The NFL is evolving at a very fast pace. It’s gotten to the point where most teams can’t even keep up.
Offenses have mutated from slow, calculated and methodical, to complete chaos. And stifling defenses which were once rare, are popping up all over the place.
The teams who do succeed, adapt quickly. The ones who don’t are left sputtering in the dust.
There were only seven teams this year who had a running back with over 1,000 yards (As opposed to 13 in 2014 and 2013, 16 in 2012 and 15 in 2011).
Out of all of the teams from this year, Minnesota had the top rusher, Adrian Peterson. He led the league with 1,485 rushing yards. The Vikings were also the only team out of the seven to make the playoffs, but were one of the very first teams ellimanated.
After how important the every down back had been in the past, it may be hard for some teams to adjust to the new system, and to realize how important making that change may be.
Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots was the first to master the art of the disposable running back.
He isn’t afraid to use a player for a season, a game, a play, or even just a specific scenario, and then send him packing.
He knows better than everyone else, that being a great back doesn’t mean you match up well against certain types of defense or schemes. That there are different styles of play needed for each individual situation.
Look at the success he’s had.
The rest of the league seems to be finally figuring it out as well, as most of the teams that made the playoffs this year, have done it by utilizing multiple running backs or simply using their backs to compliment a highflying passing attack.
The Kansas City Chiefs are a prime example of a team that came across this idea accidentally. They were struggling immensely while utilizing Jamaal Charles.
As soon as he went down with a season ending injury, they were forced to rely on multiple backs and turn more towards their passing game. It didn’t take long before they became the hottest team in the league.
The Vikings themselves were forced to use multiple backs in 2014 when AP missed most of the season, and they tasted the success of having offensive variety, even with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
However, for some reason, they didn’t learn their lesson, and went back to the same futile style of offense that has left them struggling for years.
Even though it worked in certain situations, and they found some success, it should be clear to them that it’s time to catch up to the rest of the league.
The advent of the high flying aerial attack has changed the face of the NFL and the way General Managers manage their cap space.
Where the strategy used to be to spend your cash and draft picks on high dollar running backs and an immovable offensive line, it’s now all about receivers and defense.
The good news is it has solved the quarterback disparity, at least for the moment. With all those targets to throw at, nobody bats an eye anymore if a QB goes for 3,500 yards and 30 TDs.
The bad thing is it has created a large gap between the good teams and the great teams.
One dimensional teams like Minnesota can still have a decent season, but no longer stand a chance in the playoffs.
The Vikings finished 2nd to last, ahead of only the St.Louis Rams, in passing yards (2928), and passing TDs (14).
With the current state of the league, teams can no longer win the big games in a cloud of dust. You are now forced to put the ball in the air consistently.
Viking fans can blame the early exit from the playoffs on their kicker, but the truth is, they failed to get the ball in the end zone all game long.
It’s sad to imagine that a guy like Peterson, who will go down as one of the greatest running backs of all time, is possibly ushering in the extinction of his position, as he prepares to leave the league in the near future.