Throughout most of the pre-draft process, the prevailing thought among the media that covers the Minnesota Vikings, as well as many Vikings fans, was that if the team drafted a quarterback, the team would start either Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder for a season before turning the reigns over to the new guy.
A lot of that was probably before the Vikings had Teddy Bridgewater fall into their laps with the final pick of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Bridgewater, who was considered as pro-ready a quarterback as there was in this year's selection process, seems that he could potentially step right in from the word "go."
And when asked about it, Mike Zimmer said as much.
"Teddy will play when we feel like he's ready, if he's the best guy, which we hope that he will be," Zimmer said, via StarTribune.com. "We always want to have competition."
Now, let's not fool ourselves, ladies and gentlemen. . .as soon as pen hits contract, Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback on this roster. And not just because Cassel and Ponder aren't good. It's because Bridgewater is. Or, at the very least, he has the potential to be.
"Oh, Norv Turner's offense is really complex," you say? Well, for starters, Cassel and Ponder don't have that much more experience with Turner's offense at this point than Bridgewater does. And, based on this tidbit from one of Arif's scouting reports on Bridgewater (courtesy of Greg Bedard of the MMQB), picking up a new offense doesn't seem like it will phase Bridgewater very much.
When Bridgewater got his first glimpse of Watson's full-field progression offense, he had never seen anything like it. He was overwhelmed. So Watson told Bridgewater to start doodling: take a pad of formations, with just the offensive line printed, and draw the offense. Bridgewater recited a play and then drew it: receivers and routes, he'd identify the movement key (the defensive player they're reading), what the progression off that movement key is, the alerts, depth of drop-every single detail.
Bridgewater quickly filled up a pad and was bored by it. He needed more competition-another pillar of Bridgewater's being-so Bridgewater put the entire Louisville offense into his Xbox football game. Then he put in the game plans for each game and threw against the coverages he would see.
The man did this when he was 17 years old. Yes, Norv Turner's offense is going to be more complex than anything Bridgewater saw at Louisville. I'm pretty sure I can quite confidently state that Louisville's offense was more complex than anything Bridgewater saw in high school, too. Contrary to the popular meme that came out after the leaking of the Wonderlic scores, Teddy Bridgewater is no dummy. So he scored low on a standardized test. Dan Marino scored even lower. Tell me that guy didn't know what he was doing on a football field.
"Oh, but Christian Ponder was supposed to be a pro-ready quarterback, too, and look what happened to him," you say? Well, sure, if we ignore the fact that Ponder basically had no pre-season (thanks to the lockout) and a coaching staff that decided it would be in the team's best interest to give nearly all the snaps to Donovan McNabb, a guy that (reportedly) couldn't even be bothered to learn the playbook in Minnesota. (The link there from Viking Update says that the playbook actually expanded when the team went from the 13-year veteran to the rookie. That's not the way that usually goes.)
Frankly, the Vikings probably would have been better off starting Christian Ponder from Week 1 in 2011, lockout be damned. And unless he somehow gets injured in the pre-season or something like that, there's a good chance that they'd be better off starting Teddy Bridgewater from Week 1 in 2014. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sort of Russell Wilson-esque progression this pre-season for Bridgewater.
When Wilson got to the Seahawks in 2012, they had just signed Matt Flynn to a ridiculous contract to (presumably) be their starter, and Wilson began the pre-season as the #3 guy. And after the first pre-season game, the Seahawks said, "You know, this guy is pretty good," and bumped him up to #2. And after the second pre-season game, the Seahawks said, "Man, this guy is really good," and had him start the third (and most important) pre-season game. The rest is history from there. Pete Carroll had the guts to stick with his guy, and I think that Mike Zimmer has that sort of chutzpah as well.
Yes, Matt Cassel signed a decent-sized contract this off-season to return to the Vikings. And, if Teddy Bridgewater's track record and recent NFL history mean anything, there's more than a slight chance that Cassel will be wearing a baseball cap and holding a clipboard on the sidelines of the Edward Jones Dome in Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season.