Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NFL Thoughts, Week 10

Adrian Peterson is an unsolvable riddle, an indefatigable debate. He’s abortion. He’s the death penalty. He’s a pregnant woman who wants an abortion because she’s been sentenced to death. He’s Eminem. He’s Elton John. He’s Eminem hugging Elton John on stage.

Adrian Peterson is leading the NFL in rushing with 1,081 yards, 120 YPG, and a cartoonish 6.4 YPC, all on a team that can’t throw the ball. In a recent ESPN.com’s revisionist draft by Todd McShay, A.D. would have gone 3rd to Cleveland, rather than 7th to the Vikings. But this was before Peterson was injured on Sunday, after which he announced he will miss at least one more game. He’s amazing, he’s a bust; there is simply no correct answer for him.

And there never has been. At Oklahoma, Peterson gained almost 1,925 rushing yards and finished 2nd in the Heisman voting as a freshman. He eventually generated 4,045 yards and 41 TDs in less than three seasons. He runs a 4.4 40. He also injured his shoulder his freshman year, sprained his ankle badly as a sophomore, and missed half his junior season with a broken collarbone.

On the eve of the draft, he was projected to go as high as 3rd and as low as 12th. Scouts were confounded by his toxic mix of ability and fragility. While injury concerns are nothing new—especially in football—what made Peterson unique in my eyes was that his potential for lost time was practically a certainty—a question of “when,” not “if.” Peterson himself openly admitted he’d opted for the draft before his senior year precisely because he was worried about injuries destroying his chances at a professional payday. So the ultimate question is, will he be worth it, because he WILL miss time. I guess the answer is going to change weekly.

At work we have a ratings system for all employees that looks like a graph, because it considers every worker’s attributes along two dimensions: Contribution (the x-axis) and Leadership (the y-axis). Contribution is mostly about what you’ve done so far, while Leadership attempts to gauge your future potential. The ratings scheme goes from 1-9, with 1-3 comprising the lowest row (left-to-right), 4-6 making up the middle row, and 7-9 sitting atop the highest row. So if you can picture it, a “1” would be in the lower left corner and a “9” would in the upper right corner. The further up and to the right you go, the better management thinks of you. So a “1” essentially means you’ve contributed nothing and have no potential (and can expect a pink slip momentarily), a “9” means you’re a stud with unlimited potential who will one day be CEO (and eventually get busted for accounting fraud), and a “5” is dead smack in the average-joe middle.

Anyway, to make a long story slightly less long, when I first looked at this chart, I was most curious about who the company deemed to be “3” and “7” people. What would they be like? Because 3’s occupy the lower-right corner of the chart, that means they are phenomenal contributors but with zero leadership potential; I could only envision a “Rain Man”-like savant who could perform any function in seconds, but was sadly autistic. Meanwhile, 7’s contributed nothing but had somehow managed to exhibit extraordinary leadership potential, and that’s even harder to imagine—something like a lazy slacker-genius who never shows up for work but scribbles the idea for an iPod on a Twinkie wrapper and makes the company a billion dollars.

Well, to bring this back to football, ultimately Adrian Peterson is going to be one of those fringe “3” or “7” players. His production will be sporadic yet spectacular...

Offensive Player of the Week: Marc Bulger, Rams. They’ve been the Greatest No-Show on Turf this year, but Bulger finally leads the offense to victory with a 27-for-33/302 yards/2-TD/0-INT day against the Saints.

Defensive Player of the Week: Karlos Dansby, Cardinals. Dansby’s 2 interceptions and a forced fumble spelled doom for Detroit, though I’m not sure why his parents spelled Carlos with a “K.”

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