[Note: Brad Davis found methodological disagreements with an article written by the ever-productive CCNorseman at the Daily Norseman, which suggested that Adrian Peterson was in for a decline based on his career numbers. Davis, who doesn’t take a stance on Peterson’s trade value in these pieces, ran through the data with rigorous statistical analysis—here are the results to part one of his study]
by Brad Davis
The 2014 NFL regular season is over, the post season is well underway and the Minnesota Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention back in week 16. Unfortunately that means that the only thing that Vikings fans have to look forward to is the Dallas Cowboys beating the Green Bay packers this week in Green Bay, free agency and the draft.
One of the most important issues for the Vikings to work out during this offseason is whether or not Adrian Peterson will suit up in Purple and Gold again. This is a pretty complicated problem that has a number of moving parts. Even if Adrian Peterson had played all 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings this past year, that would still serve as no guarantee that this wouldn’t be his last season as a Viking anyway.
The Vikings’ front office have to decide if they will keep him with his current contract, attempt to get him to restructure the deal to make it more affordable in terms of cap space going forward, trade him to another team, or cut him outright. Similarly, Adrian Peterson might well have wanted a change of scenery anyway. If he didn’t believe that the Vikings where going to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the next year or two, he might prefer to play on a team that is.
Now combining those realities with the fact that Adrian Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list for the final fifteen games of the season and his apparent disappointment with the team for their poorly veiled attempts to keep him off the field and you have a situation that makes it seem more likely that Adrian Peterson has played his last game as a Viking.
Still, if these issues between Adrian Peterson and the Vikings could be worked out and he could be brought happily back into the Vikings organization, there is still the question of whether or not the Vikings even want him back. His contract has him as the highest paid running back in the league next year (and it’s not even close) and that uses a lot of money that might better be spent elsewhere.
Secondly, he will turn 30 years old during his next season, and traditional wisdom says that a running backs best days are before they turn 30. Now this year off means he’ll have one fewer year of carries on his body, so maybe that would buy him something, but how much? So with that in mind, people have started to assert that Adrian Peterson’s best days are behind him, and that he is already showing evidence of a decline in the quality of his play.
Thankfully though, we live in a world where we can answer these kinds of questions with data and statistics, instead of trying to rely ‘what we see with our eyes’, and ‘obvious truths’. In fact, the whole point of statistics is that it recognizes that we’re actually not very good at processing large amounts of data intuitively and coming to the correct conclusions. So with that in mind, I’ve used data collected from pro-football-reference to look for any evidence that his performance has already started to degrade.