Last year, approaching the NFL Draft, the quarterback choice for the Vikings came down to two players, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.
For me, it was a head versus heart decision once it became apparent that the pre-draft slander on Bridgewater was going to cause him to drop to the point the Vikes could realistically get him. We all know what happened on draft night, from the Browns pre-draft report saying Bridgewater was the best QB available, to Manziel texting the Browns to draft him so they 'can wreck this league', to the Browns moving up from 26 to 22 to get him.
The Vikings were trying to trade up to 22 as well, and there are conflicting reports as to whether or not it was for Manziel or Bridgewater. It makes no difference anymore, as Cleveland took Manziel, and Minnesota traded with Seattle at 32 to get back in to the first round and grabbed Bridgewater.
For the Vikings, it was a great choice. Bridgewater came on strong at the end of the year, and won the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award. In his last four games, he completed over 70% of his passes in each game, an NFL rookie record. Finally, the QB position in Minnesota appears to be set for the long term.
In Cleveland? Well, according to Mike Freeman from Bleacher Report, at least one Browns player wishes they had Bridgewater.
While Bridgewater was emerging as a bona fide NFL quarterback in Minnesota, Manziel cratered in his rookie year in Cleveland. Former Vikings beat writer Jeremy Fowler, now an ESPN reporter, extensively chronicled Manziel's troubles from almost the moment he landed in Cleveland. And when his late season start against the Bengals turned out to be a disastrous performance for Manziel, the bloom, as it were, seemed to be off the rose. From management all the way down to the locker room, there is now serious doubt about Johnny Football, and it can all be summed up by this one damning quote from a Browns teammate:
In the wake of that disastrous start against the Bengals, a Browns player remembers a brief conversation he had with a teammate.
"Think about where we'd be now," the player recalled telling a teammate, "if we had drafted Teddy Bridgewater."
Ouch. But I actually have a couple issues with this comparison. Let's talk about it.
1. Never assume a player's performance or lack of performance would be replicated on another team. It's easy to look at the profoundly different seasons Bridgewater and Manziel had and think how much better the Browns would be, and worse the Vikings would be, if the players were on different teams.
But is that necessarily true? I'm not trying to make excuses here, but maybe the Vikings, had they drafted Manziel, would've had a completely different approach about dealing with his off the field issues, and they might not have blown up like they have in Cleveland. If Manziel had come to Minnesota, and assuming Matt Cassel had been hurt against New Orleans...it's possible Manziel matures faster and doesn't become the train wreck he did in year one.
Conversely, the defenses Bridgewater faced in Cleveland, and the skill players he would have had at his disposal, don't necessarily translate to the results he had in Minnesota. And, most importantly, the relationship Bridgewater built with Norv Turner and the Vikings staff before the draft grew to the point that Bridgewater told his agent he didn't want to be drafted by the Browns. It's easy to think that Bridgewater's rookie season went a lot smoother in part due to the relationship he had with Turner and the rest of the staff.
But what if Cleveland hadn't fired Rob Chudzinski after 2013? His offensive coordinator? One Norvel Turner.
2. Never let one season determine an entire career. Look, I'm happy that things turned out the way they did, and I think Teddy Bridgewater was far and away the best choice between the two. And if you asked me which season I would have rather had between the two, it's no question that anyone would take Bridgewater's rookie season over Manziel's 12 times out of 10.
And yeah, Bridgewater lapped Manziel a couple times in 2014, but both of these careers are far from over. Manziel has a lot of personal things he needs to take care of, but to put his career in the trash heap after one year seems a bit premature. In re-reading this a couple times, this seems like a defense of Manziel, but it really isn't. Because I think Bridgewater is going to continue his ascent, and Manziel? Well, the jury is definitely still out, and will be for awhile, I would imagine.
It's just another reinforcement, at least to me, that the Vikings made he right pick.