I do not envy the position that Teddy Bridgewater is in this week. The promising young rookie quarterback is being thrust into the starting role on a team with a supporting cast that's crumbling around him. Could you imagine having to deal with the sort of trouble Teddy has staring him in the face for his first start at your day job?
Well, I can. I present to you a short screenplay entitled Teddy's Office Space.
WIDE ANGLE SHOT OF AFFLUENT OFFICE BUILDING. SIGNAGE EMBLAZONED WITH "VIKINGTECH" ABOVE THE FRONT ENTRANCE. DAY.
A man sits alone on a chair, nervously fidgeting. He is TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, an eager-looking young man with excitement and anticipation in his eyes. Two men approach TEDDY to introduce themselves. The first is MIKE ZIMMER, a gruff yet kind middle-aged man in middle management. The second is RICK SPIELMAN, a wheeling and dealing upper management type wearing suspenders, glasses, and a garishly expensive dress shirt.
Teddy. Whaaaaat's happening. We're real, real excited to bring you on as part of our team. I think you're really going to like being part of the team we have here at VikingTech.
I'm very appreciative for the opportunity. I'm ready to help VikingTech in any way I can.
Now I know these aren't quite the digs we showed you when you interviewed for the job, but you can be assured that we're doing everything in our power to make your surroundings a little nicer. But in the meantime if you could just make sure to put the covers on your PFF reports, that'd be greeeaat.
Yep, we're tryin' like heck to make it nice and cozy here for ya Teddy. We just had some personnel changes with our team and we're doin' our best to play catch-up here on some of our new projects. We really think you can be the guy for the job.
MIKE forcefully slaps TEDDY on the shoulder, nearly knocking him over.
Um, OK, that sounds great, Mr. Zimmer.
Please son, call me Mike. I only make my assistant Norv call me Mr. Zimmer. He takes the specs from the engineers to the customers for me.
OK Mike. I'm really excited to work with Adrian. He was one of the main reasons why I was so excited to join the VikingTech team in the first place.
RICK and MIKE exchange nervous glances, then focus their attention back on TEDDY.
Yeeeaahhhh, well here's the thing, Teddy. Adrian has been put on administrative leave for a while. With pay and full benefits.
Excuse me? I thought he was one of the most productive members of the team. That's what you said when I interviewed.
[Getting noticeably agitated] Well yeah, Adrian's a helluva worker, but...Rick, wanna help me out on this one?
Yeahhhh, while we value Mr. Peterson's contributions over the years to VikingTech, he was getting a little flaky with his personal life outside of the office. We brought him back on the team for a few days but our decision didn't go over so well with our stockholders. So we thought keeping him out of the office for a while was the best course of action. We [makes air quotes with his fingers] "fixed the glitch". [Smugly sips from coffee mug]
Wow, that's too bad. I was really looking forward to working with him. Any idea of when he's coming back?
[Under his breath] Yeah friggin' right. He isn't coming back. None of us are coming back. We're all gonna get fired. I just know it!
Yeahhh, Mr. Peterson is on indefinite leave. But in the meantime we have Matt A., who is doing an excellent job during Adrian's leave.
[Under his breath again] You gotta be friggin' kiddin' me.
Hey Matt, come on over and say hi to your new coworker Teddy!
MATT ASIATA walks in very slowly. It takes him an extremely long time to cover even small distances.
[Speaking very methodically] Hiiiiii, Teddyyyyyy, pleasure to meeeeeet yooooouuu. Better get gooooooing, I have a handoff meeting in a few hours that I don't wanna be laaaaaate foorrrrrr.
MATT ASIATA leaves the scene as slowly as he came in. RICK, MIKE and TEDDY simply watch MATT walk away during the awkwardly long departure.
OK then. Who else will I be working with? Kyle and Brandon are still around, aren't they?
RICK and MIKE exchange another nervous glance.
Yeahhhhh. Mr. Rudolph and Mr. Fusco are both on sick leave.
That's too bad. For how long?
For the rest of the year. But on the bright side, so is Mr. Cassel, which is why we were able to hire you on as a replacement so quickly in the first place! It might have taken months of filling out forms to get you hired on otherwise.
RICK and TEDDY both look down at the floor, acknowledging the awkwardness of their latest exchange. MIKE appears to be getting even more nervous.
Wow, you guys must have an incredibly busy HR department with all the personnel changes around here.
Yeahhh, here at VikingTech we pride ourselves on our PR, I mean HR, department. As a matter of fact we have a staff member that's dedicated solely to issuing statements on behalf of VikingTech after we make our..."personnel changes". I'll introduce you to Jeff.
RICK, TEDDY, and MIKE all walk over a couple rows of cubicles to reveal JEFF ANDERSON, sitting in his cubicle wearing a headset and attentively working busy phone lines. As they approach JEFF, he holds up a finger at them without glancing up, indicating he is too busy to talk. JEFF resumes working the phones.
