Staff Directory 10644686

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   


A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
San Diego Fleet head coach Mike Martz, center, poses for photos with Alliance of American Football CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol, left, and head

Football season not over, but new AAF comes with a twist

Football isn't stepping aside for pitchers and catchers this year, but the Alliance of American Football, which starts Saturday, is highly experimental.
New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) during the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII b

Rams were ugly in Super Bowl because Patriots defended superbly

It's a shame more football fans can't appreciate the historic beauty in how ugly the Patriots defense made the Rams look offensively in Super Bowl LIII.
Coach Bill Belichick reveled, for a sixth time, in the confetti after a Super Bowl. It was a game that wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter, when

Patriots, Belichick wear out Rams for Super Bowl win; McVay: 'I got outcoached'

Sixty-six-year-old Bill Belichick, the greatest defensive mind of the NFL's first century, isn't yet ready to step aside for the so-called future of football.
Bill Belichick is 5-3 in the Super Bowl as New England’s coach and could win his sixth Sunday; Rams coach Sean McVay is the brains behind the NFC’

Here we go again? Patriots-Rams reminiscent of Super Bowl that sparked dynasty

The human chess pieces should be fun to watch as Bill Belichick and Sean McVay, kindred coaching spirits born into football families 33 years apart, match wits on Sunday in Atlanta.
Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick, in 1991.

Little did anyone know in 1991 what awaited Belichick

Bill Belichick's first game as head coach in the NFL came in Boston against a Patriots team quarterbacked by a guy named Tommy - but not that one. Tom Brady was 14
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski

Is Super Bowl LIII the end for Gronkowski?

If it is, the New England star will be remembered as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history
In 17 games with the Patriots, WR Cordarrelle Patterson has lined up in the backfield 47 times. He did that 37 times in four years with the Vikings.

Cordarrelle Patterson: From Vikings' enigma to valuable, versatile Patriot

As the Vikings were preparing to play at New England, earlier this season coach Mike Zimmer admitted the Patriots have used Patterson "way better than we did."
Jedd Fisch served as UCLA interim coach for two games in 2017 before joining the Rams.

Former U coordinator Fisch hooks up with another Super Bowl coach

Jedd Fisch is a former all-state tennis player who never played football. Now he's on the game's biggest stage in an unusual job and working for the NFL's hottest young coach
CBS football analyst Tony Romo

Tony Romo goes from talented QB to 'Romostradamus' on TV

Romo has built his reputation in the TV booth for identifying plays pre-snap, leading CBS broadcast partner Jim Nantz to call him "some kind of sick film guru."
Patriots assistant Dante Scarnecchia excels at getting offensive linemen — even low draft choices — to work together.

Scarnecchia is the Patriots' offensive linemen whisperer

Dante Scarnecchia knows how to spot 'em and coach 'em up, season after season.
Former Vikings center John Sullivan (65) helped quarterback Jared Goff, right, and the Rams be the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL this seas

Back at it: Vikings' cast-off Sullivan now Rams' Super Bowl center Sullivan

John Sullivan thinks the Vikings were too quick to cut him before the 2016 season. But he's not complaining after landing with the Los Angeles Rams (and beating Minnesota during his new team's run to the Super Bowl).
Stephen Gostkowski has been the Patriots’ regular placekicker since 2006, typical of kickers for Bill Belichick, who has had three full-time kickers

Look away, Vikings fans: Belichick's kickers last and last

Matt Stover, Adam Vinatieri, Shayne Graham and Stephen Gostkowski. That's it.
For the first time since 2015, the conference championship games feature the top two seeds in each conference. Part of the reason for that is that the

Building a wall: Strong O-lines link NFL's final four teams together

On the NFL: The last four teams standing represent the top seeds in each conference for the first time since 2015. Each team is different, yet all have much in common, including perhaps the most essential strength in football: offensive line.
Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth, Saints center Max Unger, Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher and Patriots guard Joe Thuney

How the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints and Rams built their offensive lines

Offensive line is a strength shared by the four conference finalists. Here's a look at how the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints and Rams acquired their 20 starting linemen.
Gary Kubiak’s final game as an NFL coach was on Jan. 1, 2017. He will join the staff of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer as assistant head coach and offens

Gary Kubiak joining Vikings as assistant head coach, offensive advisor

The major makeover of the Vikings offensive coaching staff has started with the addition of Gary Kubiak, the winning coach in Super Bowl 50 with Denver, and his son Klint, who will be quarterbacks coach.
Mike Priefer

Mike Priefer leaves Vikings to be Browns special teams coordinator

Priefer's contract expired on Tuesday, and he decided to start anew in Cleveland. Issues with kickers and punters proved to be an ongoing problem
Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (99) celebrated the a defensive stop against the Seahawks last Saturday.

