Vikings bizarre Alexander Mattison decision rehashed with ugly stat

Las Vegas Raiders RB Alexander Mattison
Las Vegas Raiders RB Alexander Mattison / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings made a big change in 2023, cutting Dalvin Cook and installing Alexander Mattison as their starting running back. While the decision was meant to create a cheaper and more efficient backfield, a stat from's Warren Sharp showed how much the move backfired.

Sharp tweeted out on Tuesday that Mattison had nine carries inside the five-yard line but didn’t score a rushing touchdown last season. Mattison also lost seven yards on those nine carries, leading the Vikings to lean more on the pass in the red zone.

Both of those numbers are bad but become more damning when you add historical context. Sharp noted that Mattison was the first running back in 25 years to have more than five attempts without a touchdown inside the five-yard line and lose at least two yards on those attempts.

This – along with Sharp’s cutups of Mattison’s nine attempts on the goal line last season – is more evidence of why the switch to Mattison didn’t work out.

Minnesota Vikings made a mistake by re-signing Alexander Mattison to be the team's RB1

A third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Mattison was a solid backup to Cook, with 462 yards and a touchdown on 100 attempts in his rookie season. Mattison’s success rate increased from 37 percent to 44.8 percent during his second season in 2020, and he ran for a career-high 491 yards and three touchdowns during the 2021 season.

But while Mattison looked good in a pair of spot starts, his playing time decreased in his first year under Kevin O’Connell. Mattison carried the ball just 74 times for 283 yards and five touchdowns, and many were surprised when the Vikings brought him back on a two-year deal the following March.

Still, his 47.3 percent success rate was identical to Cook’s in 2022 and gave Minnesota an avenue to find a cheaper solution, with Cook set to make $14.1 million in 2023.

To the Vikings' credit, they released Cook at the right time, as he spent 15 games with the New York Jets before getting released and signing for a playoff run with the Baltimore Ravens.

But the Mattison experience didn’t go well as he ran for 700 yards and became the 13th running back since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and the first since Melvin Gordon in 2015 to fail to score a rushing touchdown with a minimum of 180 carries.

Mattison’s performance led to his release earlier this year and the Vikings signed Aaron Jones to lead the running game next season. But Mattison’s stint as a starter will go down as one of the worst decisions of the current front office and leave a question about whether they can fix their running game in 2024.

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