The position of quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings is one that has not shown a whole lot of consistency lately. Really since 2005, when Dante Culpepper’s tenure with Minnesota ended, there hasn’t been a consistent, successful starter. Brett Favre was good for two years and led them to the NFC Championship game in 2010. Especially since that season, there has been no definite choice for multiple seasons as to who the starter will be. Christian Ponder ended up being a bust (or just in the wrong system) after the Vikings selected him in the first round in the 2011 draft.
Then, in 2014, with the 32nd pick in the first round, the Vikings selected Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville. He came in during the third game of the season, and pretty quickly proved himself to be the starter in his rookie season. In the 2015-2016 season, Teddy started all 16 games and led the Vikings to an NFC North division title and a playoff berth with an 11-5 record. Teddy’s most outstanding game that season came in week 15 in a 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Bridgewater went 17/20 passing for 231 yards and four touchdowns, accumulating a passer rating of 154. He was only sacked once that game, which can definitely be said to have contributed to his success, as he was sacked as many as seven times in one game that season. He was bagged 44 times in 2015, more than all but five other quarterbacks in the league. He was sacked 39 times in 2014, which was the 7th most in the league that season. The lack of a sturdy offensive line is definitely something to point to when considering the lack of consistent success at the quarterback position for the Vikings. Teddy also ran four times for 17 yards that game. He is a mobile quarterback who ran once out of about every ten times he threw the football. It is not a coincidence that he ran for more than that game’s share when he was throwing the football well.
Then came the playoff game. The Vikings were down 10-9, and were a 27-yard field goal away from (being 20 seconds away from) defeating the Seattle Seahawks and advancing in the NFL Playoffs. Blair Walsh, of course, missed wide left. Click to live through the pain again. So the great season the Vikings and Teddy had had was over. However, the future looked bright for the men in purple.
That was until August 30, 2016. Vikings fans worry as they read the headline that Teddy Bridgewater had gone down in practice in a non-contact drill and was carted off the field. Even worse, the news found out hours later that an MRI had revealed a torn ACL and other structural damage in his knee. They knew he would miss the entire 2016 season, but hoped he would make a full recovery. A few days later, on September 3, the Vikings traded their 2017 first round pick and their 2018 fourth round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford. Sam Bradford was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft and was selected by the Rams. Bradford himself had suffered knee injuries since then and had not been consistent enough for the Rams. He ended up with the Eagles in 2015 before heading up north. Shaun Hill, Teddy’s backup, did enough for the Vikings to win their week one matchup, and Bradford was ready to go for week two. Mike Zimmer vowed that Bridgewater’s injury wouldn’t be an excuse for the 2016-2017 season, and that the Vikings would find a way to be contenders.
And for the first five weeks, the Vikings exceeded expectations. After five games, the Vikings were 5-0. Bradford had thrown six touchdowns and had not been picked off in his first four games. The offense was doing enough, and the defense and special teams had been outstanding in the first five weeks. Then the bye week came and went. And then the Vikings’ season went downhill. They dropped four in a row, six of seven, and eight of ten, before winning their week 17 match up with Chicago in 38-10 dominating fashion, to move to .500 at 8-8. That week 17 blowout was a sad consolation for a season that started 5-0 and ended in missing the playoffs. A disappointing reality for fans who were optimistic and believed that Sam Bradford is a better fit for the Vikings than Teddy Bridgewater is. And now, that question still remains. Teddy only threw 14 touchdowns in 2015, as the Vikings relied heavily on their running game, but he was a quarterback that knew his role and helped the team be very successful. He threw nine interceptions, but his last season at Louisville he threw for 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. We can see that he has it in him, although college and pro defenses are significantly different.
Sam Bradford set a single season passing completion percentage record with a 71.56 mark. It’s impressive, but the yardage isn’t overwhelming. He had a lot of short, easy completions that didn’t really help the offense out. He rarely threw the ball downfield, which eventually allowed for defenses to adjust to that and be able to come up and not allow many YAC on the short dump-offs.
Now, heading into the 2017 season, Teddy is still injured. He was on the PUP list to start camp, and very likely will remain their to start the season. This means that he will have to miss the first six games of the season, at least. It is likely that he will return at some point this season, but the question is when and to what extent will he be recovered. He won’t immediately be the mobile quarterback he was, and won’t be at all athletically as sharp as he was before the injury for some time even after he is cleared to play.
So, if a week seven return for Teddy Bridgewater is a realistic, would it make sense for the Vikings, to have Sam Bradford currently solidified as the starter? Of course, it depends on Bradford’s performance in those six games. It depends on what the team is doing and what quarterback’s style of play is more likely to help the team succeed. An interesting point is the lack of Sam Bradford’s deep ball. Teddy did not really show he could throw the deep ball that well either, but he had reportedly been working on it prior to his injury. Therefore, it’s unknown if Teddy has worked on that and made it what it could be.
There is a lot to consider when trying to decide what the Vikings should do with their quarterback situation. Teddy Bridgewater is almost 26, and Sam Bradford is almost 30. It seems as though Teddy makes more sense long term. Not only because the Vikings drafted him rather than trading for him, which means that they saw him as a good fit, where Bradford was just kind of the best guy available, but Teddy is also four years younger. That’s a big deal when it comes to a franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford has never had a real productive year in the NFL and as he reaches the age of 30, it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be a breakout star. Teddy still has star-potential, as he reached the pro bowl in his second season after being on the NFL All-Rookie Team in his rookie season. Teddy’s future seems much more promising than whatever is left of Bradford’s career. Teddy could be the guy that the Vikings haven’t had since Dante Culpepper, something very promising to the Minnesota faithful. It definitely seems as though Teddy will be the guy in 2018, when Bradford is a free agent and the Vikings really have to make a decision on whether they want to keep him around.
That said, Bradford is a high quality backup that would not necessarily find a starting job elsewhere in the league, and could stay in Minnesota even if Teddy is the guy. The Vikings have shown with Shaun Hill that they like to have a veteran backup quarterback in the organization. The question then remains: What will the second half of the 2017 season bring? Do they test the waters with Teddy? Could Bradford be the guy, sort of like Dak was never threatened by Tony Romo, even after he was healthy in 2016? Or will Teddy take over the Vikings mid-season, and help boost them from a say, 3-3 record into the playoffs? The Vikings have a lot to take into consideration. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings’ quarterback situation goes throughout this season and the seasons ahead.