Has Adrian Peterson Actually Hurt The Minnesota Vikings?

David GellerAnalyst IJuly 19, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - DECEMBER 28:   Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball in for a touchdown as James Butler of the New York Giants defends on December 28, 2008 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Giants 20-19. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings have been arguably the most turbulent franchise throughout the young 21st century. 2000 was a year of offensive prowess powered by the jaw dropping passes from first-year starter Daunte Culpepper and the equally staggering catches by Randy Moss.


This campaign, which ended in a 41-0 drubbing laid on by the NFC champion New York Giants, appeared to be the beginning of a run that would land the Vikings at least one championship.


However, as is life in the NFL, the Vikings never put together consecutive years of success. Coaching transitions, inconsistency in drafting young talent, egos, and injuries have halted the Vikings from becoming an upper-tier team in the NFC.


In 2006 it appeared that the Vikings were in full-fledged rebuilding mode. Brad Childress brought a new attitude to Minnesota that was a breath of fresh air from the disappointing Mike Tice era. Tarvaris Jackson, an inexperienced yet extremely talented quarterback from Alabama State, instilled a hope amongst Vikings brass that the search to replace Daunte Culpepper was finally complete.


In a relatively small media market and with little talent to boast, the Vikings were going to spend the next couple of seasons developing their 2006 second-round quarterback and surround him with viable weapons through the draft and free agency. There was little sense of urgency to compile division championships because they simply weren’t very good.


But with the seventh pick in the 2007 NFL draft, that all changed.


There was no doubt that Adrian Peterson was a physical freak coming out of college. The Oklahoma product punished defenses from the moment he stepped on the field as a true freshman. Remarkably, he finished second in the Heisman voting as a freshman. His next two seasons at Oklahoma were limited by injuries that some NFL scouts worried came from his taxing running style.


This deterred some teams from selecting Peterson, but not the Vikings. And they reaped the benefits immediately. Peterson broke the all-time rushing record for a rookie and easily won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Simultaneously, he sparked the Vikings to a surprising run in which a Week 16 Sunday night victory against the Redskins could have catapulted them to a Wild Card berth. However, they lost that game, and finished the season 8-8.


While Peterson’s startling rookie campaign brought the Vikings life and a renewed sense of faith within the Vikings fan base, it also created the pressure to win. With a dominant running back tandem in Peterson and Chester Taylor, along with a solid offensive line and a talented defense, the Vikings were forced to abandon their multi-year plan to regain NFC prominence.


Heading into 2008, Tarvaris Jackson was not granted the necessary time to develop what many scouts believed he needed in order to reach his potential. Instead, Head Coach Brad Childress placed a leash on the quarterback many thought would be the future of the Vikings franchise.


Sure enough, all it took was an 0-2 start for the Vikings to pull Jackson in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte. All of a sudden, the Vikings had strayed away from the plan they hoped would allow them to reemerge as an NFC power.


Now, all the Vikings have proved to be is a .500 team with flashes of brilliance, but also long stretches of mediocrity. After grabbing back the starting position in December, Jackson actually played well down the stretch, en route to a division crown for the Vikings. But all positive sentiments coming from that month were washed away in a very pedestrian playoff performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.


Many believe that Vikings are a win-now team. If Brett Favre signs with the Vikings, then that would confirm that statement. They would be a win in 2009 team. But down the road, many questions would linger: After being benched on multiple occasions, is Tarvaris Jackson the future? What about John David Booty, the Vikings 2007 fifth round pick from USC?


The Vikings have very little direction right now. Talent? No doubt. But even with an established veteran at quarterback, gaping holes remain on the current roster. Pedestrian wide receivers, porous special teams, and lack of discipline on the defensive side of the ball highlight their list of weaknesses.


Simply put, the Vikings progression has been rushed by the sudden urgency to win, which was triggered by their star running back’s explosion onto the NFL scene. Now, the Vikings are in a win-now position, without the pieces to do it.