The 2016 Minnesota Vikings season ends Sunday and will be culminated without two talents – one that has been the faceplate of the franchise and another that has been viewed as a likely candidate to be passed that torch.
The future in the NFL is always murky water. What seemed like a lock at one point can turn quickly and irrevocably. Such has been the 2016 season for 10-year veteran running back Adrian Peterson and rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Peterson has been synonymous with the Vikings franchise since being the seventh pick of the 2007 draft. He shattered every rushing record the franchise had and, much like Randy Moss almost a decade prior, from the moment he stepped on the field, you could immediately tell that the Vikings had something special.
However, this season has had a cloud over it since the start at the very real prospect that 2016 was going to be Peterson’s last with the Vikings. Due $18 million in 2017 under his current contract, one of the worst-kept secrets in the league was that there was no way the Vikings and Peterson were going to play under the conditions of that deal. Peterson, who has built a history of looking out for his own financial interests (and rightly so the way NFL contracts are structured), has played just 20 games over the last 48 and his cameo appearance against Indianapolis two weeks ago would appear to be his final game as a Viking.
There is no questioning the legacy that Peterson has established for himself. He is a Hall of Fame entrant five years after his retirement, but so many other Hall of Fame players don’t always end their career with the team that made their career. It would seem the final straw came when Peterson injured his meniscus in Week 2 against Green Bay. There were reports that he could have opted for two different procedures – one that would have kept him out potentially the entire season and one that could have had him back on the field within a month, but would have required an additional surgery at some later date. Peterson opted for the surgery that would take care of the problem but leave him sidelined for a longer period of time.
Treadwell appeared to fall into the Vikings’ lap on the opening night of the draft. Viewed by many draft analysts as the best wide receiver in the Class of 2016, he was the fourth wideout drafted and was viewed as a gift where the Vikings got him.
It didn’t work out that way during his rookie season. For reasons that haven’t been adequately explained, Treadwell’s rookie season has been an unqualified bust. In the 16 games of his rookie season, he was inactive for six, active but didn’t play in another and, in the nine games that he did play, he was targeted just three times. He finished his rookie season with one catch for 15 yards.
Of all the disappointments that have surrounded the 2016 season, two that stand out the most are the lack of Peterson in the lineup for the second time in three years and the MIA status of Treadwell.
The Vikings aren’t closing the door on Treadwell. Anyone who saw the way he dominated the SEC knows that his talent is immense and that there is every likelihood that, if given the chance to shine, he could be a quality player in the NFL. That chance simply didn’t come in his rookie season for reasons that are being kept pretty close to the vest by those involved.
For Peterson, it’s a different story. His pronouncement that he would return to action with the caveat that the Vikings had to be a playoff contender confounded many on the outside. Since when do players dictate the return to action and under what conditions they do or don’t play?
Much in the same way 2010 began with so much promise and ended as an unqualified disaster, the 2016 has some eerie similarities in that the expectations and hopes of something big came crashing down and the neither the franchise player nor the top of the rookie class could do anything to stop it.
There remains a slight glimmer of hope that Peterson will return in 2017, but the current conventional wisdom is that Vikings fans have seen the last of A.P. in purple and gold. If that’s the case, it’s been a historic run with the franchise, but it could officially come to end when tomorrow’s game with the Bears comes to a close.
A new era of Vikings football will turn the page with the calendar on Sunday as 2016 goes into the record books and 2017 begins. It appears that Peterson will follow 2016 out the door, but whether Treadwell can ever assume the role of the offensive faceplate is very much left in doubt.