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Projecting Teddy Bridgewater's Sophomore Season

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The Daily Norseman takes a look at historical stats and trends of quarterbacks in Norv Turner's offense to project Teddy Bridgewater's statistical production and fantasy football outlook for 2015.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Among Vikings fans it almost goes without saying that expectations are very high for Teddy Bridgewater heading into his sophomore campaign in the NFL.  But what is a realistic expectation for Bridgewater?  What should our expectations be for him as he continues to learn the nuances of Norv Turner's Air Coryell offense?  And ultimately, what kind of statistical production is Teddy in for, especially in fantasy football?

A few weeks ago I took a look at what Mike Wallace brings to the Minnesota offense by exploring Turner's historical trends with wide receivers as well as Wallace's own statistical production. I'm going to do a similar study by looking at how quarterbacks have fared in Turner's offense to project what Teddy Bridgewater might be able to accomplish in 2015.  Since 1991, Norv Turner has spent time with eight different NFL franchises, and has had 29 different quarterbacks attempt at least one pass in his system in the NFL.  Using the information found at Pro Football Reference, I compiled detailed passing statistics for all 29 players during the years they played under Turner to see what, if any, trends might exist.  First, here is a list of facts about quarterback performances in Turner's offense that I was able to glean from the database:

1.       The highest yards per attempt season rating of any quarterback who started at least one game was 8.8 (Philip Rivers, 2009)

2.       The lowest yards per attempt season rating of any quarterback who started at least one game was 2.1 (Marques Tuiasosopo, 2005) (side note: Christian Ponder was 2nd worst at 3.0 last year)

3.       No quarterback in Turner's scheme has scored more than 3 rushing touchdowns in a single season.

4.       Quarterbacks only averaged 5.8 rushing yards per game in Turner's scheme.

5.       The highest "Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt" rating (which accounts for sack yardage lost and sacks in addition to adjusting for touchdowns and interceptions) of any quarterback who started at least one game was also Philip Rivers in 2009: 8.3. The next quarterback in the list was Bernie Kosar in 1993, who started 1 game for the Cowboys: 7.17 ANY/A!

6.       Quarterbacks in Turner's system averaged 12.5 standard fantasy points per game dating back to 1991 (note, this number counts all fumbles as -2, not just those that are lost and not recovered).

7.       Only 11 quarterbacks started all 16 games in a season (out of a possible 24 seasons).

8.       Turner had four seasons where he started three different quarterbacks (1993 Cowboys, 1994 Redskins, 2013 Browns and 2014 Vikings)

The table below boils down the data for all 29 quarterbacks into an "average Norv Turner quarterback."  I simply totaled up every statistic from every quarterback who attempted at least one pass in Turner's scheme (regardless of whether they were the starting quarterback or not) and averaged that total out over 384 possible games through Turner's 24 years in the NFL.  Beneath that "Average QB" stat line is Teddy Bridgewater's per game average for his 2014 season (averaged out over the 13 games he played in).

Norv Turner Quarterback Statistics

Stats

Comp.

Att.

Yards

TDs

INTs

Rush/Rec. Yards

Rush/Rec.

TDs

Fumb.

Y/A

AY/A

ANY/A

QB Rating

Per Game Average QB

19.3

32.8

233.4

1.4

1.0

5.8

0.07

0.6

7.1

6.6

5.2

82.3

2014 Teddy Bridgewater

19.9

30.9

224.5

1.1

0.9

16.1

0.08

0.2

7.3

6.6

5.5

85.8

As you can see by comparing the top row to the bottom row, the two numbers are remarkably similar.  In essence, Teddy Bridgewater performed right on par with the "average" Norv Turner quarterback.  The biggest differences are in the rushing and fumbling statistics where Teddy does much better, averaging more than triple the amount of rushing yards per game, and fumbles three times less often per game.  But otherwise, the numbers are so incredibly close they might as well be identical.  There is one caveat, those average Turner QB numbers do include Teddy's numbers too, but there's a reason I left them in.  I left Teddy's data in, because it makes it impossible to calculate a true "per game average" for a Norv quarterback, because Teddy played a partial game in Week 3.  I'd have to try to weight that partial game somehow against the rest of the data, or else toss out a partial game from Matt Cassel, and then it just gets messy.  Even if I removed Teddy's numbers from the data set, it is so large that is has virtually no impact.  The data set contains over 12,000 passing attempts, so getting rid of Bridgewater's 402 from last season represents only about 3% of the data, a miniscule amount.  But I have to admit, that the averages above really represent something like 12 and three quarters games for Bridgewater, rather than a full 13 since it does include the partial game.  So if anything, that just makes Bridgewater look slightly better, compared to the Turner average.  Still, even if both data sets were tweaked slightly to account for those changes, it isn't going to change the larger point: Teddy performed like an average Turner quarterback in 2014.

