The Odd Couple: Adrian Peterson & The Minnesota Vikings
Anyone watch the new “Odd Couple” TV show starring Chandler from “Friends” and that guy who was the lieutenant in “Reno 911”? Yeah, me neither. Or at least not that I’m willing to admit.
OK, fine. The show is terrible. I mean, it would have been funny in 1970 when the material was fresh (i.e. when the original “Odd Couple” launched), but today, not so much. One thing that was clear, though, was that the new show was keeping the premise of the old show alive — that sometimes people who don’t like each other are actually what’s best for each other. And that may also be what’s happening between the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson.
Peterson the Great
Adrian Peterson, 29 (he’ll be 30 in March), has spent his entire career with the Minnesota Vikings since being selected 7th overall in 2007. Peterson went on to six Pro Bowl selections, 10,190 rushing yards and 86 touchdowns in eight seasons, adding another 1,715 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns. It was clear that he was something special when he set the league single-game record of 296 yards as a rookie. But he became legendary when he returned in 2012 less than nine months after an ACL and MCL tear (approximately 3 months ahead of schedule for a “normal” athlete) to total 2,097 rushing yards, second only to Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 in 1984.
“Game Over, Man!”
Last year, though, things took a turn for the worse. Peterson was indicted on September 11, 2014, by a Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child that occurred on May 18, 2014. He was accused of beating his four-year-old son with a branch, causing welts and bleeding. Initially, the Vikings deactivated Peterson for a single game. Then they reversed course and said Peterson could play. When photos surfaced on TMZ showing the alleged injury to Peterson’s son, public opinion fell dramatically, and in parallel, the Vikings management held a news conference and deactivated Peterson again stating that they just wanted to “get it right.”
On November 4, 2014, Peterson pled no contest to the misdemeanor charge of recklessly assaulting his four-year-old son. He was put on probation, fined $4,000 and required to do 80 hours of community service.
Finally, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the NFL on November 18, 2014, saying, “the league can keep Adrian Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list,” basically keeping Peterson off the field for the remainder of the 2014 season and suspended until April 2015. Peterson appealed and lost.
[UPDATED – 2/26/15 – The Court overturned Peterson’s suspension and he will soon be reinstated to the NFL. The judge essentially ruled that Roger Goodell exceeded his authority by suspending Peterson for so long. So we’ll soon figure out if Peterson remains on the Vikings roster or moves on to possibly greener pastures.]
But let’s not all cry for Peterson, as his placement on the exempt list allowed him to be paid his entire salary by the Vikings during the time he was out. And although he didn’t play most of 2014, that simply may allow for more mileage out of Peterson down the road. So the primary question now is “should Peterson return to the Vikings?”
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
Apparently, in an interview with ESPN, although Peterson thought the Vikings fans were on his side, he wasn’t entirely happy with how Vikings management dealt with the issue.
“I’m still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization. Of course those guys ultimately supported me, and I’m grateful for that.”
Further, it’s been reported by numerous sources (including CBS Sports and the Score) that Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra had a “heated exchange” with Minnesota Vikings VP of football operations Rob Brzezinski at the Combine, apparently in full view of several third parties. As reported, Dogra “made it clear that Peterson would never play there again”. Of course, the Vikings actually can’t officially speak to Peterson about returning yet, so one has to assume that something else led to Dogra’s statement, perhaps not directly related to Peterson’s wishes. But then again, with Peterson’s uneasiness, and his potential desire to return to his home state of Texas, maybe there’s more to Dogra’s statement than a simple threat.
“I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore.”
Regardless of whether Peterson wants to return to the Vikings, there’s still the question of whether the Vikings even want Peterson. Minnesota ranked 14th in total rushing yards in 2014 (1804 yards) on 4.4 yards per attempt (good for 10th in the NFL), mostly without Peterson. That’s not too shabby, and only down slightly from 2013 with Peterson (4.9 yards per attempt for 2081 yards – good for 8th in the NFL). Jerick McKinnon looks to have serious potential and is returning from back surgery that should put him in line to take part with the Vikings’ off season workouts. And Matt Asiata, although nothing special, was a solid number 2 RB (that was decent taking on increased responsibility when McKinnon went down) and was very effective around the goal line. Trading Peterson could save the Vikings somewhere on the order of $13 million. And Peterson will be entering the dreaded “30-year old drop off” that many running backs have fallen prey to in the past.
The hard part, of course, is that the Vikings would need to find a trade partner that would want to take on Peterson’s $48 million over the next three years. It’s possible that the Cowboys would be a landing spot, in light of Jerry Jones’ admiration of Peterson and Peterson’s desire to return to Texas, but it would be hard to see the Cowboys taking on Peterson’s ginormous contract while letting a known quantity in Demarco Murray walk.
“Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In!”
All in all, the most sensible result for both sides at this point would be a reunion in Minnesota. With the Vikings having a passable season at 7-9 and having a promising Teddy Bridgewater under center, Peterson should only help open up the offense. With a significant ground threat in the backfield, Bridgewater will have more time to make decisions and hit routes.
As much as both sides may want to part ways, sometimes what’s best for the family is sticking it out.
Isn’t that right, Mr. Corleone?