The Blame Game

The national adulation over Adrian Peterson's phenomenal start to his NFL career has resulted in finger-pointing at the six teams that passed on him on draft day. However, the culpability should be directed at the 25 teams that waited to let him go off the board before the Vikings took him -- especially considering the unsual circumstances at the No. 6 pick.

The best (or some might say bitterly ironic) part about 24-hour sports commentary – both on television and radio – is the unwarranted vivisection of teams from one week to the next. Remember when the Saints were dead and buried? What a difference the Big Easy Octoberfest made. Are Lions opponents overly concerned? The Broncos have hell stories to tell.

Thanks to the rabid man-love the general public has for the NFL – memo to Uncle Roger: put a Super Bowl in Europe and update your job description – every team and every game is broken down to amoeba proportions. The Ravens get beaten down by the Steelers Monday night to drop to 4-4. People ask why? They look to their wins – over a Jets team that is 1-7, a Cardinals team that lost Matt Leinart during the game, a 49ers team that started Trent Dilfer and a Rams squad that started Gus Frerotte. As league officials would say, "upon further review," a case could be made that all of the Ravens' wins this season have been fraudulent.

That is a bad-case scenario of the paralysis-by-overanalysis that the competitive nature of following the NFL has become. It has become a mindset that is fueled by the popularity of celebrity. When you're on top, we love you. When you hit bottom, we love your more because we can play the "Mama Bear" card and complain incessantly that our porridge is too cold and our bed is too soft.

Flash back to the weekend of April 28-29. On April 29, Adrian Peterson prepares to speak to the Twin Cities media for the first time. As the cameras surround Peterson holding up a jersey for his first professional photo-op, the last Vikings superhero – wide receiver Randy Moss – is being introduced as the newest member of the New England Patriots. Obtained for a fourth-round pick, the general national consensus is that the Patriots have invited a cancer into the clubhouse. Almost simultaneously, Peterson is grilled about his iffy collarbone. Are media reports of a metal breastplate possibly true? Did the Vikings again gamble the No. 7 pick on a player that could be a monumental bust?

Following ESPN's latest Monday night broadcast, a very different question was being asked. In back-to-back stories, the network ran pieces on whether the Patriots can go undefeated – filled with highlights of Moss hauling in touchdowns in double and triple coverage – and a story on Peterson. The angle? What were the other teams possibly thinking for passing on the next big thing?

Hindsight being 20-20, only the Browns (maybe) can be faulted. The Raiders had the first pick and took JaMarcus Russell. The fact they didn't sign him until it was too late to incorporate him into the 2007 game plan is nobody's fault but their own. This is where things get tricky. If Rick Spielman was put on a water board by our intelligence agencies, he likely would be forced (eventually) to admit he would have taken wide receiver Calvin Johnson over A.P. Two down, four to go.

Not to play lawyer-ball, but a solid case can be made for the not-so-fantastic four that opted not to take "All Day." The Browns, who had the chance to take Peterson or Brady Quinn – both players at a position of need – took offensive tackle Joe Thomas. History tells you that premium left tackles are the safest lottery draft picks to make. Having signed Jamal Lewis to a substantial contract two months earlier, the Browns believed they had the running game covered – financially, if not realistically. Next were the Buccaneers, who used a lottery pick to take Carnell Williams in 2005 with the fifth pick. They wouldn't take A.P. At No. 6 were the Redskins. Joe Gibbs made a blockbuster trade when he came on board to get Clinton Portis. He wasn't about to use his only pick in the first 142 selections to take a running back. Remember that number of draft picks. There will be a pop quiz.

The most culpable organization for "missing out" on A.P. are the Browns. In the days leading up to the draft, I was involved in four on-air radio mock drafts. In three scenarios, Peterson was gone to the Browns. In the fourth, both Peterson and QB Brady Quinn were both on the board when my pick came up. The smarmy color commentator waited an instant after my introduction to say, "This pick should take about two seconds. Brady Quinn. Right?"

With just as little hesitation, I responded, "Wrong."

A first-round quarterback is always a risk. For Vikings fans, their first up-close-and-personal look at Philip Rivers wasn't anything they would brag about. Quinn reminded too many people like me of a less-than-Rivers prospect – more on the line of Joey Harrington. A franchise running back doesn't come around that often. You roll the dice and hope that he lives up to expectations.

What the ESPN gang missed wasn't that Peterson lasted until the seventh pick. The six teams that picked in front of the Vikings on draft day had their reasons for not taking him. You can make a case for any or all of them, but a legitimate case can be made for each why they passed. It shouldn't be the teams that didn't select Peterson that should be scrutinized. It should be the teams that were drafting behind the Vikings with a desperate seller like the Redskins – who didn't have another pick until the fifth round – that should be held accountable. What would have it taken for Washington to trade out of that pick? Even a team in the middle to end of the first round could have dangled a later pick in the first round and a couple of middle-round picks to move up.

Nobody stepped up and the Redskins took safety LaRon Landry. Their next pick came, as ordained, 136 picks later. If "blame" is to be thrown around, it shouldn't be directed at the teams that picked in front of the Vikings. It should be leveled at those teams that could have moved in front of the Vikings at No. 6 and allowed the Redskins to have a draft that had some meaning. Again, if put on a water board and "questioned" by the CIA, Spielman would likely have said the Vikings would be happy to have selected Landry had Peterson been gone. He wasn't. The Vikings took him. And, as we have already learned, the rest is history.

Peterson was meant to be a Viking. His talent warranted being picked at or near the top of the draft. For those teams in front of the Vikings, he wasn't a value pick for the roster those teams had in place. For the Vikings, he was too tempting to pass on. End of story.

The next time the talking heads praise the accomplishments of Peterson, they shouldn't point their disgust at the teams that didn't take him with their assigned picks, the real scorn should be directed at those organizations that didn't have the stones to get the Redskins on the phone and ask what it would take to get them off the sixth pick?

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