After Monday's news that the Minnesota Vikings plan to play Adrian Peterson, despite benching him last week after his indictment on child-injury charges, there's one question that lingers in my mind: Why?
The obvious answer would be to please the fans, who have idolized Peterson as the face of the franchise; its best player since Randy Moss, if not Fran Tarkenton over 35 years ago. But many of them don't seem to agree with the decision either. One team message board has permanently shut itself down after the owners announced that they would let the legal system handle the issue before they did, and privately I've heard another long-time Minnesota blogger say that the Vikings should have cut Peterson the day that the news broke.
That might seem extreme; though consider the current climate of the NFL. Owners and players are under justifiable scrutiny, so you would think that the Vikings' front office might want to do the responsible thing in Peterson's case. Instead, we got a statement from owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and a disastrous press conference from GM Rick Spielman, who told reporters even after viewing images of the physical wounds Peterson inflicted on his son, reinstating him was what the team "felt was best."
When irrational personnel moves are made, it's easy (and probably fair) to say that money is the root cause, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. The Radisson hotel chain has just suspended its "limited sponsorship" of the Vikings – how noble! – and one can logically assume many more corporate partners will do the same very soon. Regardless of whether Peterson is found guilty of going too far in disciplining his child, Minnesota will quickly become the poison pill of team sponsorships.
The more cynical – and, for all purposes, practical – explanation is this: The Vikings' chances of winning games are a lot better with Peterson on the field. In Week 1, Minnesota went on the road and beat the Rams 34-6 with Peterson, but without him on Sunday, they were steamrolled 30-7 by the Patriots. Minnesota rushed for 185 yards as a team with Peterson and then just 54 without him, relying instead on Matt Asiata.
Still, even in the NFL, there are times when the seriousness of off-field issues trumps on-field exploits, and Peterson's case seems to be a prime example of that. By playing him, no one wins.
Peterson hit his kid. He admitted that he hit his kid. He used a switch to do it. He said he went too far, and it doesn't matter if it was an accident. His actions resulted in a warrant, an arrest and charges that could carry a sentence of up to two years in jail. He may have also abused another one of his children.
If the Vikings won't suspend Peterson, then it's up to head coach Mike Zimmer to bench him and save his team some embarrassment. If Zimmer won't do it, then it's up to Peterson to prove to his teammates, franchise and fans that he cares more about the bigger picture than his own playing status, and sit himself until the situation is resolved.
The Baltimore Ravens gambled that the Ray Rice situation would blow over after his two-game suspension. The Carolina Panthers knew the situation surrounding Greg Hardy but figured that nobody would care, then were forced to deactivate him only after public pressure mounted. The Vikings had a chance to truly make a statement; instead, they just seem complicit. Now, it's up to Peterson to prove he's really the face of the franchise – and the new NFL – and do what's right.
5 Quick Q's:
Have the Colts won yet?
No, and we'll have to curb the "Is Andrew Luck elite?" talk until they do. The Colts blew a 20-6 third quarter lead at home to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, with Darren Sproles (203 all-purpose yards) looking twice as valuable as Trent Richardson and Nick Foles getting it done in a way that Luck could not – like throwing 30 touchdowns and four interceptions since the start of last year's regular season, compared to Luck's 28 and 12.
Has Richard Sherman been targeted yet?
Yes! In fact, the player who has made a name for himself with his words was completely silent after the Seahawks 30-21 loss to Keenan Allen and the Chargers this week. Did Sherman put himself on mute due to the loss alone, or did it have more to do with the fact that Philip Rivers went after him six times, completing five of those attempts for 55 yards?
According to ProFootballFocus, that's more catches and yards than Sherman allowed in any game last year, including the playoffs. Still, the "is Sherman exposed?" talk is way overblown.
Allen is a very good receiver, and is making strides towards becoming one of the best, while Sherman still helped contain the San Diego offense to short, intermediate throws, and he didn't allow a touchdown. Unlike whomever was covering Antonio Gates.
Is Johnny here?
Not quite. The Browns are a three-point loss to the Steelers away from being 2-0 for the first time since re-entering the league in 1999, and on Sunday, they upset the Saints despite quarterback Brian Hoyer playing about as well as you should expect Hoyer to play.
Which is not well.
Hoyer had 25 attempts over the first three quarters but gained just 104 yards. He turned it around in the fourth, completing 11-of-15 passes for 100 yards and leading a game-winning drive. Meanwhile, Cleveland slowly began integrating Johnny Manziel into its offense, giving him three snaps against New Orleans. Is Johnny here? No, but he's starting to chip away at the doorframe.
Will Tom Coughlin be fired before Jason Garrett?
One has a pair of Super Bowl rings as a head coach. The other has yet to be in a playoff game. And yet, it's Coughlin who's beginning to feel the heat, as his Giants are 0-2 and look even worse (if that's possible).
Coughlin could not bring the team back from an 0-6 start a year ago, and outside of their improbable 2011 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, New York has missed the postseason in four of their last five seasons. Even when they did win the title that year, they did so while still putting up a negative point differential in the regular season. The Giants are not good, and it's possible that they've never really been that good under Coughlin to begin with.
Are the Jaguars going to win a game?
It's too early to say, but it looks like head coach Gus Bradley is off to a worse start in his second season than he was in his first. And in 2013, the Jags started 0-8 and were outscored by 178 points, the worst point differential through eight games since 1966.
This year, Jacksonville scored the first 17 points against the Eagles in Week 1, but have been outscored 75-10 in the six quarters since. They are already losing by 24 points per game. And, after gaining just eight first downs and 148 total yards against the Redskins on Sunday, that trend looks to continue.
Then again, when you're starting guys like Toby Gerhart and Chad Henne, I'm not sure what you expect.