MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Despite being known as one of the most fearsome defensive lines of all time, you won’t find any members of the Purple People Eaters on the NFL’s official sack leaders list.
That’s because the league only started officially tracking sacks in 1982. So, all of the times Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen took down opposing quarterbacks were technically off the books. Stats website Pro Football Reference has rectified that.
The site announced this week that it has accounted for a majority of NFL sacks going back to 1960. In conjunction with the announcement, the site released its own top 25 sacks leaderboard, and with three new additions from the Purple People Eaters, six total Vikings are on the list, more than any other team.
Chris Doleman, Jared Allen and John Randle are all already on the NFL’s official list, because their careers came after 1982. On Pro Football Reference’s updated list, Page, Eller and Marshall have joined the ranks.
Chris Doleman is highest on Pro Football Reference’s list at No.7, with 150.5. Doleman played for the Vikings from 1985-1993, and again in 1999. His best year came in 1989, when he tallied 21 sacks.
Page ranks right below him with 148.5 sacks. In his 1971 MVP season, Page had nine sacks, but according to Pro Football Reference, his best season as a pass rusher was actually 1976, when he doubled that total.
Next on the list, at 14, is John Randle, with 137.5 sacks. The undersized defensive tackle’s best single-season sack total was 15.5 in 1997.
Jared Allen ranks right after Randle with 136 sacks. Vikings fans will well remember Allen falling half a sack shy of the single-season record in 2011, when he finished with 22.
Eller now comes in at No. 18 with 133.5 sacks, with his career high of 15 coming in 1969.
Marshall is the last Viking on the unofficial list. His 130.5 sacks are good for 22nd all-time. Like Eller, 1969 was his best season sack-wise. He totaled 14 that year.
Another member of the list, Al Baker, did play one season with the Vikings, but it was far from a career year, and he’s more well-known for his time with the Detroit Lions.
Pro Football Reference said it has accounted for 99% of sacks from 1970-1981, 95% from 1966 to 1969, 80% from 1961-1964 and about 66% from 1960.
“Given that accounting for these ‘unofficial’ statistics allows us to paint a richer picture of the history of the game, we think it is a no-brainer to present them on Pro Football Reference,” the site said in its announcement, “allowing fans to gain a deeper appreciation of some of football’s biggest stars in the 1960s and 1970s.”