From Cowboys to Chiefs … ranking the remaining NFL playoff teams' defenses

Kansas City has one of the NFL's best records despite one of its worst defenses.
Adrian Phillips (31) — one of seven defensive backs the Chargers used for much of Sunday's wild-card game at Baltimore — reacted after a first-hal

On the NFL: Defenses might still matter, at least in the playoffs

This weekend, we'll see if the NFL's top four offenses can play like they have all season.­
New Packers head coach Matt LaFleur (center, with GM Brian Gutekunst and President/CEO Mark Murphy) attracted offers because of his offensive backgrou

In the NFL you get hired if you know offense — or McVay

32-year-old offensive football guru Sean McVay already has a coaching tree laying roots among new NFL head coaches, including Green Bay's Matt LaFleur.
Don't like the NFL playoff field? History says wait a year

Don't like the NFL playoff field? History says wait a year

As happens frequently, the playoff teams are a vastly different group this year than last.
Steve Hutchinson

Ex-Viking guard Hutchinson named finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

In his second year of eligibility, Steve Hutchinson faces a bit of a logjam among offensive linemen.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer

A survivor, Vikings' Zimmer cracks top 10 in NFL longevity

On the NFL: After completing his fifth season, Mike Zimmer is tied for ninth on the list of the league's currently longest-serving coaches.

The iron men of NFL coaching

The 2019 NFL season will open with 19 of the league's 32 head coaches having been hired since the end of the 2016 season.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky scrambled for for a five yard gain in the third quarter

Role reversal: Bears extended drives while Vikings couldn't buy a first down

The Vikings held the Bears to one third-down conversion in 12 attempts and won 23-10 last New Year's Eve. Sunday, it was a much different story.
Ageless Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, is one of the two leading candidates for MVP, along with youthful Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.

Old vs. young: MVP voters have tough choice between Brees, Mahomes

Some of the choices for NFL end-of-the-year awards and difficult to choose - including going old (Drew Brees) or young (Patrick Mahomes) for MVP.
Bears coach Matt Nagy

Eagles hoping Bears can beat Vikings on Sunday

The Eagles' playoff hopes are hinging on the Bears beating the Vikings on Sunday.
The Ravens (top) would be the nastiest underdog no high-flying offensive team wants to tangle with in January. Other higher-seeded teams to be reckone

Which NFL team would make the most dangerous playoff foe?

NFL Insider: The Ravens aren't the best team. Not even close. But they would be the nastiest underdog no high-flying offensive team wants to tangle with in January.

Mark Craig's Week 17 power rankings

The Saints are still on top, but the Ravens made this week's biggest leap up the charts.
Rookie tackle Brian O’Neill of the Vikings looked for a block against the Patriots on Dec. 2.

Vikings tackle O'Neill developed quickly as a pass blocker

The rookie has not allowed a sack in 488 snaps in pass protection.
Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) chases Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner (34) during the first half of an NFL football game, Su

Defense helps turn gut-punch struggle into gut-check victory

A "tough start" is underselling just how bad the Vikings were offensively before scoring 27 unanswered points. It took more than 25 minutes for them to get a first down.
Lions defenders stopped Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) for know gain in the second quarter at Ford Field Sunday December 23, 2018 in

Five Extra Points: Flags slow, but don't stop Vikings

1. Overcoming penalty after penalty after …Nose tackle Linval Joseph looked up, shook his head and said, "Penalties killed us, man." Actually, they didn't, not…
Houston's Deshaun Watson (clockwise top right), New England's Tom Brady, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Chicago coach Matt Nagy

Five Week 16 NFL story lines: Can Nagy, Bears stay in hunt for NFC's top seed?

Mark Craig takes a spin around the NFL to get you ready for Week 16.
Offense vs. defense: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes represents the NFL’s high-scoring trend. Those defensive Ravens below? They might get left behind.

Owning NFL's top scoring defense no longer equates to playoff berths

On the NFL: Owner of top scoring defense, normally a lock for playoffs, may not get even a sniff of postseason play.
Rams coach Sean McVay, left, and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott

NFL beyond Week 16

Once a week, Mark Craig will get on and off the field quickly, then focus a spotlight on a player and a coach.

Defense can't rest, as NFL takes an offensive turn in 2018

Not since the 1977 Falcons has the NFL's top scoring defense failed to make the playoffs. Heading into Week 16, Baltimore and Tennessee — both 8-6 — were tied for the lead in scoring defense at 18.1 points allowed per game.
New Orleans' Drew Brees looked to pass under pressure from Carolina's Mario Addison in the second half Monday.