So what can we expect from Bridgewater going forward?  If you assume that Bridgewater will improve upon his rookie numbers (and that's a reasonable assumption given his progress by game as charted months ago), then we should look at those quarterbacks that have done noticeably better than Bridgewater in Turner's scheme.  In other words, what are the top performances that a quarterback has been able to achieve in Turner's offense?  We'll call that the "Turner Ceiling" which should be a reasonable expectation for the best that Teddy could achieve in his 2nd year.  It's tough to make an apples to apples comparison across 24 years in the NFL, especially when there are so few complete 16-game seasons by one quarterback in the data set, so I've chosen to use the Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A) statistic as a way to sort and compare each season in the database.  I also wanted to look for quarterbacks who started the majority of the games in a given year, and that led me to the following list of quarterback seasons as the best ones:

Top QB Seasons in a Norv Turner Offense

Name

Year

Team

ANY/A

QB Rating

1. Philip Rivers

2009

Chargers

8.3

104.4

2. Philip Rivers

2008

Chargers

8.0

105.5

3. Philip Rivers

2010

Chargers

7.8

101.8

4. Troy Aikman

1993

Cowboys

7.1

99.0

5. Brad Johnson

1999

Redskins

6.8

90.0

6. Philip Rivers

2011

Chargers

6.6

88.7

7.Troy Aikman

1992

Cowboys

6.4

89.5

8. Gus Frerotte

1996

Redskins

6.2

79.3

9. Philip Rivers

2007

Chargers

6.2

82.4

As you can see in the table above, Philip Rivers and Troy Aikman are easily the best quarterbacks that Norv Turner has ever worked with, and both performed very well as measured by ANY/A and QB Rating, even independent of Turner's scheme.  In fact River's ANY/A rating in 2009 stands as the 14th best by a quarterback in NFL history, and his 105.5 QB Rating in 2008 was 26th best in NFL history. That suggests that perhaps Bridgewater isn't going to produce a "Top 5 All-time" season under Turner (joining the likes of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees), but he can still be very good (unless of course we think Bridgewater will eventually become a better quarterback than Philip Rivers and Troy Aikman).  Outside of Rivers and Aikman, there were others that achieved good marks too including Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte.  I cut it off at nine seasons instead of an even ten, because after River's 2007 season, the next closest full season in the database is Kerry Collins in 2005.  Collins ANY/A that year is just barely better than Bridgewater at 5.56, so there was a natural cut-off in the top performances at that point.  In any case there are a host of other names that had nearly full seasons essentially on par with Teddy Bridgewater's 5.46 ANY/A mark last year (or at least within 0.4 in either direction): Jay Fiedler, Kerry Collins, Trent Green, Jason Campbell and Doug Flutie for example.  All are recognizable, starting-level NFL talent, which continues to bode well for Teddy.

So to come up with a "Turner Ceiling", I isolated those nine seasons from the database and boiled them down into another "average" Turner quarterback.  The table below shows their per-game averages.

Stats

Comp.

Att.

Yards

TDs

INTs

Rush/Rec. Yards

Rush/Rec.

TDs

Fumb.

Y/A

AY/A

ANY/A

QB Rating

Turner Ceiling QB

19.6

31

244.7

1.5

0.8

3.7

0.04

0.5

7.9

7.7

7.1

93.03

After boiling down this elite group, there's not a ton of difference between them and the "average" Turner quarterback, although their attempts also represent almost one third of the whole database.  Still, the biggest differences come in their efficiency metrics.  In terms of total yards and touchdowns, the production is pretty similar.  But when you look at interceptions, fumbles and completion percentage, you see an uptick in performance.  And this bears out in the yards per attempt, QB Rating and the like, which all measure those kinds of efficiency metrics.  So in my opinion, this table above would represent the "best-case" scenario for Bridgewater in 2015, and I think it is very likely that his performance falls somewhere between his rookie season and this "Turner Ceiling QB" stat line.

I have hardly mentioned fantasy football yet in this article, but for all you fantasy junkies, I likely haven't needed to.  But to boil this down in context of fantasy football, Bridgewater averaged 12.1 fantasy points per game in his 13 games last year.  The "Turner Ceiling" quarterback above averaged about 13.8 fantasy points per game (although I'm not confident in the fumble statistic which could be lowering that number just a bit).  For rounding sake, we'll call Bridgewater's rookie year 12 points per game, and the Turner Ceiling 14 points per game.  If Teddy is expected to meet the Turner Ceiling QB performance, that would project him as essentially a QB2 for fantasy football.  If Teddy had averaged 14 fantasy points per game last year, he would have ranked 18th overall among QBs, and 17th the year before. For those familiar with fantasy football, think of Bridgewater as a poor man's Philip Rivers at this point.  Rivers is typically a borderline starter, or valuable QB2, which makes Bridgewater, again, a QB2 for 2015.  Even if we were to use River's best year, 2009, as the top ceiling for Teddy, Rivers only averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game that year, ranked 7th best, or a low-end starter in a 10-team league.  Compare that average to Teddy's final four games last year, when he was leading the league in most efficiency metrics.  In the last four games of 2014, Teddy averaged 16.1 standard fantasy points per game.  Does anyone think Teddy will out-perform what was the best season Turner's ever had in his 24 years in the league, or even maintain his elite, final-four-games-of-the-year performance for a full 16-game season?  That would be an extremely high expectation, and I for one wouldn't expect that outcome at all.  Sure anything is possible, but when trying to make a realistic projection for Bridgewater, I think 14 fantasy points per game is right on the money.  It's almost exactly between Teddy's rookie year performance and River's best performance ever.  That projection represents an improvement for Teddy and keeps him well within the "normal" production ranges of a Turner offense.