February 25, 2013
Adrian Peterson will leave the National Football League as one of the most decorated running backs in its storied history. His legacy as the premiere running back of his generation is now solidified with his first National Football League Most Valuable Player trophy which he won against quite a few historically great players. However, some of his detractors have said that he was undeserving of this award. They said that some of the years that his peers have had were better than his year. They said that his team ambled through most of the season and barely reached the playoffs. There were several reasons that people said Adrian Peterson should not have won the NFL MVP in the 2012-2013 season. But, they are all wrong. Peterson has recorded one of the most amazing seasons in NFL history despite his competition, his own physical maladies, and despite defensive plans being created solely to stop him.
He beat out Peyton Manning who is one of the best quarterbacks that has ever lived. Manning played the second-best season of his career, and has already won four other MVP’s. He beat out Tom Brady who will also leave football as one of the best players to ever throw a pass and has two MVP’s of his own. Brady led his team to one of the best records in the league, and destroyed every franchise that was considered on par with his Patriots in the regular season. But despite their great individual play, Brady and Manning did not do it alone. Manning played with one of the best defenses in the NFL. He had the luxury of teaching his young receivers how to run routes and learning their tendencies while his defense kept games close or won them outright. Plus, he had a talented though inexperienced receiving unit. Demaryius Thomas has blossomed into one of the best wide outs in the league with Manning under center, and Eric Decker catches everything thrown in his direction. And, Brady had some of the best weapons in the league at his disposal this year. Though both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez suffered injuries during the season, the New England Patriots had the best tandem of tight ends in the NFL. Plus, they featured a running game that was more efficient than any backfield that the Patriots have fielded since Brady’s first five years in the league. The New England offense was versatile and explosive in the 2012-2013 season. Peterson had few weapons around him, and none that enhanced or even complimented his play. The Minnesota Vikings have a ineffective, young quarterback, no real wide receiving threats, and a talented, but young tight end to round out their offensive package. Peterson was the Vikings offense, and put the team on his back and led them to the playoffs. That probably formed the biggest considerations towards him winning his first MVP award.
But, his perseverance was also a contributing factor to his MVP. In the 2012 season, Adrian Peterson faced an injury that would have ended his career just ten years ago. Five years ago, it would have made him half of the player that he was prior to the injury. For most players today, it takes another year to reach their full potential if they ever return to form. But, Adrian Peterson had his best year as a professional in the year succeeding the worst injury that any athlete can have, an ACL tear (Anterior Crucial Ligament of the knee). In the 16th week of the 2011 season, against the Washington Redskins, Adrian Peterson fell awkwardly when he was tackled by the Redskins’ safety and missed the rest of the season. It was the first year of his career that he did not reach 1,000 yards rushing, and there were questions about his ability to start the 2012 season. The procedure that Peterson required generally takes 12 months to heal, with the best athletes returning early in nine months with limited abilities. But, Adrian Peterson began rehabbing his knee and planned for his return to running back stardom as soon as he was allowed to train. His perseverance and determination during his injury insured that he would return in time for the start of the 2012 season in only eight months. And, he attacked 2012 with all the fervor that made him one of the most respected running backs in the league. Peterson returned to the field with the same blinding speed and explosiveness that he had before his injury. He cut hard, powered over smaller defenders, and blew past larger players to regain his spot as the best running back in the league. Returning to the field in such a dramatic fashion was definitely conducive to his status as one of the best players in the game regardless of position. Peterson’s return helped to propel him to most valuable player.
Ironically though, the opposing defenses that Adrian Peterson faced may have had the largest affect on the MVP voters, though the historical significance of Adrian Peterson nearly breaking a NFL record brought most of the attention to him. The most amazing thing about Peterson nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record that has stood for 30 years is that every defense that Peterson faced was geared up to stop him. Peterson would be the focal point of every defensive coordinator in any other season, but in 2012 he was the only option on offense. Defensive coordinators put eight to nine defenders in the box on every play. Defenses knew that he would receive at least half the play calls ( He received 54% of the plays), they knew where he was going to run the ball, and they could not stop him. The only team that held him without a touchdown and under 100 yards after Week 6 lost to the Vikings 23-6 (That team was the Houston Texans one of the better teams in the league). Teams that set a specific plan to stop Peterson failed miserably or lost the game while achieving their goal.
Adrian Peterson deserved to win the 2012 Most Valuable Player award. He was better than his talented peers, he faced great adversity simply trying to get to the start of his historic season, and he did so with defenses knowing that he would get the football on almost every play. Adrian Peterson was the best player in the National Football League last season and earned his trophy. And, if he gets any help from his teammates, he may win another MVP and the most coveted of trophies, the Championship trophy.