The Tragedy Of Aging Running Backs – Or, Just Say No To Adrian Peterson

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Somewhere in a Pioneer Square bar, in the virtual shadows of CenturyLink Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, an Irrational Seahawks Fan has a debate with a Rational Seahawks Fan about the merits of running backs over the age of thirty, generally, and whether the Seattle Seahawks should pursue signing Adrian Peterson, specifically. After carefully reviewing the beer menu with its one hundred twenty-seven locally brewed IPAs and ordering what the bartender assured them was the hoppiest of the hoppy brews, the conversation begins in earnest.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

Dude. The Vikings released Adrian Peterson.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

He was going to count for something like $18 M against the cap. Of course they released him. That’s more than twice the salary the Bills are paying Shady McCoy and even that’s a ridiculous figure. Running backs just aren’t that valuable in today’s NFL. You can find one in the draft. Look at Zeke in Dallas last year.  

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

The ‘Hawks should sign him right now.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

NO. They shouldn’t. And, besides free agency doesn’t start until March 9th.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

Then they should sign him on March 9th.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

Have you even been listening to me?

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

No, not really. This IPA is not nearly hoppy enough.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

OK, let me put it to you this way. Of the top ten seasons, in terms of yardage, by any running back over the age of 30, all ten of them are by backs aged 30 or 31. Peterson is 32. Only three players in NFL history ever rushed for over 1,000 yards at or over age 32 – John Riggins twice, J.H. Johnson for the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the early ‘60s, and Franco Harris.

Behind an historically bad offensive line, in his one game last season, Peterson averaged 1.9 yards per carry. In case you didn’t notice last season, our offensive line is terrible. Spend the money on O line and either Rawls or Prosise will get the job done.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

So, why can’t AD be the next John Riggins?

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

It’s a totally different game. For one thing, in the early 1980’s, the “Hogs” average weight was 273 pounds. Today, the average NFL lineman weighs north of 310. The same trend is true for defensive linemen.

I’m not sure if you took high school physics but take larger human beings and then make them faster in a game predicated on smashing into one another and the force generated is exponentially greater now than when Kornheiser was putting the Bandwagon together and following Riggins and the Redskins.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

I love PTI.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

My point is the game is much more physical in the trenches, so at the same time you may see Brady play into his forties at the quarterback position, don’t expect to see many running backs play until even thirty given the rigors of the game.

And even those physical freaks of nature, of which I will grant you Peterson may be one, are going to want to get paid more to take the risks. That’s why Marshawn Lynch walked away. No one was going to pay him the kind of money he would’ve wanted with the number of miles on the tires.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

OK. Counter argument. AD was suspended for most all of 2014 and he missed most of last year with the meniscus tear. So, maybe he’s just 30 in football years, having rested two of the last three years.

Rational Seahawks Fan:       

Well, I’d hardly call recovering from knee surgery as a vacation. That is his second knee injury. Remember he tore an ACL back late in 2001. And the suspension was for whipping his kid with a switch. Do the Seahawks really want any more distractions?

He may have a great season. But, I think the probability of that is pretty low. I mean, Trump had like a 30% chance of winning and he’s the President. Would it surprise me if Peterson rushed for 1,500 yards and 9 or 10 TDs? No. Would it surprise me if he rushed for 600 with 2 TDs? No. Which one do I think is more likely? The latter.

Irrational Seahawks Fan:      

OK. I guess you’ve convinced me.

(Pause to sip his ultra-hip IPA)

Whoa. Check out the crawl. The Chiefs cut Jamaal Charles. The Seahawks should sign him right now.

 

Rational Seahawks fan rests his forehead on the bar and sighs audibly. Then after a moment, he slowly raises his head and orders a Guinness. The IPAs are too darned hoppy.

The End

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About Author

Brian Hight

Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics.
He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.

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