Purple Stain

Securities scams, karaoke-bar brawls, and the occasional boozy ride: At least there's one championship the Vikings might be winning

SCORE: 1

PSI: 5

 

PLAYER: Carl Eller

POSITION: Defensive end (1964-78)

STAT SHEET: A notch above fellow People Eater Marshall and just a notch below former teammate and current state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, Eller remains the Vikings' all-time sack leader (130) and is regarded as an integral part of one of the best defensive front fours in NFL history. A perennial Hall of Fame candidate, Eller has yet to make the final cut in balloting.

SCORE: 9.5

RAP SHEET: By Eller's own admission, an out-of-control cocaine habit had him on the brink of suicide by the time he ended his career in 1979 as a Seahawk. After going through treatment, he became a drug counselor, working for the NFL, the state of Minnesota, and his own company, Triumph Life Services. A frequent lecturer on substance abuse, Eller has also been accused twice of sexual assault. In 1988 a college sophomore in St. Peter told police she had been "inappropriately" touched by Eller. No criminal charges were filed, but whispers of a civil settlement circulated. In 1999 Eller was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault by North Mankato police. Eller told reporters that he'd had sex with the complainant, but said he thought the situation was "amicable." He declined to give a statement to police and no criminal charges were filed.

SCORE: 4

MITIGATING FACTOR: Never charged or convicted. In 1986 Eller served on a special University of Minnesota task force as part of an effort to clean up the athletic program following a sexual-violence scandal involving the basketball team.

SCORE: 3

PSI: 10.5

PLAYER: Bud Grant

POSITION: Head coach (1967-83; 1985)

STAT SHEET: The most admired Viking of all time? Probably. Old Iron Eyes was famously undemonstrative on the sidelines; his infectious stoicism played well in Minnesota, where it was seen as the defining virtue of the team's golden age. Grant led the Vikings to four Super Bowls and 11 division championships; he ranks first in team history for victories (158), consecutive winning seasons (6), and consecutive division titles (6), and he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1994. In retirement he has been visible as a spokesman for hunters and anglers, and he has actively campaigned against the exercise of Indian treaty rights.

SCORE: 10

RAP SHEET: In 1998 Grant and five fellow hunters were cited for violating federal waterfowling law by hunting snow geese over an illegally baited field in Nebraska. The coach paid a $250 fine rather than face a federal trial.

SCORE: 0.5

MITIGATING FACTOR: In August 1999 the U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha announced that it would refund the fine after Grant's guide confessed to having baited the field without the knowledge of the hunting party. Although the action cleared the slate for Grant, it also represented an unusual deviation from the strict-liability standard generally imposed for game violations. Bonus irony points: In 1999 a dealership to which Grant had lent his name--Bud Grant's Boat Buying Club--settled a consumer fraud suit filed by Attorney General Mike Hatch for $1.8 million. Hatch said Grant was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

SCORE: .25

PSI: 10.25

 

PLAYER: Joey Browner

POSITION: Safety (1983-91)

STAT SHEET: Among the most dominant defensive backs in Vikings history, the martial-arts-trained Browner led the team in interceptions for four seasons. In 1987 he became the only Vikings defensive back ever to lead the team in tackles and he was a cornerstone of the 1988 Vikings defense that, in one five-game stretch, limited the opposition to 26 points, evoking comparisons to the Purple People Eaters. Selected to six Pro Bowls.

SCORE: 7

RAP SHEET: In 1994 Browner was indicted for allegedly raping a 34-year-old woman in her home. News reports at the time quoted Browner as saying, in conversations secretly taped by the woman, "I know what I did was wrong and...I've been praying and hoping that you're okay."

SCORE: 6

MITIGATING FACTOR: DNA specimens taken from the woman didn't match Browner. Hennepin County prosecutors, noting that she had failed to disclose any other recent sexual contact when she was taken to the hospital, dropped the case. The woman later explained that she had had sex with her fiancé and insisted that her attacker had not ejaculated.

SCORE: 4

PSI: 9

 

PLAYER: Donald Igwebuike

POSITION: Kicker (1990)

STAT SHEET: Igwebuike was the NFC's top-rated kicker in his lone season with the team, nailing 87.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, the best connect rate in Vikings history until Gary Anderson's perfect season in 1998.

SCORE: 2

RAP SHEET: Igwebuike was suspended midway through his short tenure following his arrest on charges that he had bankrolled a million-dollar heroin-smuggling operation from his native Nigeria. The chief evidence came from one of Igwebuike's friends, who was arrested at Orlando International Airport with half a pound of high-grade heroin in his bowels. After striking a plea bargain, the man testified against Igwebuike in a federal trial. Igwebuike was acquitted by a jury.

SCORE: 5

MITIGATING FACTOR: Acquittal. Iggie, as he was known, acknowledged having bought his friend's plane ticket but insisted he'd done it purely as a favor. Ostracized by the NFL, he went on to kick in the CFL and Arena League.

SCORE: 5

PSI: 2

 

PLAYER: Dennis Green

POSITION: Head coach (1992-present)

STAT SHEET: The second-winningest coach in Vikings history (71), Green coached the Vikings to their best record (15-1), won three division titles, and took the team to the playoffs seven of eight years. In 1992 and 1998, he was the NFL Coach of the Year. Despite those accomplishments, he has had a notoriously rocky relationship with the local sports press and the fans. Where Bud Grant was considered heroically reserved, Green has been cast as standoffish and arrogant.

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