Sunday, December 23, 2012

Adrian Peterson Worthy of MVP? All Day

Man, he’s fast.


At the moment all eyes are on Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s most dynamic running back. Against his opponents on the ground, Peterson bursts through the seam and races down the field, then drives into the end zone. The beauty of the Vikings’ resurgence in the Twin Cities, a town where fans haven’t had much to be excited about, is because of Peterson’s phenomenal season. The Vikings have an idea on what the future beholds, with an indomitable running back, which is amassing superhuman numbers.

Funny thing is, however, some would argue that he’s not worthy of MVP, when he continues his assault on the single-season rushing record. Funny thing is, it’s debatable as to whether he should be named NFL’s Most Valuable Player. It should be obvious that he’s deserving of an honorable award, especially when he’s making a case that he’s arguably the best running back in the league when he’s healthy and not inactive on the sideline. In most respects, he’s the only running back to threaten and come close to Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards. At this point, mind you, Peterson is optimistic he can break Dickerson’s record on Sunday, with one game remaining on the schedule.

I cannot see Peterson, proving to be the finest rusher since Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, being devoid of MVP talk. Just like that, faster than he can race for a touchdown, he’s finally revealed he’s an elite running back and even an MVP candidate, and indeed he should win the award, without much argument. There’s enough evidence to see that he’s playing like an MVP, with the Vikings in a fight for a wild-card spot as they can mathematically still make the playoffs, amid a season when Peterson is respectfully dominating in every rushing category as he cannot be denied but only contained. The strategy of handing the ball off to Peterson in a sequence of plays, since he’s racked up some ridiculous numbers, is a boon to the Vikings impressive season.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the NFL is a pass-happy league, with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — the greatest NFL quarterbacks of the modern era. There’s no doubt Brady and Manning are top candidates, and to say they both aren’t favorites to win MVP, is just irresponsible and imprudent. No disrespect to Brady and Manning, but to be fair, Peterson is the greatest rusher of the modern era and deserves consideration.

The numbers don’t lie. For Peterson, for those who are unaware, his 1,812 yards is a league’s best — standing on the NFL Mountaintop. By far, he’s stringing together one of the most individual campaigns, and simultaneously is on pursuit to shatter a record no running back has ever broken. This season alone, Peterson has 1,313 yards in the past eight games and rushed for 150 yards or more in six games, one shy of tying NFL record in that category.

Just recently, he became the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 8,500 yards and 75 touchdowns over the first six seasons of an NFL career, with currently 8,564 yards and 75 touchdowns to fall in the company of Dickerson (9,915 yards and 75 touchdowns), LaDainian Tomlinson (9,176 yards and 100 touchdowns), and Smith (8,956 yards and 96 touchdowns).

It’s just the truth, no matter what people say about Peterson, refusing to acknowledge that what he’s mastered this season is beyond incredible. With his nifty footwork, his quickness and explosiveness, his firmness and ability to make defenders hesitate and make it hard to read the play, he is on the threshold of validating his place among NFL running backs. Roughly on his way to attain eminence, Peterson is looking to become the seventh tailback to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

This, more than anything else, is the best season of his exceptional career. It’s a time when he can be placed on Mount Rushmore of running backs. The most exceptional running back is easily the most superlative performer in 2012, and has climbed the mountaintop in the National Football League. If you don’t think AD is highly commendable, you are clueless and blinded by the reality of Peterson’s dominance. There’s a great chance he will win the award — the Most Valuable Player award. Peterson, should the Vikings (8-6) make it to the playoffs, would likely earn MVP honors.

Yet he plays on an inferior team with a struggling quarterback in Christian Ponder. The Vikings also featured receiver Percy Harvin, who sustained an injury. But Peterson, meanwhile, has made defenses fret as he poses a threat. In all, judging by the standings, the Vikings can miss the postseason, and Peterson’s spectacular season would go to waste if Minnesota misses out on all the fun as individual achievements don’t matter as much as team deeds. Now it just comes down to him executing and having another 200-plus-yard effort, coming off a 212-yard performance in a 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

If that happens, needing 294 yards in his final two games to surpass Dickerson, he could set a new record as an NFL back. In a quarterback-driven league, rarely does a running back fit the description. The odds, as usual, strongly favor Manning and Brady in the age when quarterbacks are often recognized. There have been 37 quarterbacks selected, with a combined record of 470-102-4 (.819).

The world’s biggest curiosity is Peterson, no matter what history says, no matter if the league’s most valuable player has rarely not led his team to the playoffs. There’s not enough promise to confirm he’s the winner, while leading the Vikings through a storybook season. And here’s guessing Manning is favored to prevail, playing for the hottest team in the league and turning the 11-3 Denver Broncos into Super Bowl hopefuls. The downside is, Peterson’s team isn’t nearly as flawless, let alone playoff bound.

Whether or not anyone thinks he merits the honors, which usually doesn’t happen for a running back, Peterson gets my vote. This is generally not a running backs league, known for satisfying quarterbacks and forgetting about every other player on the field. It would be a great accomplishment for Peterson. In recent memory, 55 winners have won an MVP in 55 years — only two of them were on teams that didn’t make it to the postseason.

It’s worth pointing out only four running backs have won MVP while playing for a wild-card team. Sanders’ name sounds familiar and Walter Payton’s as well, two winning backs who made it happen on 9-7 teams. The last we’ve seen a running back win MVP was when Tomlinson earned it on the account of fulgurous numbers. That year, he rushed for 1,815 yards and NFL-record 31 touchdowns, 28 on the ground.

All day, he’s the man of show business, a priceless specimen who overcame medical issues, after tearing his ACL and MCL less than a year ago. All day, he’s been tearing it up in the National Football League. Chances are he still won’t win MVP, although Peterson is the most astonishing athletes in the game today, bouncing back from injuries to likely also be NFL’s comeback kid. If he doesn’t win the award, it would be an insult to Peterson, when he’s convinced us that he’s not only the fastest man directing the greatest show on turf but also the man with otherworldly talent. So at this point, Peterson’s campaign is far more amazing to be ignored.

He’s amazed us with runs and created a compelling story every time he took a handoff this season and couldn’t be stopped. Now the most appreciated player in the game by far, Peterson is carrying out the unthinkable and certainly has been far more amazing than anyone else all season, with his size, a rare combination of speed and stamina. This year, it became apparent that Peterson has stated his case after putting in the hours and working diligently to recover from his health issues, rehabilitating with physical therapists and performing painstaking exercises to rejuvenate energy and motion.

There’s no doubt that he’s in good position to win. But don’t be surprised to see two-time winner Brady or four-time winner Manning win it again. We can only imagine what will happen — worthy of MVP status — now that Peterson is closing in on a record and could potentially carry the Vikings to the postseason. The MVP is an individual award, after all, not a team award.

My vote, however, goes to Peterson. All day.