Mark Craig's power rankings

There's a new team at No. 1, even though said team didn't exactly impress in Week 15.

Aldrick Robinson's 'Hammer'

Only two other NFL players are scoring touchdowns at a higher rate per reception than Aldrick Robinson.
Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin braced for a hit from Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones, but not before picking up 20 yards and a first down on a thir

Pass to Conklin well-conceived on run-heavy day for Vikings

Tyler Conklin went deep when the Vikings called his number on third-and-1 vs. the softened-up Dolphins.
Daniel Carlson

Ex-Vikings kicker Carlson has found his footing with Raiders

Daniel Carlson is making 90.9 percent of his field-goal attempts with a successful streak of nine and one AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor. Yes, that Daniel Carlson.
Kirk Cousins

Best-frayed plans: There's a whiff of desperation coming from Vikings

Clinging to a playoff spot and with a new offensive coordinator, Sunday's Vikings game against Miami at U.S. Bank Stadium suddenly feels more than just the next "big game" on the schedule.

Mark Craig's Week 15 power rankings

This week's No. 1 team and No. 8 team meet on Thursday night football.
Seattle running back Chris Carson gained two yards on a fourth quarter run as Vikings free safety Harrison Smith turned to stop him.

Seahawks school Vikings on how to execute the running game

For the longest time, a 3-0 game felt like the ugliest blowout in NFL history because of the differences in the two teams' running games.
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) was penalized 15 yards for this stop of Vikings back Dalvin Cook (33) during the first quarter of Seattle’s 21

Five extra points: Seahawks were able to assert their will

Five takeaways from Monday night's game from NFL writer Mark Craig.
Russell Wilson, left, is having one of his best seasons, thanks to a Seahawks offensive line that has given Wilson time and the Seattle offense balanc

Solid O-line play is giving Seattle the balance that the Vikings crave

The situation up front in Seattle sits at the other end of the spectrum from the Vikings. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants to run the ball, and, by gosh, run the ball they have.
Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (98) is blocked by New Orleans Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (84) to allow quarterback Dre

Five Week 14 NFL story lines

Mark Craig takes note of five story lines to watch for during Week 14 of the NFL season.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin

Beyond Week 14 in the NFL

Once a week, Mark Craig will get on and off the field quickly, then focus a spotlight on a player and a coach.
Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Duane Brown, right, lines up against Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald, left, and defensive end Dante Fowl

Offensive line sparks Seahawks' surge

The Seahawks have won seven of their past 10 games while averaging 164.8 yards rushing and experiencing run-pass harmony.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) fended off Patriots defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) while ultimately gaining nothing on a fourth-quarter run

Dalvin Cook: Vikings ready to "impose their will"

The Vikings running back says the ground game will be key to how the team does in Seattle on Monday.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielenan has an NFL-leading 98 receptions this season, including this touchdown grab last week vs. New England.

Record breaker? Thielen can catch Vikings best, but NFL mark a stretch

With 98 catches, Adam Thielen's pace of 130 would break Cris Carter's Vikings record of 122 set in 1994, but fall short of Marvin Harrison's NFL record of 143 done in 2002.
The Belichick battles: Confrontation with Thielen was hardly the first

The Belichick battles: Confrontation with Thielen was hardly the first

Mild-mannered Adam Thielen got into it in impressive fashion with New England coach Bill Belichick on Sunday night. But if sideline tiffs with Belichick were an Olympic sport, Thielen would have to settle for bronze.
Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon entered the end zone after a 24 yard touchdown reception of a Tom Brady pass in the third quarter. It was Brady’s

Brady strikes after injuries thrust Sherels, Hill into key secondary roles

The Vikings entered Sunday's game with a lack of depth in the secondary ... and exited with even more
Patriots wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson caught two passes for 53 yards against his former teammates, including this fingertip 29-yard grab in the

Five Extra Points Vikings' fourth-quarter play calls come up short

The Vikings shouldn't have a hard time moving on from losing to a team that's 33-4 at home in December with Tom Brady. But there sure could have been more fight offensively in the fourth quarter.
Sheldon Richardson’s NFL career is back on the upswing after he wore out his welcome in New York and then Seattle. He’s part of the Vikings’ vau

Vikings' Richardson becomes a better version of himself

Sheldon Richardson had some growing up to do to get where he is today with the Vikings.
Kyle Rudolph gets looked at by Vikings medical staff during a 2014 game and catches a pass earlier this season.

Rudolph: Doing everything right doesn't mean you'll stay healthy

The football gods can be a fickle bunch when it comes to separating the injury prone from the ironman. Tight end Kyle Rudolph knows this first hand.
Cordarrelle Patterson ran against the Packers on Nov. 4.

