The Greatest Accomplishment in the History of Sports
Posted by Michael Vacanti
Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings face the Houston Texans tomorrow in a week 16 road game. The Vikings (8-6) are in contention for an NFC wildcard spot.
Credit our defensive for playing above average by Viking’s standards.
But the real story here is Adrian Peterson. All Day leads the league with 1,812 rushing yards through 14 games. Other top running backs
closely trail AP with 1,379, 1,322 and 1,313 yards, respectively.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Peterson is 188 yards shy of being the 7th running back ever to join the single season 2,000 rushing yard club. AP trails Eric Dickerson’s  all-time single season rushing record of 2,105 yards by 293 yards.
To accomplish this feat in the current era of the NFL – an era where league rules and optimal strategies advocate throwing 60 passes per game – further highlights Adrian’s talent and work ethic.
To accomplish this feat with an incompetent quarterback, currently last among starters with 5.9 passing yards per attempt, highlights Adrian’s physicality. (Note: 909 rushing yards after initial contact)
First play of the game vs Chicago (week 13). Count the Bears in the box.
Yet Adrian still goes off for 51 yards.
Video: AP v Bears 51 yards
To accomplish this feat eight months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee is incomparable to any other feat in sports.
When a football player tears an ACL, the question isn’t when he will recover but if he will ever compete at a high level again. Many ACL injuries are career ending. This is more relevant to running backs than many other positions due to the amount of stress on the knee ligaments when making cuts or other lateral movements.
To understand the gravity of this comeback, let’s look at running back performance the year following ACL injury.
|Player||Year Before Injury||Year After Injury||Team||Rush Yards|
|(2012 Stats through 14 games)|
The majority of guys struggle mightily the year following injury. There are a few impressive post-ACL seasons noted above; however, these players had ~25-35% more recovery time than Adrian who blew out his knee late in the 2011 season (12/24/2011).
Peterson is within reach of the record most directly correlated with success at his position the season after major knee surgery. I struggle to comprehend this accomplishment as I type about it.
Adrian runs over William Gay (just because):
It may be an exaggeration to call this the greatest accomplishment in sports history. Individual vs. Team accomplishments are difficult to measure side by side. Dynastys like the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s or Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s come to mind.
Accomplishments that changed society for the better – like Jackie Robinson breaking the baseball color line debuting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 – seem to be on a level of their own.
But to be in reach of the all time rushing record in a passing league, playing on an otherwise abysmal offense (from qb to coordinator) and 8 months off major knee surgery certainly warrants the debate.
Disclosure: Adrian is my favorite player of all time.