Sometimes, the history of the Minnesota Vikings feels like one big ‘what if’. What if the 1969 Vikings play like they’re supposed to, and beat the Chiefs in SB IV? It might change the whole mentality of the team, lead to a couple more Super Bowl wins, and reverse the fortunes of the franchise.
What if Drew Pearson is called for offensive PI? What if Brent McClanahan doesn’t fumble on the one yard line early in Super Bowl XI? What if Gary Anderson doesn’t miss? What if...man it just goes on and on.
The Teddy Bridgewater injury might be the biggest ‘what if’ that’s hit this franchise since the 1970’s, and most certainly since the 1998 NFC Championship game.
In 2016, the Vikings were poised to take that mythical next step. After an encouraging 2015 season saw them go 11-5 and win the NFC North, big things were expected. And it was Bridgewater that was going to lead the way. Pre-season is the pre-season, I get it, but man, he looked fantastic early on, and it looked like he was was building some serious chemistry with Laquon Treadwell and Charles Johnson.
Then...disaster. Teddy blows out his knee during a non-contact drill eight days before the regular season, the Vikings trade for Sam Bradford two days after that, and the immediate and future plans of the Vikings are thrown into chaos. So, let’s ask the question:
What if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t blow out his knee?
You can drive yourself crazy over this one. The first domino that doesn’t fall is that they don’t trade for Sam Bradford. If they don’t make that trade, they have a first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and that leads down a whole new ‘what if’ in terms of where they’re selecting, who’s available, and whether or not they select Dalvin Cook in the second round...or the first round. More on that in a bit. Let’s get back to a 2016 season with bridgewater as the starting QB.
Is 11-5 a reasonable expectation in 2016 as a repeat from 2015, assuming Bridgewater is healthy? That’s another healthy debate. The Vikings offense was steamrolled by injuries, from Adrian Peterson missing most of the year, to just about everyone on the offensive line, and the never ending o-line combos that ensued from that. The offense had no running game at all, so everything would have fallen on Bridgewater and the passing game. So that begs the question—do Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs emerge? Teddy had developed a rapport with Charles Johnson, and early on he was the starter. When you look back at some film of the 2016 season, for whatever reason Bradford developed more of a comfort level with Thielen and Diggs than he did Treadwell and Johnson...but that’s not to say those guys weren’t open. They were. Does Teddy throw more to those guys than he does Diggs/Thielen? I think it’s a reasonable expectation. I still think Diggs emerges, but Thielen? I don’t know that he would have gotten as many early opportunities if Teddy is throwing to CJ and Tread, and they’re making catches as opposed to struggling. So that possibly means CJ isn’t a bust and doesn’t get released and his wife doesn’t yell at me on Twitter (true story lol), Treadwell is emerging as a reliable guy and a solid first round pick, and Thielen might still be fringe roster guy fighting for snaps behind those two and Diggs.
I think the Vikings probably win one or two more games with Teddy than they would have with Sam, maybe three (the two Detroit games and the Dallas game jump immediately to mind, possibly the Redskins game). Teddy’s mobility was tailor made for moving up in the pocket behind that porous line, and I think he’d make 2-3 more plays a game that Sam just physically couldn’t do. So now you’re looking at 10-6 or 11-5. 10-6 is a wildcard, minimum (I’m not going to go through the tiebreakers, sorry not sorry), and 11-5 is another division title (division winner Green Bay was 10-6). Either way, they’re in the playoffs. Let’s say they win a wild card game and lose in the divisional round, as I just don’t see them getting past either the Falcons or Cowboys with all the injuries that had piled up.
So, back to the draft. No Bradford trade puts them back in the first round, picking in the 20’s. Seattle had the 26th pick originally, and Dallas picked 28th, so Minnesota selects somewhere in there. You can make a solid argument that they still draft Dalvin Cook late in the first round, as they moved up in the second to pick him, and then they go ahead and select Pat Elflein in the second round, as they moved up in early in the third to get him. Still, who knows what happens? We don’t know what their board looked like, and there very possibly could have selected CB Tre’Davious White, or an OL like Ryan Ramczyk. Hard to say, though, as they signed both Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in free agency, which I still think they certainly would have done regardless of who the QB was.
But let’s say that they still finish 8-8, which is a real possibility because of the o-line. Now, they’re picking 14th, and there’s almost no way they draft Cook, not after signing Latavius Murray as a free agent. Cook makes sense as a lte first round drop, but not here in the middle of the first round. Since Zim loves CB’s, maybe they target Malik Hooker or Marlon Humphrey, or trade down. Maybe they target somewhere else on defense, that’s hard to say.
But I’m reasonably confident that if Minnesota is selecting 14 or higher, they don’t draft Dalvin Cook.
If Teddy doesn’t blow out his knee he’s the long term QB, almost certainly gets an extension that’s probably a fair amount less than Kirk Cousins got, and Cousins goes to either the Jets or the Broncos in free agency. The angst some of the fans are feeling over the contract extensions of Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs is no longer there, as they’d have plenty of money to sign all three with a lower Bridgewater contract number.
And I’m still doing a Bridgewater Underground post every now and then, because a fair amount of the fan base would probably still think Teddy sucks. Just sayin’.
But Teddy’s knee did get blown up by ISIS, and he’s now on the Jets. The Vikes traded for Sam Bradford, lol he got hurt in week one last year after taking a beating in 2016, and somehow the Vikes still went 13-3 and signed Kirk Cousins in the off-season.
Football is crazy.