Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has an ambitious goal for next season—rush for 2,500 yards. If history is any indication, don't expect that to happen. When asked on the Dan Patrick show last Thursday, Peterson set the bar high:
I set the mark for 2,500. If you reach for the stars and fall short, you're still there.
He has the right mindset—aim high. Even if you miss, it's better than achieving a lesser goal.
On Saturday night he was named the 2012 Associated Press' NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year. Peterson fell short of the trifecta when Peyton Manning won the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, Peterson was confident that he would be named the NFL's MVP. Not only did he lead the Vikings to their best single-season turnaround, winning seven more games than in 2011, he single-handedly carried the team into the playoffs. He finished the season just nine yards short of setting the all-time single-season rushing mark held by Eric Dickerson with 2,105 yards.
The circumstances surrounding Peterson's record-setting season are what makes his achievement all that more impressive. While still recovering from surgery and before even taking this first step on his repaired knee, he declared that he would be back, and ready for the start of the regular season.
He backed that up by rushing for 84 yards on 17 carries in the season opener against the Jaguars on September 9, 2012—less than 10 months from having surgery.
He finished the season becoming only the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards with 2,097 yards. It was also his sixth consecutive season to score at least 10 touchdowns, finishing with 12.
So if AP says he's aiming for 2,500 yards next season, why would anyone doubt him?
A quick look at the elite club that he belongs to might provide some insight to a precedent that has never been set.
Father time may have something to say about Peterson's goal. The average age of the other six running backs the season they rushed for 2,000 yards is 25.5 years old. At 27 years old, Peterson is the second-oldest player to join the club. Barry Sanders achieved the milestone at the age of 29.
For each and every player, the season following their 2,000 yard accomplishment, there was an average of a 47.5 percent drop off the following season. That's an average of 968 fewer rushing yards the year after rushing for 2,000 yards.
Terrell Davis, who rushed for 2,008 yards in his MVP season of 1998, would suffer a similar injury as Peterson, tearing both the MCL and ACL in his right knee in a game against the Jets. He finished with only 211 rushing yards in four games in 1999.
Even if we remove Davis' numbers, the drop off still averages almost 40 percent. If that trend holds true, Peterson would finish in the neighborhood of 1,200 yards. That would be the second-worst total in his career. Only his 2011 season, when he suffered his knee injury, and finished with only 970 yards, would be less.
Of course, Peterson is not from this world, and so far he has been true to his word. Now, if only he would promise a Super Bowl win for the Vikings.