At least, that’s what he was expected to be this year. Someone who could hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson without fumbling (I’m looking at you, Mark Sanchez), take a few more deep shots down the field, use his mobility wisely, and play smart. Bridgewater didn’t have a noteworthy year last season, throwing for about 3300 yards and 14 touchdowns along with 9 interceptions. Not too impressive, but enough to be a Pro Bowl replacement. What the second-year quarterback did, though, was the one thing that really matters; win games. Actually, a better description would be that he didn’t lose games. As a young, developing, centerpiece of a franchise, he played exactly the way this Vikings team functioned. Run the ball first and play good, solid defense. If the team needs to punt, punt. But don’t make boneheaded plays. Despite his unappealing stat sheet, Teddy Bridgewater led the Minnesota Vikings to an 11-5 record and an NFC North Championship. The Vikes’ playoff run might have been much different if it weren’t for a ghastly shank by Blair Walsh in the Wild Card round versus the Seahawks. Nevertheless, for a young, talented and developing team, it was a successful season.
When Teddy went down in the Vikings last preseason practice, the Land of 10,000 Lakes went into a stand still. Life ceased to exist. People outside of Minnesota may not have thought so much of the Skol squad because they aren’t a large market team, but for those who follow the team closely, this was a year to be excited about. As I see it, it’s like a secret that fans kept to themselves. This team was ready to be unveiled to the rest of the country. But on that late August day, that hopeful season was stopped in its tracks. Bridgewater went down, clutched that knee, and the football world held its breath.
Shaun Hill was probably holding his breath, too. He’d actually have to play.
Sam Bradford was probably at home, wishing he wasn’t on the Eagles.
Howie Roseman, the Philadelphia Eagles’ General Manager was probably at work, thinking about how he was stuck with Sam Bradford as his starting quarterback for $18 million a year. Lo and behold, on that Tuesday afternoon Teddy pulled a Bradford and went down and out for the year.
The football world was wondering what move Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman would make. Names of the likes of Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer, Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick floated around because the Vikings weren’t going to start backup Shaun Hill for the entire season. Just by the way Hill spells his first name it was obvious they wouldn’t survive an entire season with him under center.
In came Bradford and out went a first and fourth-round pick.
Many pundits have been saying that for a player of Bradford’s caliber and considering the short duration he may be with the team, Minnesota gave up too much. Nope. Hold your words. From my punditial (I know, it’s probably not a word) view, no assessment of whether they over or underpaid for their presumed starting quarterback can be made until January or February. This same team, with mediocre quarterback play, turned in an 11-5 season which was good enough to win the NFC North. Why can’t Bradford, who threw for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns along with a 65 percent completion, take this same team back at least to the point they made it last season? Let’s not forget that while his NFL career has been headlined more by injuries and mediocrity than by positivity, he was the number one overall pick in the 2009 Draft. The guy clearly has some talent, even if it’s been coated over by some poor situations, teams and coaches. There is no doubt in my mind that the Vikings are a playoff team this year. Sam Bradford should be a little better than he was last year now that he’s out of Chip Kelly’s screen-a-down, destroy-a-franchise system. Already with slightly better numbers than Bridgewater, Bradford, once acclimated to Norv Turner’s offense, should find some success and do enough to propel the Purple and Gold to another playoff berth. I’m not saying that the Vikings are a definite Super Bowl challenger with Sam Bradford, but I don’t think that they are a sad story with a wasted season. If the boys from Minneapolis can make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, then Minnesota didn’t overpay. But, until then, it would be foolish to declare that whether the Vikings won or lost this trade.
Minnesota got lucky. They open up their season today at Tennessee. Shaun Hill has been named the starter as Bradford isn’t ready to operate in the new offensive system, and Vikings fans really couldn’t have asked for a better Week 1 matchup. Even with the Titans being more talented than last year and on the rise, this team was 2-14 last year and not in shape to go worst to first. Even with Shaun Hill taking snaps for the Vikings, this is a good game for the Vikings to have early in the season. Their traded-for starter isn’t quite ready to start, against an inferior opponent, but their defense and running game should be able to dominate the game. AP should put together a nice debut to his season, Shaun Hill shouldn’t be forced to do much and the stout defense should bottle up DeMarco Murray and limit Marcus Mariota’s passing game.
The Vikings start this season with a big unknown, but that won’t stop this blue-collar attitude team from fighting and winning in every area they can. Don’t write this team off. You just watch.