Kevin Seifert of ESPN has been one of my favorite sports writers for awhile. I first started reading his stuff when he was the Vikings beat reporter at the Strib, and his ESPN blog is still a must stop for me.
Why? Because in his latest piece, Seifert nails what our collective perception of Teddy Bridgewater has become, at least for most of us. Seifert says that Bridgewater's play has 'changed the conversation', and he's right:
We're no longer debating whether Bridgewater, the No. 32 overall pick of the draft, can play...Instead, we're picking through a handful of marginal mistakes to help explain a two-point loss against the NFC North divisional leader.
Yeah, we are. And that right there is the difference between Bridgewater and every quarterback the Vikings have had since Daunte Culpepper left, minus Favre in 2009. Heck, you could even argue that we had this conversation about Culpepper until 2004. Bridgewater has flipped the conversation to not 'can he play', but 'how good is he going to be', essentially.
Now, to be sure, there's going to be a fair amount of people who think the jury is still out, I suppose, but that group is dwindling with every performance. It seemed to be a legitimate question after the first Lions game, but with each passing performance, you saw improvement in just about every game. And little by little, the chorus of 'can he even play at this level' dropped a little bit more, then a little bit more, and now...we're here.
And where is 'here'? Picking apart three plays (well, maybe five if you consider that botched two minute drill) out of 41 throws and 62 offensive plays total. What are those plays? The two interceptions, the Jarius Wright overthrow on first down on the last drive, and the throws to Matt (Assinotter) Asiata and Kyle Rudolph, also on that ill-fated final drive.
Think about that for a second.
If you were a Christian Ponder or Tarvaris Jackson supporter, one week you thought he might have turned a corner and was going to be okay, but the next week...back to square one, and the 'can he play' question would pop up again. For those of you that never supported one or both, there was little to no improvement, and the 'can he play' question either never went away, or the answer was a resounding no early on, and it didn't waver.
I would even take the argument one step further than Seifert, and say that we have gone from 'can he play' to 'how good is this kid going to be', because when you step back and remember that he's only a rookie who has played 12 games...you can't help but get excited thinking about the possibilities.
Consider some of his achievements:
5-5 record as a starter.
4 game tying or game winning drives in the 4th quarter or overtime.
3 300 yard passing games this year. The Vikings, as a team, had 300 yards passing once in 2010, once in 2011, once in 2012, and once in 2013. In Favre's Deal With The Devil Year of 2009, the Vikings had four. And he did that with an All Pro wide receiver (Sidney Rice), another wide receiver that was the NFL Rookie of the Year (Percy Harvin), a tight end that was the best red zone threat in the NFL (Visanthe Shiancoe, 11 receiving TD's) and Adrian Peterson, in his prime.
Sure, the Vikings have issues on offense. They need to shore up their offensive line, and find balance with a running game that has to improve. Kyle Rudolph has to stay healthy, Greg Jennings is on the downside of his career, Cordarrelle Patterson has taken a big step back in his development, and Charles Johnson still has to prove it a little more to be a guy I consider a long term answer.
But I contend that the conversations we've had ad nauseum about Ponder, Joe Webb, Matt Cassel, Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, and any other guy you want to throw in here are over.
Teddy Bridgewater has shifted the paradigm here in Minnesota regarding the quarterback position. It's about time.