Walker trade built Cowboys, unraveled Vikings

It was 21 years ago that the Vikings and Cowboys made the biggest trade in NFL history, one that built the Cowboys and decimated the Vikings. Ironic that Randy Moss is back with the Vikings to face Dallas, a team that regrets passing on him in 1998.

It seems only fitting that the Vikings play the Cowboys tomorrow at the Metrodome. It will mark the first time Randy Moss has played in front of the home fans that had unconditional love for him. It will also mark the 21st anniversary of the event that will forever link the Vikings and Cowboys in NFL lore.

Earlier this week, the Vikings of 1989 vintage believed they were a running back away from being a Super Bowl contender. The Cowboys, under first-year owner Jerry Jones, were going nowhere. Yet, they had a marketable star named Herschel Walker who, as it would turn out, could fetch a king's ransom in trade. The Vikings had nine Pro Bowlers on their roster – even though guys like Wade Wilson, while a Pro Bowl selection, weren't really Pro Bowlers in the truest sense of the word – and all that was missing was a big-play guy who could make a difference.

What followed was the NFL equivalent to a burglary. The trade cost the Vikings five live bodies (RB Darrin Nelson, CB Issiac Holt, DE Alex Stewart and LBs Jesse Solomon and David Howard) and three first-round, three second-round and two third-round picks in return. It hamstrung the Vikings organization for five years and turned Dallas from a joke to the kingpin of the NFL. Walker, although talented, wasn't anywhere close to being worth what the Vikings gave up to get him. That trade transformed the Cowboys from a 1-15 team to a Super Bowl champ and set the Vikings back for years, denying them the top draft choices that could re-stock their own shelves.

For all their bravado and claims to be "America's Team," the Cowboys' rise to the top of the NFL in the early 1990s was a direct result of the Walker trade. They were more Minnesota's team, or at least Minnesota's former players and draft picks, than anything. Had Jones drafted Randy Moss in 1998 when the Cowboys were of Super Bowl vintage and aging together and had one last gasp in them, they likely could have added another ring to their collection. When Dallas drafted Dez Bryant a dozen years later, Jones referenced passing on Moss as the motivation to take a chance on Bryant, who, like Moss, came to the NFL with some off-field baggage that would require two people to carry. His rationale was simple – I messed up in 1998 and I'm not going to repeat that mistake.

In Walker's first home game with the Vikings, he electrified the Metrodome crowd by bring the "H-Bomb" to Minnesota. In the end, it turned out to be a Titanic-type disaster for the franchise. Moss, who it can be argued can do a lot more damage in the twilight of his career than Walker could achieve at his peak, has a chance to once again make the Cowboys regret their decision.

For those fans who will be at the Metrodome Sunday, their excitement to seeing Moss in his purple 84 jersey will likely be at the same level when Walker made his Vikings debut by returning a kickoff and losing a shoe in the process. Unfortunately for the organization, to acquire Walker the Vikings lost their shirt.

With no disrespect to Jared Allen, it took 21 years for the Vikings to make a trade of the magnitude of the Walker deal. But, instead of costing them a king's ransom, they got Moss for a third-round draft pick – a pittance compared to what was surrendered to make the Vikings the running butt of a joke for years that followed the Walker deal. The fact that it was a trade for the same player Jones has regretted missing out on for more than a decade makes it all the more ironic.

The Cowboys have their Super Bowl rings as evidence that they took advantage of the Vikings in 1989. It won't come close to making up for it, but if Moss has a typical day against the Cowboys, which, by his four previous games as a Viking would be five catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, it would be a fitting bit of redemption.


  • The final Vikings injury reported listed three players as questionable – Favre (ankle/elbow), CB Chris Cook (knee) and C John Sullivan (calf). Favre is expected to start, while both Sullivan and Cook are expected to miss Sunday's game.

  • Guard Chris DeGeare has been ruled out for Sunday's game with an ankle injury.

  • Four Vikings are listed as probable – safeties Madieu Williams (shoulder) and Jamarca Sanford (back), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and DE Brian Robison (ankle).

  • The Cowboys only have one player listed as questionable – wide receiver Dez Bryant with ankle/rib injuries. Six other players are listed as probable – C Andre Gurode (knee), TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), LB Bradie James (knee), DE Igor Olshansky (knee), S Alan Ball (shoulder) and FB Chris Gronkowski (groin).

  • There is no such thing as "bulletin board" material anymore. The Cowboys accused the Vikings of running up the score on them in the playoffs last year and, when asked to defend their position, guys like Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught the TD in question, and Pat Williams, one of the most respected players in the locker room, both spoke to the issue. Ironically, both players in defense of the Vikings adding another touchdown brought up that, prior to the TD pass, the Dallas defense was still blitzing Brett Favre, therefore they deserved it. Those comments have been strewn throughout the Cowboys' media coverage of Sunday's game. Yet, the question remains – if Dallas was willing to lay down and accept the defeat, why keep blitzing Favre?

  • Cowboys tackle Marc Colombo, who Ray Edwards accused earlier this week of being a dirty player, was fined $5,000 by the league for unnecessary roughness from last week's Dallas-Tennessee game.

  • There may be a better way of detecting the short-term impact on concussions and other brain trauma. According to an Army study done on the short-term and long-term effects of brain trauma, one of the findings is that proteins released into the blood stream from damaged brain cells can be detected and quantified. If the study holds water, it could be a breakthrough to dealing with mild brain injuries that could have long-term ramifications for those afflicted.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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