Vikings fans will celebrate on Saturday as another one of their heroes gets his due in Canton. Cris Carter will be enshrined several years late in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of the most prolific wide receivers to ever play the game and possessor of the best hands to ever snag a football will don his gold jacket and receive his bronze bust.
Carter will shed some tears, deliver a passionate speech… and Vikings nation will give him one more standing ovation. Then the Helga-horn-wearing faithful will look around and expectantly ask: "Who's next?"
You see, the Vikings have been on something of a roll with the Hall, gaining four new members in the past five years.
Will the trend continue? As the headline of this post not-so-subtly implies, it certainly should.
For the sake of review, the Vikes now have 12 folks in Canton -- not counting the likes of Jan Stenerud, Dave Casper and Warren Moon, who clearly earned their place in the Hall with other teams.
There are now 10 Vikings players in the Hall: the aforementioned Carter, along with Chris Doleman, Carl Eller, Paul Krause, Randall McDaniel, Alan Page, John Randle, Fran Tarkenton, Ron Yary, and Gary Zimmerman. General manager Jim Finks and head coach Bud Grant are also enshrined.
The next Viking to join the list should be none other than the under-appreciated and long-overlooked Mick Tingelhoff.
Not unlike Jim Marshall – another player that many Vikings fans believe has been robbed of his rightful place in the Hall -- Tingelhoff was an NFL Iron Man. He started 240 consecutive games for the Vikings between 1962 and 1978, never missing a single contest. Only 10 players in NFL history ever started more games.
Whereas Marshall was a very good player with elite durability, Tingelhoff was an elite player with elite durability.
There are no good stats by which to measure a center. You only tend to notice them if they do something wrong like make a bad snap or get called for holding. However, the players and media of the day considered Tingelhoff one of the best one or two centers in the NFL during the second half of the 1960s and into the early 1970s.
Mick was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and earned first team All-Pro recognition five times. That resume stacks up quite nicely next to Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, who is Tingelhoff’s closest contemporary in Canton, as their careers overlapped for nine years.
Langer played in 151 games (89 fewer than Tingelhoff), was also a six-time Pro Bowler, and was named first-team All-Pro "just" four times. Langer is one of seven pure centers in the Hall of Fame (there are a handful of others who played center in addition to other positions).
Why Tingelhoff hasn’t already been honored with induction is no mystery. It's the Super Bowl losses. The difference between Tingelhoff and Langer is that Langer played in three Super Bowls, winning two, while Tingelhoff played on four losing Super Bowl teams. Some would argue it would have been better for Tingelhoff had he never played in the Super Bowl. Maybe he'd be in the Hall already without the stigma of a 0-4 record on Super Sunday.
As the Star Tribune's Mark Craig wrote back in February, it’s now up to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Selection Committee to stop holding that 0-4 mark against him and right this injustice. It is Craig's belief that Tingelhoff will be afforded strong consideration this year.
Here's hoping they do the right thing. Tingelhoff should be next.