Today, Randall Cunningham turns 58.
Ask a Viking fan over the age of 50 about their favorite time as a follower of the purple, and you’re bound to get a large variety of answers. There is a long list of iconic memories that are hard to choose from. Older fans can vividly recall the days of Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters, and multiple Super Bowl losses.
But if you are under the age of 50, there is a clear, easy choice on top of the list. 1998. Just say that year around a young Viking fan, and a chill runs down their spine.
It was an NFL record-setting offense. It was Randy Moss, the most unbelievable rookie the league had ever seen. It was embarrassing longtime rivals on national television. It was everything. And the man who was in charge of that everything was Randall Cunningham.
Cunningham, a one-time electric dual-threat turned beautiful deep ball chucker, led an offense that set a standard that young Viking fans would never see met again to this day. Cunningham’s season-long performance was truly one of the comeback stories of the decade.
It’s easy to forget with how pass-heavy the NFL has gotten that there was a point in time where guys like Emmitt Smith dominated and quarterbacks only went deep, maybe a couple of times a game. But not Randall Cunningham and the 1998 Vikings. He and they were the beginning of that change in the NFL. They were the greatest show on turf before the Greatest Show on Turf. Anytime they got on their side of the 30-yard line, you were prone to watch Randall hoist the most beautiful spiral you’ve ever seen as far down the field as possible for one of his three wide receivers.
For an organization that has struggled to have any consistency at quarterback Randall Cunningham is just one name on the long list of guys who barely spent two seasons with the organization. But his beautiful big arm and drop to his knees celebration will be something that Vikings fans will always tie closely to one of the best football seasons of their entire life.
Happy birthday, Randall. You’re a Vikings legend.