CORPorate Account Cancellation, Jeff speaking. JUST a moment. CORPorate Account Cancellation, Jeff speaking. JUST a moment. CORPorate Account Cancellation, Jeff speaking. JUST a moment. CORPorate Account Cancellation, Jeff speaking. JUST a moment.
Yeeeahhhh, like we said, Jeff is pretty busy these days.
RICK, MIKE, and TEDDY start walking back towards TEDDY'S new cubicle.
Wow, I guess so. Well can you tell me who I WILL be working with on the project you hired me for?
[Perks up, finally getting a little hopeful] Of course! You'll absolutely love working with Cordarrelle and Greg. Real good guys. [Pauses, suddenly becomes crestfallen]...but you'll need to make it quick when you're working with them.
Yeahhhh, we've been having a few IT support issues lately here at VikingTech. Our head of support, Matt K., has encountered some issues with blocking viruses.
[Grumbling] He's had some issues blocking ANYTHING. He's gonna get us all fired.
What was that?
Oh, nothing. But if you wanna get anything done with Cordarrelle or Greg, you're gonna have to make it snappy.
Yeaaaah. Until Matt K. can clean up the issues with his PFF reports, you're only gonna have a couple seconds online before something breaks through and knocks down your system.
Didn't he get the memo? [Leans in toward Teddy, whispering] I friggin' hate those PFF reports. Waste of time if you ask me.
MATT KALIL suddenly waddles in, mumbling to himself. He is oblivious to the other people in the office walking right past him.
I was told that I could block at a reasonable volume from 9 to 11. And last time we received blocking assignments, I didn't get one. At my old cubicle I had a window and I could look outside and I could see the defensive ends and they were merry.
MATT KALIL absentmindedly bowls over an entire cubicle wall, but continues his meandering and mumbling out of the scene.
OK Matt, good talk. And I'll just go ahead, aaaand...get this all cleaned up.
So THAT'S the guy in charge of protecting VikingTech from attacks?
Well, technically there are others in the IT department. But outside of Sully and Phil you aren't gonna get much help now that Brandon is gone.
OK then. But you'll at least be directing the shaky IT department, right Mike? You seem like you know what you're doing.
Well, technically no. My assistant Norv does that. BUT I WORK WITH THE GODDAMN DEFENSE SO THE GODDAMN CUSTOMERS DON'T HAVE TO! I HAVE PEOPLE SKILLS! I AM GOOD AT DEALING WITH PEOPLE! CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!
MIKE storms out of the office. RICK simply takes another sip of coffee and addresses TEDDY.
Yeeeeahhhh. So I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday...so if you could be here by about 3:25 PM, that'd be greeeaaat. Mmkay? Thaaanks!
I'm excited about Teddy Bridgewater's first NFL start--I really am. But talk about getting thrown into the deep end.
For those of you still unaware, Bridgewater's personal motto is #GUMP, an acronym that stands for Great Under Major Pressure. He showed it time and again during his college days at Louisville, and that motto was already put to the test during the first 41 snaps of his career last Sunday. Bridgewater spent much of his abrupt debut dodging barely-blocked Saints defenders. It's hard to imagine him having much success if the Falcons are chasing him around like that on Sunday afternoon. Bridgewater can obviously buy time with his legs but depending on his running ability is a mistake; Teddy Time runs much more smoothly in the air. The offensive line was supposed to be one of the few constants in a season of change for the Vikings in 2014. Yet here we are, three weeks in, wondering if they can keep their rookie quarterback upright long enough to do any damage.
But maybe we're just freaking out about Brandon Fusco's season-ending injury a little too much. Maybe Mike Zimmer and Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall aren't delusional in saying that Matt Kalil isn't actually playing that bad. Maybe Pro Football Focus is being harsh on Kalil when they have him ranked as the worst tackle in the NFL through three weeks. Besides, Atlanta's pass rush is middling at best. Teddy might just have more time in the pocket than we think.
If Bridgewater does have some time to throw, hopefully Norv Turner will take off the training wheels that were firmly affixed to his rookie quarterback last week. Because the couple of deep passes Bridgewater did unleash were gorgeous.
With a full week to plan and get reps in, one would hope that Turner would be prepared to accentuate more of Bridgewater's strengths while Bridgewater would be prepared to take on more of Turner's playbook. (Finding creative ways to get Cordarrelle Patterson more than five touches wouldn't hurt either.) Before Atlanta took on the rotting corpse of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday, the Saints and Bengals had plenty of success against their defense. If the Vikings can find any semblance of a running game with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, they might be able to keep Atlanta's high-powered offense off the field.
(I mentioned this last week, but again, you have no idea how weird it is to say that I hope the Vikings' opponents will respect the run enough to open up their passing game. It doesn't feel right.)
