There are probably going to be multiple pieces like this today. This one is mine.
I want to start this piece out with some positive news, because Lord knows that after yesterday we could use some. So, I wanted to let everybody know that at my location, approximately seven hours ahead of U.S. Central time, the sun did in fact come up this morning. . .just as Mike Zimmer predicted it would. It also appears that the Minnesota Vikings have not cancelled their 2016 season and will play all 16 games that they’re currently scheduled for.
Like everyone else, I expected yesterday’s big news story from Winter Park to be the team parting ways with center John Sullivan. Then, at around 2 PM Central time, all of that changed with the news of Teddy Bridgewater’s injury. Coming off of a preseason performance that was positively inspired and an offseason that has been filled with so much promise, it was awful news for this team and its fans. Back in June, I made my declaration that Bridgewater was the Vikings’ most irreplaceable offensive player. Now, unfortunately, we’re going to get an opportunity to find out whether or not I was right. . .the hard way.
In the National Football League, teams generally have strengths and weaknesses, and they attempt to do what they can to mitigate those. We generally praise Rick Spielman for the job that he’s done in limiting the weaknesses that this roster has, particularly from when he was given the reigns as the full-time General Manager. All NFL GMs have to take gambles, and for all the good things that Spielman has done, he made the decision that he could gamble on Teddy Bridgewater’s health. That’s a gamble that, as of 2 PM Central on Tuesday, he’s officially lost. . .at least for now.
The fact that this happened yesterday is irrelevant. Teddy Bridgewater could have gotten hurt yesterday, he could have gotten hurt on the first snap in Week 1 in Tennessee, he could have gotten hurt in Week 8, he could have fallen in the shower and hurt his back or something. . .it doesn’t particularly matter. The Vikings knew that, in the event that something happened to Bridgewater, their primary options would be a guy that’s old enough to have NFL Europe experience on his resume (Shaun Hill), a guy that showed up to camp with his foot in a cast after losing a fight with his friend’s apartment door (Taylor Heinicke), or a guy that struggled in a run-heavy offense in college (Joel Stave).
Does this suck? Hell yes, it sucks. You’re damn right it sucks. Because this was going to be the year that Teddy Bridgewater went out and shut a lot of mouths and demonstrated why Vikings fans were so much higher on him than the boxscore scouts throughout the league. Now, that won’t happen until 2017.
So now, we have to hope that the Vikings’ offensive line is, in fact, improved. Teddy Bridgewater got sacked 44 times in 2015, and was the most pressured quarterback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, so there’s no telling how many additional sacks he avoided. Shaun Hill? Probably not going to be avoiding nearly as many sacks. If the offensive line isn’t better, we’re going to be transitioning from Hill to Heinicke or Stave sooner rather than later. We also get to see if Adrian Peterson is going to be able to continue winning his battle against Father Time. For the sake of the Vikings’ defense, who are going to need the occasional break from being awesome, we’d better hope so.
But all is not lost. . .at least, I don’t think so. To echo a sentiment that was repeated many times around social media yesterday, this team couldn’t possibly have a better coach for this situation than Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, who was clearly emotional at yesterday’s press conference following Bridgewater’s injury, said all the right things and demonstrated quite clearly why his players love to play for him.
Mike Zimmer has been through the proverbial wringer, both personally and professionally. He had to wait much, much longer than he realistically should have to be a head coach in this league, and has demonstrated that in his first two years at the helm in Minnesota. He went through the sudden death of his wife, Vikki, seven years ago. . .an event that he brought up during his press conference yesterday in conjunction with his remark about the sun coming up the next day. The man, despite the occasional burst of emotion, is just about as unflappable as they come as a head coach in the National Football League.
In his first two years in Minnesota, Zimmer has relished portraying the Vikings in the role of the underdog. Until yesterday, depending on who you talked to, that may or may not have been true about the 2016 season. After yesterday, there’s no doubt that the Vikings are back in the underdog role once again. If anyone can get this team to rally and play their collective ass off for their injured leader, it’s Mike Zimmer.
To borrow the words of a great American philosopher, it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, and it ain’t over now. . .because when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Whatever else happens with this team, whether it’s now or over the course of the 2016 season, they’re going to be tough, because that’s what Mike Zimmer has turned this team into.
The narrative of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 season underwent one hell of a change on Tuesday afternoon. But even though some of the characters may have changed, the potential is still there for a pretty damn good story to be told.
We’ll be here. Hopefully everyone else will be, too.