The career path of a professional athlete is an interesting one. From the moment that a player enters the NFL, an imaginary but all too real timer begins counting down towards the end. Their shelf life begins to dwindle and the spoils of a once fruitful career begin to literally spoil. It’s unavoidable. Some players can delay the inevitable longer than others, but Father Time always seems to end up winning.
We’ve seen this first hand here in Minnesota with some of our athletes and we’ve learned the hard way in some cases that “super stars” are not exempt this rule of thumb.
Case in point, let’s take a quick look at a few athletes highlighting their meteoric rise to fame and their sometimes devastating fall from grace on the public stage.
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
There was a stint of almost ten seasons where “Da Kid” could do no wrong here in Minnesota. He was young, he was a phenom and he was leading the Timberwolves to the playoffs on a yearly basis. It was at the same time that the jersey’s were flying off the shelves and the fans were chanting “M-V-P” that the general vibe surrounding Garnett started to change. Those who were once excited about his record contract were now calling it out saying that it had left the organization hamstrung. The once appealing acquisitions of players who hand selected by Kevin were now the bane of a fan base striving for more support. And with the criticism from the outside, Kevin began to close off his borders a bit more. His attitude towards the press changed and he began to look for a way out, culminating in his trade to the Boston Celtics in 2007.
Sure Kevin won one for all his people in “‘Sota” and sure he came back for what really only amounted to a REALLY EXPENSIVE reunion with Jiggly Boy and a bunch of missed games with sore knees, but the general feeling towards Kevin changed over time. Imagine what it would have been had he stayed, had the plan been constructed a little better and had he kept good spirits.
Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings
I’m pretty sure that I will never experience anything in my lifetime that was quite as cool as Randy Moss’ rookie season back in 1998. Drama surrounds the pick, he falls to the Vikings, goes out and catches 17 touchdowns as a rookie and leads the team to the NFC Championship game. It was amazing. He went on to dominate the league, moon Packer fans and generally be awesome for a handful of years. But then he bumped a traffic attendant, pushed his way out of Minnesota and treat a Chinese Food restaurant owner like trash severing the once unbreakable ties that were built between him and the fans that paid his salary. He’s still an all-timer but the fall from grace was a real one.
Now fast forward with me and let’s take a look at the current situation that is playing out with Vikings all-timer Adrian Peterson.
Drafted in 2007, to date Peterson followed a similar career path to that of Garnett, Moss and you could maybe even start to throw Joe Mauer into this mix to a lesser degree. Adrian took the league by storm, sold a billion jerseys, led his team to reasonable success and made a ton of money along the way.
Then the tide started to turn and Peterson’s transition from Super Star to Stooge commenced. He started fumbling, he kept getting injured, he missed a season with off the field issues not the least of which including allegations of child abuse, his agent started playing mind games in the media and most recently Adrian joined ESPN to say that he’s expecting to get his $18 million or he’d leave to three teams he said he’s considering playing for in 2017.
It’s crazy to think that we’re at a point where the franchise’s all-time rushing leader, the former Rookie of the Year and M.V.P., the guy on the Wheaties box is about to be pushed out the door and the fans don’t seem to care one bit.
Of course, part of that is most certainly his doing but another part of the equation here is simply the transition in the NFL away from the run game or the over valuing of running backs. I mean, as it stands right now Adrian Peterson is due to make nearly $10 million more than the second highest paid running back (LeSean McCoy) in 2017, and he’s not nearly as productive anymore.
Neither Adrian or the athletes mentioned above are truly villains in the truest sense of the word, but when a fan base has been spurned, it takes a lot for them to re-open their “loving arms”. For this situation in particular, the only visible way for Peterson to be accepted back by the Vikings fanbase is for him to take a monstrous pay cut. We’re talking dropping that number down from $18 million to something in the neighborhood of $6-$7 million. That would allow the team a fair deal which would open up cap space to address some other issues. If not, Adrian will have to test the market, likely not get much more than that and try his hand in a new system.