Here's some free advice for Mike Zimmer and George Edwards when planning for that Falcons offense: DON'T DO ANYTHING THE BUCS DID LAST WEEK. Instead, let's take a look at the success Zimmer's old charges in Cincinnati had in Week 2. They brought a lot of pressure against Matt Ryan in their big victory over Atlanta but they were smart in how they went about it. Take a look at the play below. Right before the snap the cornerbacks back off in coverage and the linebackers bring pressure right up the middle, forcing Ryan to make a quick throw to the flat.
I'm sure the Vikings would be just fine with throws like that instead of watching Ryan and Julio Jones winning millions of fantasy matchups by themselves for the second straight week. I'd much rather take my chances against Ye Olde Steven Jackson and Atlanta's below-average run blocking than watch bombs flying over the head of the Vikings secondary.
So maybe, just maybe, Teddy's first day at the office won't be an abject disaster. I'm fairly confident that the Vikings will give Atlanta a better game than they got last week. But can the Vikes actually record their first ever victory at TCF Stadium?
I have my doubts. You know it's a bad omen when Jon Bois dedicates an entire Breaking Madden episode to the impending doom of Bridgewater. (It was actually about the folly of thinking Teddy is a runner. And who did Bois quote at the beginning of it all? Our old pal Wobby, naturally.) With Roddy White apparently coming back and Vikings kryptonite Devin Hester prominently involved, I don't see the Vikings being able to keep up with Atlanta's scoring, even if the first quarter isn't as horrendous as it was last week.
I wish I had higher hopes for the beginning of the Teddy Bridgewater Era but I think it's asking a bit much to have him save a largely broken team his first time out there. The Vikings' "office" will be better with Teddy around. However, it's going to take some time.
I just hope it happens before the next round of layoffs. Because if that happens, that's the last straw. I'm gonna burn the building down.
So if the Vikings could just go ahead and move down to the basement of the NFC North standings, that'd be greeeaaat. Yeeaaahhh. [Takes back Falcons-red Swingline stapler]
And now for the rest of my Week 4 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
REDSKINS over Giants
Hey Daniel Snyder: when South Park makes their season premiere episode about you, it might be time to change the ol' team name. (Even if you aren't a South Park fan, I can't recommend last night's episode highly enough. They went full scorched earth on the Redskins and the NFL. It was one of my favorite episodes ever.)
Bills over TEXANS
Both teams had nice little 2-0 starts before ugly losses highlighted by their quarterbacks pooping the proverbial bed last week. I have slightly more faith in E.J. Manuel than Ryan Fitzpatrick, so I'll go with Buffalo.
BEARS over Packers
My preseason jinx of picking the Pack to win it all might be working! Of course I'll probably end the jinx by picking against them this week.
JETS over Lions
I believe that Detroit might be this year's classic "Great at Home, Bad on the Road" team. I believe that I might be saying that as wishful thinking for Week 6, because I'm already sick of picking against the Vikings this year.
COLTS over Titans
It looks like Tennessee is finally figuring out what Minnesota did last year: outside of Cam Newton, the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft was full of lousy quarterbacks.
Dolphins over RAIDERS
It looks like Miami might be figuring out that outside of Andrew Luck, the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft wasn't that great with quarterbacks either. But still, they're playing the Raiders. I'll ride with Ryan Tannehill in Oakland.
STEELERS over Buccaneers
I still have no idea what to make of Pittsburgh this year, but I think we can all agree that we have Tampa pegged after three weeks.
RAVENS over Panthers
If Steve Smith Sr doesn't cause at least three scuffles during this game, I'll be severely disappointed.
CHARGERS over Jaguars
My Survivor Pool pick of the week, now 3-0 after barely hanging on yet again with my New England pick last week. Yes, the starting debut of Blake Bortles makes me a little nervous, but he's still stuck with a supporting cast that makes Bridgewater's teammates look like nothing but Pro Bowlers. Since I don't want to think about how awful Toby Gerhart's YPC is, how about we do the Gratuitous Picture of the Week instead?
"If you get bored of watching the Jags, just take a gander at our fun..." (image via www.suntimes.com)
Eagles over 49ERS
Maybe it's all the offseason trouble their defense got into. Maybe it's Jim Harbaugh's "intensity" wearing a bit thin. Maybe it's a hangover from three straight years of devastating playoff losses. Whatever it is, the 49ers don't look right this year. I have no idea why they're giving 5.5 points to an Eagles team that can beat anybody despite showing very little interest in playing defense or a full 60 minutes of football.
Saints over COWBOYS
Like I'm going to take Tony Romo against a hungry contender on national television. If I ever do, make sure to run me through the league concussion protocol.
Patriots over CHIEFS
Kansas City actually has a pulse despite all the injuries and the New England offense is on life support when Matt Cassel isn't giving them amazing field position. I'm sticking with the Pats. If this one goes down to the wire, you don't want to look at the respective sidelines and realize you chose Andy Reid.
Last week: 11-5
Season so far: 29-19