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Vikings’ Generational Memory/Anguish: 4 Arguments For Teddy Bridgewater In Week One
- Updated: July 8, 2014
Step into my time machine…
After what seems a long-time-coming for disillusioned fans, the Minnesota Vikings draft a QB.
The team uses their first pick on a highly athletic linebacker; and while their choice gunslinger isn’t the first, or second QB taken, he’s still regarded as a substantive talent—if all goes well, the centrepiece of a promising future.
The timing seems ideal, with ownership just having shown the incumbent, disappointing head coach out the door in lieu of a fresh face. An emphasis on changing schemes and mindsets abounds during the offseason. It’s like that scene in Bambi when the snow finally melts.
And while some would like to see the newly-picked Teddy Bridgewater handed the job, a veteran with a pedestrian track record seems poised the handle the pig skin in week one.
The year, is 2006.
To some extent all professional sports teams follow the greek pre-fix ‘Ana-‘, which means ‘Up, Back, Again, Anew‘.
In 2006 of course they replaced Mike Tice with Brad Childress from the Eagles. With Randy Moss and Dante Culpepper now gone, and lewd off-the-field problems aplenty, it was a time of seismic shift for the organization.
The Vikes drafted QB Tarvaris Jackson in the second round. Brad Johnson, despite being nearly forty, had come in for a floundering Dante Culpepper in 2005, and finished the season 7-2.
Johnson was not a long-term solution, was not going to lead the Vikes to a Superbowl or anything close. Yet, there he was in week one.
The years that followed are ones Vikings fans would like to forget. Johnson was mediocre at best before getting injured and giving way to Jackson, who came in and was also mediocre. The next year the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson, allowing the coaching staffs of subsequent years to ignore the fact the team hadn’t truly put together a decent passing game since 2004.
From there things get weird: Brett Favre (formerly the team’s version of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings) flashed in the pan for a year, then came down to Earth leaving them high and dry. Donovan McNabb also attempted to play football—the whole sequence comes up in memory scrambled and fuzzy—a bender that went on too long. Then, desperate to employ a quarterback under thirty-five, the Vikings used their twelfth pick to make Christian Ponder the fourth QB selected in the 2011 draft.
Back to 2014 now, head coach Mike Zimmer has been steadfast in reiterating that the QB position will go to whoever looks best in camp—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, given the teams recent history of throwing years down the tubes with mediocre quarterbacks, my argument is simply: if Bridgewater and ‘incumbent’ Matt Cassel are relatively close, for the love of God, go with Bridgewater.
The analogy to 2006 of course isn’t perfect—Bridgewater is far more pro-ready than Jackson was, and the turnaround Johnson engineered in 2005 was far more tantalizing than Cassel’s turn as the most reliable option in a ridiculous carousel of starting QBs that was more ‘Young and the Restless’ than ‘Responsible and Sane NFL Organization’.
But of course, those two discrepancies only strengthen the case for Bridgewater in week one.
If it’s Cassel who gets the opening day start, there are two trains of possibility: either (a) he’ll do well enough to keep his job, and the Vikings will be slightly above average, maybe even snag a wildcard playoff spot allowing us to rehash this ‘QB question’ all over again a year from now. Also, with Bridgewater still an unknown, the GM will be trying to draft for a future, Bridgewater-led-team whose contours he still can’t make out. Or (b) he’ll stink, or get injured, meaning Bridgewater will inherit either a floundering team, or be pushed in at a moments notice. I don’t know about you, but none of those potentialities get me hot-and-bothered—given that cost-benefit picture, as well as the four points argued below, it seems clear the Vikings are best-served with Bridgewater under center in week one.
Reason #1 = He’s not inheriting a lemon.
Last year was a deadly combination of regression-to-the-mean and unforeseen shit storms—particularly in the secondary. But don’t forget that a year ago the Vikings were talking about building off a 10 win campaign. Yes, their point differential from 2012 suggested a bit of luck, and they relied too heavily on their Demigod of a running back—but the fact remains.
This offseason the Vikings made some solid young additions to the defence, in Captain Munnerlyn (CB) and Linval Johnson (DT), while letting go of some beloved-yet-aged veterans (Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Antone Winfield). Combine this with a new play-caller in Coach Zimmer—who has a reputation for instantly improving a team’s defence upon arrival—, and it’s hard to project this group finishing significantly below league average.
On offence, a healthy Adrian Peterson, combined with an emerging Cordarrelle Patterson, a reliable-if-overpaid Greg Jennings, and rounded out with a stout, borderline-star in Kyle Rudolph at tight end, and you would have to classify the team’s weapons as—if not formidable—at least ‘solid’.
Reason #2 = Learn what? From whom?…
With all due respect to Cassel and Ponder, why would it be beneficial for a QB to learn from players whose career-arcs he’d absolutely want to steer clear of?
Matt Cassel has a TD/INT spread of 27-30 in past three years. He’s thirty-two, and four years removed from a successful season. The fact that he was the most effective QB for Minnesota last year is a moot point. And though they’re just surveys, it speaks to this point that two recent polls of league representatives (by ESPN and Wall Street Cheat Sheet) had Cassel ranked thirty-first and twenty-eighth respectively out of the thirty-two incumbent starting quarterbacks.
As for Ponder, he’s still young and might figure it out on another team. But with Teddy waiting-in-the-wings, his primary use to the team at this point is likely trade bait.
To cap it all off—not only did the Vikings hire a new head coach, but a new offensive coordinator as well in Norv Turner. The fact that all Viking QBs are starting from ground zero in learning the new system plays into Bridgewater’s hand as well.
Reason #3 = The future O-line is already here.
Four of the five starters on the Vikings offensive line are 28 and younger and locked-in to multi-year deals. Whether he takes a snap this year or not, it’s likely that the group in place right now will be the one Bridgewater launches the first phase of his career with.
The quarterback-offensive line relationship is one defined not just by X’s-and-O’s, but by intuition. Feel, rapport—call it whatever you like, there’s a long storied history of quarterbacks going out of their way to nurture their relationship with the big fellas in front of them. Given that the NFL season is only 16 games, and the importance of in-game experience towards building this relationship, it seems a missed opportunity to have Teddy sit on the bench a whole year and forgo the chance to develop in-game chemistry and trust with his linemen.
Reason #4 = He’s goooooood.
Let’s not forget that our calculus of all this obfuscated by the fact that Bridgewater fell to the Vikings at thirty-two in the draft. Of course I say ‘fell’, instead of ‘plummeted’, because everyone knew he’d be the third QB taken in the draft. Because of… oh right—a single poor Pro Day. In an astounding demonstration of groupthink, years worth of film was abandoned for what an afternoon tossing a football in basketball shorts can tell you about a prospective quarterback.
We’re talking about a consensus top-five pick not two months before the draft. A player one QB scout regarded as second to only Andrew Luck in promise. A kid who scouts unanimously regarded as the most ‘pro ready’ of his QB class given the sophisticated offence he ran in Louisville and his penchant for protecting the ball.
As mentioned earlier, Zimmer’s decision to have the QB job be an open competition was the right call—making Bridgewater the incumbent would certainly do more harm than good for his offseason training, as well as his relationship with the team he was picked to lead. If Teddy by the end of pre season is looking shaky at the helm, by all means go with Cassel. That said, the reasons stated above, combined with the intuition of Vikings fans (which screams ‘enough is enough!’ to the prospect of more games thrown away with a mediocre player under center), for me makes it clear we should all be cheering hard for a Bridgewater start in week one.