When the 2013 season mercifully ended and we turned towards the draft, the quarterback position was on the minds of a lot of fans. We went down the Christian Ponder road, and got burned. And admittedly, I was one of the guys leading the charge supporting him.
With that in mind, you probably need to read the rest of this with a grain of salt.
It seems almost certain that the Vikings will draft a quarterback next week, the only questions left are when and who. From about October on, when it became obvious that Minnesota wasn't going to the playoffs, there was a vocal minority...heck, it might have been a majority...who got on the "Tank For Teddy" bandwagon. The Vikings won just enough to ensure, at the end of the season, that they had no shot at Teddy Bridgewater. He was the consensus number one prospect, proclaimed by all the experts as 'The Next Big Thing'.
But down in College Station, Texas, there was another Next Big Thing happening in Johnny Manziel. Manziel was thought to be the NFL version of Nuke LaLoosh, if I can borrow a Bull Durham character. A kid with a million dollar arm and a five cent head. Manziel has the talent, it's been surmised, but can he stay out of trouble off the field?
Knowing the Vikings needed a quarterback, and knowing they had no shot at Bridgewater, I not only hopped on the Manziel train, I threw the engineer off, threw coal on the fire, and opened it up full throttle. Here was my thinking with Manziel, and it hasn't changed: he's either going to be superduperstar, or a spectacular bust. Either way, it's going to be an epic ride. As a fan, of course, I want him to succeed and lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl. He reminds me, more of anyone I have watched since he retired, of Fran Tarkenton, and by God, I LOVED Tarkenton. And my heart wants me to believe that he could be the next St. Francis of Bloomington. As a blogger, Manziel is win-win. Between football and the 'doing blow off the belly of a hooker' stories he might or might not generate, he could make me famous.
But then folks started talking down Teddy Bridgewater, and a guy that was the presumptive number one overall pick and a guy the Vikings had absolutely no shot at...suddenly wasn't all that and a cup of coffee. Then he slipped out of the top five, then the top ten, and now, it seems he might slip out of the first round completely.
In my head, that makes no sense. When you watch his highlights, he's got a very good arm, pocket awareness, heart, leadership, talent--all the things you want in a great, franchise quarterback. Watch him in the Sugar Bowl against Florida from a couple seasons back. You see a guy that takes a beating, but stands in the pocket and makes throw after throw. He picks apart one of the best defenses in the country, and Florida is never really in the game, thanks in large part to Bridgewater.
So when I see things like 'the folks inside the NFL never thought of Bridgewater as a top talent', and 'he has skinny knees', and all the other pre-draft rumors that are out there about him, I go back to highlights and watch. And my head tells me he can be great.
Really, really great. But would he be better than Manziel?
Honestly, I don't know. In reality, no one REALLY knows. And truth be told, I don't care. If the Vikings stay at eight, and they call either Manziel's or Bridgewater's name, I'll be ecstatic.
So that's where I stand with the two quarterbacks we've been talking the most about. My heart tells me 'JOHNNY MONDO ICE CREAM FOOTBALL WOOOOOOOO', and my head tells me Teddy Bridgewater. One pulls at my emotions, and one pulls at my common sense on what makes a great quarterback. They both tell me they can take the Vikings to the Promised Land.
Either one would be a great choice for the Vikings, but for different reasons.
BUT TED WHAT ABOUT BLAKE BORTLES BECAUSE THAT'S THE GUY EVERYONE SAYS WE'RE GETTING???
Look, I'm sure Bortles is a nice enough kid. But he's a bowl full of 'meh' to me. Could he be good? Yeah, he could, but his game does nothing for me. At the end of the day, when I look at players, I can't look at them with a dispassionate eye of a scout. I want to, but I can't. I love college football, and I've watched all three of them play. Bridgewater and Manziel elicit strong emotions in me, and make me WANT to cheer for them. I watch Blake Bortles, and the most I can do is a golf clap.
Would that change if he became the Vikings quarterback? Well duh, of course it would. But right now, if I liken my heart to Manziel and my head to Bridgewater, Bortles would be like an arranged marriage. In time, I could really like him as the quarterback. Likewise, there would be just as good a chance as sports rage.
So, there you go. Come draft night my heart says Manziel, my head says Bridgewater. But I'm not gonna boo Bortles.