Vikings Could Have Certain System for First Time in 20 Years

Photo By Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE Copyright (c) 2005 Bruce Kluckhohn.

The Minnesota Vikings said sayonara this offseason to Dalvin Cook while promoting RB2 Alexander Mattison to RB1 and drafting University of Alabama-Birmingham RB DeWayne McBride in April.

Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu also live on the depth to support Mattison.

Vikings Could Have Certain System for First Time in 20 Years

And don’t look now, but the Vikings could have a ‘running back by committee’ for the first time in 20 years.

Could Have Certain
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Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell recently said about Mattison’s 2023 trajectory, “I feel really good about our running back room, and Alex Mattison is a huge reason why. I think he’s proven that he can, whether over the past few years when he stepped in there, handling a really good workload and producing and also just in our short term together, his ability to handle the roles and responsibilities of that position in our offense, so I feel great about where Alex is at.”

“The next step in his career is just obviously a little bit more consistent opportunities which we hope to provide for him,” O’Connell added.

So, Mattison may end up as a bellcow type halfback — but then what will the team do with Chandler, Nwangwu, and McBride? Roster personnel hints at a committee approach.

Photo By Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Bruce Kluckhohn.

And the Vikings last had a committee in 2003 — two decades ago. Twenty years have elapsed since Minnesota showcased three or more running backs with 300+ rushing yards in the same season. In 2003, it was these men:

  • Moe Williams (745 rushing yards | 174 carries)
  • Onterrio Smith (579 rushing yards | 107 carries)
  • Michael Bennett (447 rushing yards | 90 carries)
Photo By Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Bruce Kluckhohn.

How did this happen, the absence of an RB committee for 20 years? It’s pretty simple, actually. The Vikings leaned into Mewelde Moore for a couple of seasons after 2003, remained a pass-first organization with Daunte Culpepper at QB1, and then drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007. Peterson charted a Hall of Fame path from 2007 to 2016 for the Vikings and hasn’t even expressly retired from the NFL as of June 2023.

Then, after Peterson bolted for the New Orleans Saints in 2017, Minnesota drafted Dalvin Cook, and he assumed RB1 duties for six years.

It’s been the Peterson and Cook show in Minnseota since 2007 — if that can be believed.

Lottery Ticket QB
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But the Vikings hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah 17 months ago, taking over for Rick Spielman, who was ironically hired around the start of the Peterson era. Unlike Spielman, Adofo-Mensah isn’t really a ‘let’s use a bellcow RB’ type of football thinker. It’s significantly more likely that the Vikings evolve into an RB-by-committee franchise and get with modern times than remaining with the bellcow approach. Outside of players like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Bijan Robinson, bellcow-RB stories live in NFL obituaries.

No further evidence is needed; look at the Vikings depth chart. Mattison, Chandler, Nwangwu, and McBride fill the RB room — all on affordable deals.

If Vikings football feels strange on offense in September, it might be because a running back committee has returned for the first time since the Mike Tice era.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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