Cordarrelle 2.0: Patriots make Patterson part of their run game

Thanks to Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the Vikings now have a better sense of how they should have used Cordarrelle Patterson's physical talents.

Mark Craig's Week 12 NFL power rankings

Browns jump, Steelers fall, and Vikings stay in top 10.

Vikings players with 100 or more starts

Jim Marshall leads the way with 270 games, 270 starts.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked for a receiver in the first quarter with Vikings safety Harrison Smith in pursuit

'Cat burglar' Smith again shows off his versatility

On fourth-and-1 in a tie game Sunday, Vikings safety Harrison Smith read the Packers offense perfectly and executed a critical run stop.
Shurmur, Keenum looking for more Viking-like miracles with new teams

Shurmur, Keenum looking for more Viking-like miracles with new teams

Pat Shurmur and Case Keenum have helped resurrect playoff hopes for Giants, Broncos.­
Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo

Vikings OC DeFilippo: Some games need more plays

"The key to game-planning to me is to have enough in your arsenal because you never know how the game is going to be played," Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said.
Vikings placekicker Daniel Carlson walked off the field after missing a field goal at the end of overtime on Sept. 16 in Green Bay. He was subsequentl

Week 2 tie with Packers playing big role in Vikings playoff seeding

The Vikings head into Week 12 clinging to the NFC's sixth and final playoff seed because of that tie, which likely was going to be a loss before it likely was going to be a win.
Wide receiver Gerald Everett scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff with 1:49 to play to lift the Rams over the Chiefs 54-51 in a wild Mon

Can Vikings keep up with NFL's fearless offenses?

On the NFL: Monday night's Rams-Chiefs game shows the league heading in a new warp-speed direction. ­
Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) got his hands up for a Kirk Cousins pass on a failed two-point conversion late in Sunday night’s victory over t

Best defense in the NFC North? Not in Minnesota for now

For now, the current version of the Monsters of the Midway are showing it has the edge on defense over the Vikings. The Bears showed it over and over Sunday night.
The Chicago Bears' home field can often be a house of horrors when the playing surface gets worn-in.

Field of screams: Chicago's turf can be among the worst

There were or complaints after last week's Bears game at Soldier Field against the Lions. That's a rarity for mid- to late-season games on a field players routinely rate among the five worst in the league.
Dan Bailey

Bailey puts his best foot forward for Vikings

Undrafted out of Oklahoma State, Dan Bailey had a remarkably accurate kicking career with Dallas but was let go and is now in a career reboot with the Vikings.
Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara (20) celebrated his interception against the Lions with his teammates during the second half Sunday.

Bears' ability to create turnovers has Zimmer's attention

Chicago has a league-leading 16 turnovers this season, and the Bears also are tops in the NFL with 89 points scored off turnovers.
Mitch Trubisky and the Bears are 6-3 and lead the NFC North.

In high-scoring NFL, it's time for NFC North to stand up for itself

Inside the NFL: Entering a key game between the Vikings and the Bears, it's clear the North is a weak division.

Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL power rankings

The Titans jumped from 19th to sixth after beating the Patriots.
Mackensie Alexander brought down Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday, one of a team record 10 sacks for the Vikings.

Vikings pull off an NFL rarity: 10 sacks in a game

Even though it hasn't happened often, some familiar names — former Vikings quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham — have all shared the experience.

Mark Craig's Week 10 NFL Power Rankings

The Patriots remain at the top.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates with fans after a 70-yard run in the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit

What was the secret behind Dalvin Cook's 70-yard run?

Cook's career-long run began to unfold well before Vikings center Pat Elflein snapped the ball late in the first half.
The Bears’ Khalil Mack became a difference-maker immediately, whether by disrupting passes or, as above, just making the interception himself.

Halfway there, the NFC North is fully unclear

In the NFC North, the worst can become first on an overnight basis.
Vikings' defense of NFC North (finally) begins in earnest

Vikings' defense of NFC North (finally) begins in earnest

Five of the Vikings' last eight games are within the division, beginning with three in a row.
Safety Andrew Sendejo (34) and the rest of the Vikings secondary won't have to worry about covering Golden Tate (15) on Sunday. The wide receiver was

Trade takes Lions' Tate out of the picture

Lions fans and players weren't the only ones surprised to see their team ship its leading receiver, Golden Tate, to the Eagles for a third-round draft pick before Tuesday's trade deadline.
C.J. Ham of the Vikings is among the Division II players who have landed jobs in the NFL.

Living the dream: Division II players hardly second-rate in NFL

On the NFL: The list of impact players in the NFL from Division II schools extends well beyond Minnesota State's Adam Thielen.
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