Peterson: Chasing Jimmy Brown
I try to avoid over-the-top statements. But sometimes, events warrant radical thought. Take, for instance, Adrian Peterson.
Two seasons and one game into Peterson’s NFL career seems as good a time as any to discuss where he might land on the all-time running back list. And here’s the kicker: Peterson has a chance to be No. 1.
Might as well get the arguments started immediately. Here’s my top five all-time:
1. Jim Brown
2. Barry Sanders
3. O.J. Simpson (character doesn’t count, especially post-career)
4. Eric Dickerson
5. Walter Payton
If you want to argue about Dickerson and Payton, don’t bother. Not that big a deal to me. You could insert Emmitt Smith and Red Grange, or Tony Dorsett and Marcus Allen, or Earl Campbell and Marshall Faulk, and I wouldn’t have a beef.
The top three, I’m pretty set on.
O.J. was truly an epic ballplayer, both in style and production, and that’s all been overshadowed in the 15 years since we found out he’s a reprehensible thug. One of the most underrated records in sport: Simpson’s 143 yards rushing per game in 1973.
Sanders was an American original; there never has been anything like him, before or since. Think about that for a minute. Think of the hundreds of thousands of football players you’ve watched in your life. Not one of them comes close to playing like Sanders played. Nobody.
But Brown was the best. Eight rushing titles in his nine seasons. Retired at the very top of his game. Big and fast, strong and tough.
Just like Adrian Peterson. When Peterson was drafted by the Vikings in April 2007, only fools thought he wouldn’t be a star. By that November, I was writing that Peterson might be the next Brown. I think we can affirm that now.
Peterson opened Year 3 on Sunday with 180 rushing yards against Cleveland, including a long touchdown run in which he toyed with the Browns defense like it was some poor Texas high school trying to tackle Peterson back at Palestine.
To set records and reach the top of the NFL’s various rushing lists, Peterson will have to stay healthy and play at least a decade. But for just sheer impact on a game, he’s approaching the greats already. Peterson’ is that rarest of ballcarrier; a guy who runs away from defenders but will run violently if need be. Or sometimes when it’s not necessary.
Peterson is a man among boys in a league that is all man. He’s got a chance to the NFL’s greatest ballcarrier.
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