On Monday night Vikings Twitter was full of pictures, quotes, and general jubilation as a professional and thankful Randy Moss was inducted into the Ring of Honor at U.S. Bank Stadium. It is amazing how much can change in seven years.
In 2010, the Minnesota Vikings were trying to catch lightning in a bottle. After a brilliant 2009 season that ended in a loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game, the team brought almost all the starters back to take another shot at a championship. However, it quickly became apparent that 2010 was not going to be a continuation of the previous season’s success, but instead a zombie-like undead version of 2009 in which nothing went as planned.
As the Vikings tried to keep floundering hope alive, they acquired former-Viking Randy Moss. The team hoped that pairing veteran receiver Moss with quarterback Brett Favre would give the 2010 team the edge it needed to reclaim it’s 2009 dominance. It didn’t work.
After an embarrassingly short and acrimonious stint with the Vikings, Moss was cut by head coach Brad Childress. Childress wouldn’t be in Minnesota much longer either, getting fired after the Vikings lost at home to the Packers 31-3.
Given the way Moss left the team, to see him on Monday night being so eloquent and passionate about the Vikings seemed like a miracle. Bygones were bygones, the Super Freak was all grown up, saying the right things and making nice. It was a testament to how Randy Moss had reinvented himself after his playing career ended.
It made me wonder if a similar post-playing career reconciliation could happen between the Vikings and departed running back Adrian Peterson. It’s probably possible, but it may take some time.
Like Moss, Peterson is a player who had a brilliant career with the Vikings that ended with a not-so-amicable parting of ways. A sensation at running back, as a rookie Peterson wrested the starting job away from Chester Taylor and it started an era of the team’s offense running through Peterson. For a time, Minnesota’s throwback approach to offense worked, but as the team attempted to change with the league to a more passing-centric, quarterback-driven offense, what had been a strength became a limitation.
After the 2016 season, cracks in the relationship between the team and Peterson became a chasm as it became clear that the time had come to move on from the aging running back. A free agent, Peterson spent some time on the market before signing with the New Orleans Saints—the day after the NFL schedule came out showing that the Vikings and Saints would square off Week 1 in Minnesota on Monday Night Football.
Revenge fest didn’t go as well for Peterson as he likely hoped. When you’re trying to show your former team that they were wrong to move on from you, rushing for 18 yards on 6 attempts is not overwhelmingly compelling. Neither is having a heated exchange with your coach. Instead of “sticking it” to his former team, the former golden boy looked like a guy at the end of his career who just hasn’t realized it yet.
It’s a not the same as the position Moss was in when he and the Vikings parted ways in 2010, but maybe Peterson can learn something about letting go of the bad blood from the way Moss has come back to the purple fold now that he’s out of football.
Here are a few things Peterson could learn from Randy Moss:
The NFL will go on without you. Every year rosters churn as players’ careers end because of age, injury, or ability. No matter how integral you once were to a team, they will eventually move on. That is the way the NFL works—it’s not personal, it’s business. Get over yourself.
A post-NFL transformation can take time. Randy Moss made the most of his opportunities to get into broadcasting and worked his way up over time. It gave Moss a new focus, a new ability, and a new way for fans to relate to him. It also gave the football public a chance to distance themselves from the uncomfortable memories of Moss’s final days in Minnesota before embracing him again.
Fans don’t owe you anything. Every year NFL fans are willing to overlook everything from simple immaturity to actual felonies for their favorite players. That kind of devotion is something a player should appreciate, not expect as a given or take for granted. Moss recognizing the Vikings fans on Monday night in his speech came across as heartfelt and genuine and that goes a long way with fans.
Whether he realizes it or not, Randy Moss has given Adrian Peterson a template for how to transition and make up with a team and fanbase. Now the question is, is Peterson smart enough to learn from it?