Lesean McCoy vs. Adrian Peterson: Best back in the NFL?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

I'd like to give the Lesean McCoy stuff a rest. Really, I would. But hey, in the offseason of Pitt football and basketball, stuff like this just is too easy to pass up.

Shady has been all over the news lately. I put up a summary of his antics here. The former Pitt star keeps giving offseason fodder and he recently provided a bit more, calling himself the best running back in the NFL:

"My brother always rips me all the time, trying to make me play harder. I say, 'I'm the best,' and he'll say, 'Did Adrian Peterson retire?' I look at the last three years and everything. I think AP has been the best back for so long, and he's been doing it for so long, that's why he automatically gets the best running back [title]," McCoy said.

"But the last three years? I've been All-Pro, first-team, twice. I never leave the field. I block. I catch. I never leave the field. I don't have anybody do my job; I do it myself. Tons of credit goes out to Adrian Peterson. I'm a big fan of his, for sure. But I feel I'm the best."

As much as I'm not about guys promoting themselves as actively as this, it might be kind of hard to disagree with. With all due respect to guys that could have a seat the table like Jamaal Charles and his ginormous 5.6 yards per carry career average, for my money, I'll take Adrian Peterson.

Historically, there's no comparison. At all.

McCoy had the better year last season but Peterson has had two years (2008 and 2012) that were better than Shady's 2014. Peterson has gotten into the end zone more, averaging 13 touchdowns a year to McCoy's 9.8 Looking at career yardage, Peterson has him beat there, too, averaging just over 98 yards a game to McCoy, who has just under 74. His 5.0 yards per attempt top McCoy's 4.8 as well.

I get that McCoy is focusing on the here and now but I'd still take Peterson today over Shady as well. He had nearly 2,100 yards as recently as two years ago and even with his best year last season, McCoy couldn't touch that. And while Peterson's numbers were down last season, think about the defenses he saw that were geared towards him after that breakout year, too.

Shady seems to make a big deal of his last three seasons. But even there, I'm hard pressed to call him the best. Over those three years, Peterson has averaged 1,444 yards a year and had 34 rushing touchdowns. McCoy, on the other hand, averaged 1,252 yards and had 26 touchdowns. We talk a lot about Peterson being down this year, but Shady had an even worse year just two seasons ago with only 840 yards, two rushing touchdowns, and an egregious four fumbles in only 12 games. McCoy certainly does more in the passing game and easily tops Peterson in catches and yardage, but it's not enough to propel him to the top, in my opinion.

Lastly, consider that Peterson has done what he has without any threat of a passing game for most of his career. While McCoy has played on some Eagles teams with decent quarterbacks in Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Nick Foles, save for one good season with Brett Favre (and a down Farve year the following season), Peterson has had the likes of Tavaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Christian Ponder. The running back has had only one year with a quarterback topping 3,000 yards. Heck, three times the top quarterback never even reached 2,000 yards. In a nutshell, he's had much less to work with and still has done more.

Shady's a great running back - to his credit, he does more out of the backfield and last year, he was the top running back in the league. With another dominant year, I might be convinced that he's surpassed Peterson.

But not yet.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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