As part of life in the NFL, there is no time to dwell on the past or look too far ahead. From the time the regular season starts until the season comes to end, there is a blind focus on the team that is in front of the Vikings that particular week. There is no time for looking ahead, for speculating or for addressing scenarios that don’t have any bearing on the opponent at hand.
For those of us on the outside looking in, there is room to speculate and look at different potential outcomes that, in the end, have no bearing on what the organization is going to do but makes for good copy and has ideal “talkability” among fans.
The Minnesota Vikings are currently running wild with guessing – educated and otherwise – about where the team will be going moving forward in light of the devastating injuries to Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and Sharrif Floyd.
Losing one former first-round pick is bad enough for a team. Losing two is hard take. But, losing four? There might be some sort of voodoo curse in play because that never happens.
Even the most grizzled veteran on the Vikings roster – cornerback Terence Newman – said he can never remember a team losing its starting QB and franchise running back so early in a season, forcing a lot of the plans that have been worked on for months to get scrapped. The Vikings are walking down a path that doesn’t have many, if any, previous footprints that have trod the path before.
The biggest question being pondered at the moment is whether or not those in attendance at last Sunday night’s Vikings-Packers game bore witness to the last game played by Peterson in a Vikings uniform?
It’s a legitimate and a realistic question because, over the last three years, as things currently appear, Peterson is likely to have played in just 19 of the possible 48 games in that span. Given what he has been paid, that isn’t the kind of return on the dollar that an organization looks for or tolerates.
What makes the Peterson situation dicey is that the argument supporting the Vikings moving on from him has some pretty persuasive evidence. There is no way the Vikings will bring back Peterson at the $18 million his contract calls for, especially in light of how many paychecks the team has cut to A.P. without having him on the field.
Other arguments that are being debated is that Peterson, who will be 32 next year, will be playing on two surgically repaired knees. The reality of the NFL is that there is a shelf life on players that comes to critical mass when production and salary are at odds. Even some of the all-time greats didn’t finish their careers with the team they are intrinsically linked to – Emmitt Smith was a Cardinal, O.J. Simpson was a 49er, LaDainian Tomlinson was a Jet, Macrus Allen was a Chief.
The yet-to-be-determined argument being thrown out with evidence one way or the other is whether the offense can be better and potentially more explosive without Peterson. When Bridgewater became the starter, one of the things that was up for debate was who was the offense going to be geared toward?
His strength was reading defenses from the shotgun, whether the play is pass or a run. Peterson is a classic seven-yards-deep running back who prefers his QB under center so he can get a read for the hole being designed and cutback lanes that can spring the “classic Peterson” run of 80 yards that turns a nine-carry, 20-yard game into a 10-carry, 100-yard game.
When push came to shove, the decision was made to acquiesce to Peterson and let the big dog eat.
If Bridgewater was still in the picture, the decision as to which path was the best take would make itself obvious. If the Vikings offense wallowed without Peterson, the necessity to pony up more money would be increased. If life went on without him just fine, that decision would be easier and more palatable for everyone – from Zygi Wilf down to face-painting fans.
But that question was rendered moot by the Bridgewater injury. But, if Sam Bradford tears it up, the Vikings could extrapolate whatever Bradford does to Teddy in 2017 – or opt to replace Peterson’s cap number with Bradford’s if Bridgewater’s injury proves to be a question mark heading into next summer. Depending on who you ask, that is a distinct possibility.
In the here and now, the Vikings have exponentially more big questions than answers beyond the 2016 season.
[JOIN THE VIKINGS DISCUSSION, CLICK HERE]
Fortunately for those of us who try to assess the long-term picture, the Vikings coaches and player have tunnel vision.
All the matters is Carolina.
Considering what outsiders are postulating, that is good thing.