ranked defense (24th rushing, 19th passing).

  • The Vikings are averaging 321.5 yards a game on offense (198 passing, 123.5 rushing), while the Rams are averaging 251.3 yards a game (139.5 passing, 111.8 rushing).

  • Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 300.8 yards per game, thanks in large part to the Packers throwing constantly late in Monday night's game. They are allowing 211.3 yards passing and 89.5 rushing. The Rams are allowing 359.5 yards per game (224.5 passing, 135 rushing).

  • The Vikings have one 300-yard passing day and have allowed one 300-yard passer. The Rams have neither had a 300-yard passing day or allowed one.

  • Neither team has had a 100-yard receiver yet this season. Both have allowed one – each to the Green Bay Packers.

  • Steven Jackson has two 100-yard rushing games, while Peterson has one 100-yard game. The Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, while the Rams have allowed one – Julius Jones gaining 117 yards for the Seahawks.

  • Favre is tied for 15th place in pass attempts (125), 8th in completions (85), 4th in completion percentage (69.0), 19th in yards (837), tied for 3rd in touchdowns (8), tied for 3rd in interceptions (1) and third in passer rating (104.7). Due to injuries to Rams starter Marc Bulger, the Rams don't have anyone rated in the top 30 among QBs.

  • Favre is also third in the league in third-down passing, with a passer rating of 109.8.

  • Peterson is second in the league in rushing with 412 yards – 22 yards behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson. Jackson is tied for fourth with 367 yards.

  • Chester Taylor is tied for 23rd in the league with 18 receptions and Bernard Berrian is tied for 37th with 16 catches. Rams receivers Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson lead their team with 13 receptions each – tied for 66th place.

  • Berrian leads the Vikings with 177 receiving yards – tied for 48th in the league. Robinson leads the Rams with 167 yards, tied for 58th place.

  • Taylor is tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 receptions on third down and Harvin is tied for seventh with eight third-down receptions.

  • Peterson is tied for second in the league with five touchdowns.

  • Ryan Longwell is fifth in the league among kickers for scoring with 32 points. Josh Brown of the Rams is 33rd with just six points in four games, actually behind the points totals of two kickers for the Browns.

  • Peterson is third in total yards from scrimmage with 468 (412 rushing, 58 receiving). Jackson is fourth with 434 yards (367 rushing, 67 receiving).

  • Jackson and Peterson are 1-2 in the league in touches – Jackson topping the league with 95 touches and Peterson second with 92.

  • Peterson has converted 23 first downs (20 rushing, 3 receiving) – tying him with Ronnie Brown for the league lead. Jackson is tied for 13th with 18 first downs converted.

  • Darius Reynaud remains third in the league with a punt return average of 17.3 yards. Harvin is second among kickoff returners with an average of 31.5 yards per return.

  • Chad Greenway and Cedric Griffin are tied for fifth in the league with two interceptions.

  • Jared Allen is third in the NFL in sacks with 6.5.

  • The Vikings offense is 14th in first downs per game with 78 (45 passing, 25 rushing and eight by penalty. The Rams are 30th with 58 first downs (35 passing, 17 rushing and six by penalty)

  • The Vikings defense is eighth in first downs allowed with 66 (41 passing, 19 rushing, six by penalty). The Rams are 24th with 83 first downs allowed (48 passing, 27 rushing and eight by penalty).

  • The Vikings offense is tied for sixth place in third-down efficiency at 45.8 percent (27 of 59). The Rams are 23rd at 31.5 percent (17 of 54). The league average is 37.4 percent.

  • In terms of points scored per game, the Vikings rank fourth with 29.5. The Rams are dead last at just six points per game.

  • The Vikings defense top the NFL in sacks per opponent pass play, while the Rams check in at 19th.

  • The Vikings defense is ranked sixth in third-down percentage at 30.6 percent (15 of 49). The Rams are tied for 21st at 40.4 percent (21 of 52). The league average is 37.4 percent.

  • The Vikings are tied for fourth in the league in giveaway-takeaway ratio at plus-5 (eight takeaways, three giveaways). The Rams are tied for 26th at minus-4 (four takeaways, eight giveaways).

  • The Vikings are tied for seventh in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 61.5 percent of their drives in the red zone (eight of 13 chances). The Rams are tied at 18th at 50 percent, but they had just six chances and three touchdowns – the fewest offensive trips to the red zone of any team in the NFL.

  • Defensively, the Vikings are 13th in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 44.4 percent of opponent red zone chances (nine possessions, four touchdowns). The Rams have a better percentage of not allowing touchdowns (42.5 percent), but have allowed six touchdowns in 14 trips to the red zone.

  • The Vikings offense ranks 20th in yards per first down play at 4.9 yards – well below the league average of 5.41 yards. The Rams are worse at 31st, averaging 4.08 yards per play.

  • Defensively, the Vikings have allowed an average of 4.11 yards on first down – the fourth-best total in the league. The Rams are 17th at 5.46 yards.

  • One of the big differences between the two teams is where they start drives after kickoffs. The league average is the 25.7-yard line. The Vikings are third in the league with an average start at the 32.5-yard line, while the Rams are 30th with an average start at the 21.5-yard line.

  • Defensively, the Vikings have allowed opponents to start drives at an average of the 25.1-yard line – 14th in the league. The Rams have allowed opponents to start at the 25-yard line – 13th in the league.

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