As you can see over on the right-hand side of the page there, what we have on our hands here is a bit of a situation. We all had to fear that this question was going to have to be asked eventually, but we also all hoped that we could put it off for as long as possible. Unfortunately, now is the time for it to be answered.
The Beloved Purple are 3-6, ladies and gentlemen. The playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream at this point, and .500 looks like it would probably take an act of Congress to make happen. There's no help on the immediate horizon at the quarterback position, there doesn't appear to be any desire on either side of the ball at this point, and Brad Childress is still the head coach. Add it all up, and it's looking to be a long last seven weeks of the 2007 season for all of us.
Don't get me wrong, folks. . .I have the same sort of selfishness that I'm sure some of you do. There's a part of me that wants to see Adrian Peterson out on the field as much as possible. I want the highlight reel to get longer. I want more defenders to look foolish. I want more of Paul Allen screaming "TOUCHDOWN ADRIAN PETERSON!!" The kid has been the biggest. . .and, more often than not, the only. . .highlight of the 2007 season for the Vikings. Two of our three victories to this point have come almost exclusively due to the talents of #28.
But you know something? There comes a time when a team has to step back and say to themselves, "We need to look past this season and on to next year." This, folks, is one of those times. Sure, we'd all love to see AP bring home the Rookie of the Year Award and go to the Pro Bowl and all give us even more hope for 2008 and beyond. But it's not worth it, folks. Not for this season, and certainly not for this coach.
In my personal opinion, the next time we see Adrian Peterson on the field should be the 2008 pre-season. Not against the Giants in two weeks, not against the Lions in three weeks, not even in the season finale against Denver. August of 2008 should be the next game Adrian Peterson plays for the Vikings.
And it kills me to say that, as I'm sure it kills all of you to think it. We've spent money on the 2007 Vikings in the form of tickets, jerseys, hats, concessions, whatever the case might be. Like every other fan base, we want success and we want it NOW, and we know that Adrian Peterson gives us the best opportunity for that success. But we're not going to have that success in 2008, regardless of whether Adrian Peterson is on the field or not. Granted, if Peterson doesn't play the rest of the way, there's a good chance we might not win another game. If he does play, we could possibly. . .maybe. . .struggle to 6-10.
Is the difference between 3-13 and 6-10 REALLY that great?
Is it worth endangering the future of a guy that's already the best at his position in the NFL?
Is it worth gambling the future of this franchise on?
Short answer: No. Slightly longer, more elaborate answer: Hell no.
Now, in my opinion, shutting Adrian Peterson down for the rest of the year would be the common sense approach as it pertains to the future of this franchise. However, there's one problem in the equation that obstructs both common sense AND the future of this franchise.
In this case, I have seen the enemy. . .and he is Brad Childress.
After inheriting a team from Mike Tice that went 9-7 in 2005 and was, by and large, full of miscreants, Brad Childress went to work upgrading the talent level on the Vikings' roster. He was going to have a full season of "game manager" Brad Johnson at quarterback. . .a healthy Koren Robinson with a new lease on life to lead the receiving corps. . .Steve Hutchinson and Chester Taylor to shore up the running game, and so forth. The result? 6-10.
So this off-season, the Vikings spent little in the way of big-time free agents, and added the talents from an outstanding draft class that has shown a lot of promise to this point. The result? A 3-6 start. . .and it's going to require a monumental effort to match that 6-10 mark from a year ago.
Brad Childress has to know. . .or, at least, he SHOULD know. . .that he's on the hot seat at this point. But, as I've said in a couple of other stories on this site, the most basic human instinct that there is is the overriding desire for self-preservation. This, folks, is exactly what worries me on this subject. Childress HAS to know that his best chance to win. . .and, as a result, save his bacon. . .rests in the capable hands and feet of Adrian Peterson. Quite frankly, Childress seems like the kind of guy that would put Peterson back out on the field and put him at risk if it meant a few more Vikings' victories and a chance for him to come back and run this team further into the ground in 2008. I don't want to see that happen.
Don't get me wrong, ladies and gentlemen. . .I'll cheer for the Beloved Purple to win every single time they step out on the field, regardless of the personnel that's out there and regardless of who the coach is on the sideline. If the Vikings were to somehow reel off seven victories in a row and roar into the playoff as a wild card at 10-6, I'd be the happiest Viking fan on the Gulf Coast. But I'm enough of a realist to know that such a thing has a much of a chance of happening as someone getting struck by lightning five minutes after they win the lottery. Putting AP on IR ASAP guarantees a healthy Adrian Peterson at the start of 2008 and increases the likelihood that Brad Childress will be in the unemployment line after the season finale in Denver.
Both of those things are what's best for the franchise at this point, both short-term and long-term. With the way the 2007 season has gone, I think that's the way we need to view things at this point.