This wasn't supposed to be the plan.
The "plan" was supposed to involve Teddy Bridgewater hanging out on the Minnesota Vikings' sidelines for a season, learning from Matt Cassel and preparing himself to be an NFL quarterback. And, in the unlikely event that he did end up having to start, he'd be able to lean on the power running of Adrian Peterson and running an offense that included big target Kyle Rudolph and dynamic receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
That isn't what's happened at all.
Bridgewater was thrust into the fire in Week 3 in New Orleans. . .the same week that saw Rudolph go down with a groin injury that would keep him sidelined for six weeks and right guard Brandon Fusco go down for the year the day after he signed a massive contract extension. He has lost two other members of the team's Week 1 offensive line in Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson. (Johnson got injured in Sunday's win over the New York Jets and was replaced by Vladimir Ducasse.) Patterson is now, officially, an afterthought in the Minnesota offense, as Bridgewater's new favorite target is Charles Johnson. . .a man that the Vikings poached off of the Cleveland Browns' practice squad in Week 3.
And, in case nobody has noticed, Peterson hasn't been around this season, either.
But Bridgewater has gone out and just kept on going out every week and, basically, developing on the fly. He had a great first start against the Atlanta Falcons, missed the next game at Green Bay with an ankle injury, and then had a couple of rough outings against the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills (even though the Vikings could have won the game at Buffalo despite Bridgewater's struggles). But he's handled all of the ups and downs as well as you could hope for a rookie, as the overtime victory by the Minnesota Vikings over the New York Jets in Week 14 at TCF Bank Stadium was Bridgewater's fifth victory of his rookie season.
Thirteen other quarterbacks were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft. They've combined for two victories this season. . .one for Oakland's Derek Carr and one for Jacksonville's Blake Bortles.
In his last six starts, Bridgewater has completed 62.4% of his passes for right around 220 yards/game. More importantly, he's thrown nine touchdown passes to just three interceptions. . .and two of those interceptions came on Hail Mary passes (one at the end of the Chicago game, and one at the end of the first half against the Jets). He's been doing all of this with a makeshift. . .to put it politely. . .offensive line, a largely underwhelming running game (anchored for most of the year by another rookie, Jerick McKinnon), and an inconsistent receiving corps.
Bridgewater and the Vikings have a couple of games coming against a pair of solid defenses on the road, as they'll travel to take on the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins in Weeks 15 and 16. The Vikings have, largely, been relegated to the role of spoiler for these final three games, but with the way Bridgewater has progressed so far this season, it isn't out of the realm of the possibility that the Vikings could be just that for at least one of those two teams, if not both of them.
This wasn't the original plan for Teddy Bridgewater, to be certain. However, with the way things have gone this season, I have a feeling that we're going to look back at the 2014 season for Bridgewater and be able to see how many dividends this season paid for him in his development. The youngster has dealt with a full-on hurricane of bad luck this season, and has handled it incredibly well. Mike Zimmer said after the game that this is Teddy Bridgewater's team now, and with that mindset going into the 2015 season and beyond, it appears that the Minnesota Vikings have a quarterback of the future they can truly put their faith in.