If Adrian Peterson were to never play another snap in the NFL, he’d still go down as one of the greatest running backs in league history. However, the seven-time Pro Bowler has no intention of hanging up his cleats anytime soon and has set some lofty goals for himself — the specifics of which we’ll get to in just a few moments — as he enters free agency.
Now, these goals Peterson, who turns 36 next month, has in mind certainly have to be respected but the vast majority of them are simply unrealistic. One has to respect AP for wanting to add to his Hall of Fame legacy but he’s simply delusional if he actually thinks he’s going to be able to do the things he wants to do — well, most of them anyway.
Adrian Peterson wants to win a Super Bowl more than anything
As he’s been saying for quite some time now, the main thing Adrian Peterson wants to accomplish before retiring from the NFL is to win a Super Bowl. And you really do have to feel for the guy in that regard.
In 14 NFL seasons, Peterson has played just five postseason games — all with the Minnesota Vikings — the most recent being a 10-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round following the 2015 season.
Now, of all the goals he set for himself recently, this is the only one that AP even remotely has the chance to accomplish. If he can latch onto a contender this season — he’s already said he’d love to play with Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers — he could certainly get that done. However, if he does sign with a contender, he’d likely be serving in a backup role — which just might be the case whether he signs with a contender or not — which would hinder his ability to achieve the other goals he’s set for himself.
Adrian Peterson wants to play until he’s 40 and still wants to break Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record
So as we’ve been talking about these goals, here’s exactly what Adrian Peterson recently told TMZ Sports as it pertains to his future in the NFL.
“I’m going to keep playing, trying to chase the championship, and, God’s willing, within the process of doing that, I’m able to catch Emmitt and pass him.
“I want to live to be a 40-year-old back out there rushing for 1,500 yards and amazing people still.”Adrian Peterson
So we’ve already covered the championship thing, which is certainly doable under the right circumstances. But the rest of it? Yeah, that’s a bit of a stretch.
Adrian Peterson currently sits in fifth on the all-time NFL rushing list with 14,820 yards. He’s 449 yards behind Barry Sanders, 1,180 behind Frank Gore, 1,906 behind Walter Payton, and 3,535 behind Emmitt Smith.
Okay, so catching Sanders and Gore might be possible. AP rushed for 604 yards on 156 carries this past season with the Detroit Lions so if he can duplicate that total for the next two years, he’d slide into that third position, assuming Gore, who turns 38 in May, doesn’t play a 17th NFL season. And Peterson does have an outside chance of catching Payton but he would need to average 635.3 yards over the next three seasons to do so.
And as far as catching Emmitt Smith goes, Peterson would need to average 707 yards per season over the next five years to make that happen. If — and these are big ifs — AP can manage to stay employed for the next five years and play in every single game during that time, he would need to average 44.19 yards per game to catch Emmitt. That total drops to about 41.6 if the NFL ends up adding a 17th game to the schedule.
Now, that may not sound like much when it’s broken down like that but Peterson averaged just 37.8 yards per game in 2020 at age 35. Why should we expect his totals to go up as he gets older? And, again, will he even be given a chance to play for five more seasons? And if he does manage to stay in the league that long, how many touches is he really going to get?
As for that 1,500 yards at age 40 dream, that’s exactly all that is…a dream.
AP has rushed for 1,500 yards or more just twice in his career
Again, one has to respect Adrian Peterson for setting such lofty goals for himself but he’s truly delusional if he thinks he’s going to rush for 1,500 yards at the age of 40.
And that’s mainly due to the fact that he’s rushed for that many yards in a season just twice in his career. AP rushed for 1,760 yards in 2008, his second season in the NFL, and then for 2,097 during his MVP-winning season in 2012. He almost got there a third time in 2015 but fell just short with 1,485.
Since then, Peterson has only broken the 1,000-yard barrier once, that coming in his first season in Washington in 2018. And that’s obviously when he was a full-time starter, which likely won’t be the case moving forward.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference