Adrian Peterson deserves to win this year’s MVP award.
Yes — Peyton Manning enjoyed an outstanding season. Robert Griffin III led his team to a remarkable turnaround and instant respectability. Andrew Luck surpassed even the highest expectations as a first-round draft choice. And, Aaron Rogers performed admirably given all the challenges to his team.
But Adrian Peterson is in a class all his own.
Consider that a year ago today, Peterson underwent major ACL surgery — which is normally a career ending injury for running backs. Recovering from a serious knee injury would be difficult for any professional athlete. But for an NFL running back with lots of mileage on the body, it’s unprecedented. Had Peterson simply completed this season healthy and contributed to his team’s success with a respectable year, that alone would have been an impressive feat.
But Peterson did far more than that.
He just posted the second-best season for a running back in NFL history. Consider all the great running backs of the past 80 years — the Jim Browns, the Gayle Sayers, the O.J. Simpsons, the Walter Paytons, the Barry Sanders, the Emmit Smiths, and so many others.
Peterson just eclipsed them all. He finished the season with 2,097 yards — including 199 yards today against division rival Green Bay. I would also argue that staying healthy in today’s NFL is tougher than ever before. Now, defenses are bigger, faster, and stronger than in years past. The human body simply isn’t built to withstand bone crushing tackles and years of abuse on these horrible artificial turf fields.
Moreover, it’s not like Peterson enjoys running behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. At best, those who lead block are average. In fact, the Minnesota Vikings have been a laughing stock for the past decade. Peterson has been the lone bright spot for a dismal franchise that seemed to be going absolutely nowhere and which was picked by most to finish dead last in the division.
Peterson has carried his team to an astounding turnaround, a 10-6 win-loss record, and a playoff birth — 365 days after he was laying on an operating table beneath a surgical scalpel wondering if his NFL career was over.
SMU and Los Angeles Rams great Eric Dickerson still holds the 16-game season record for most rushing yardage. And no running back ever had a season quite like O.J. Simpson back in 1973 (which was 14 games — so in all fairness, Simpson still stands as the gold standard). But as someone who has been watching NFL games for four decades, Adrian Peterson’s feat this season was as remarkable an accomplishment as I have ever seen in sports.
Adrian Peterson deserves the NFL Most Valuable Player honor more than any other. Period.