They Were Who We Thought They Were; Or Were They?

Posted on July 25th, 2008 – 8:30 AM
By Michael Rand

kramer.jpgStu is going to be your substitute daddy today. Really, it’s just one post. But it’s awesome. Sir, you have the floor:

(Quick recap: the brainchild of Brandon from Deadspin-approved blog World of B, TWWWTTWOWT’s goal is to analyze past Minnesota sporting figures to see if they were, in fact, who we thought they were. They will be graded on a scale of Absolute Dennys, with a 1 being We Let ‘Em Off the Hook, and a 10 being Crown ‘Em.)

Today’s Subject: Tommy Kramer

Who We Think They Were: how do you replace a legend? If you’re Torii Hunter, you make a legend of your own. If you’re Les Steckel, you fall flat on your [redacted]. If you’re Tommy Kramer, you own the fourth quarter (hence the nickname, “Two-Minute Tommy”) and then go haunt the 494 strip. And always, always, always throw the ball to Rickey Young.

Were They Really? You’d think there’d be a readily available stat for 4th quarter/OT comebacks. You’d be wrong. If it’s out there, it’s in a media guide that I’d have to pay for or hidden on the internet by mind-bottling amounts of fetish pornography. So, I looked at the box scores for all the Vikings victories with Kramer at the helm and hand-tallied them, starting with his ridiculous comeback against the 49ers on Dec. 4, 1977. I came up with 16 comeback victories, plus four more wins in games that were tied in the 4th quarter. This pales next to John Elway’s NFL record of 47, but it’s not bad, all things considered. This Football Outsiders write-up from 2006 about the most comeback victories since 1996 shows that 16 is a pretty good number for a decade’s worth of football, especially given Kramer’s significant downtime due to injury.

Then there’s off-field stuff. Kramer’s reputation was not unearned, as you will note here and here. More recent news available about him continues that trend.

Finally, if you remember roughly 85 percent of all Kramer’s passes going to Rickey Young swinging out of the backfield, that’s a slight exaggeration. Young finished fourth in the NFL in receptions in 1979, Kramer’s first year as the full-time starter. This was actually a step back from Young’s league-leading 88 receptions in 1978. Young’s reception totals continued to decline until he retired after the 1983 season.

The Grade: Tommy Kramer gets 8 Dennys. He really could move the team down the field when it counted. He really did earn his off-field reputation. He also threw the ball to Rickey Young, just not all the time.

Have a subject for Stu’s feature? Agree to disagree about Kramer? Want to make a mockery of the comments while we’re away? It’s free-for-all Friday.

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