I mentioned earlier in the week that this was “What If” week around the SB Nation family of NFL blogs. It’s a topic that I’ve mostly avoided for the majority of the week because, let’s be honest, the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings is just one damn “What if” after another, isn’t it?
- What if Drew Pearson doesn’t push off?
- What if Darrin Nelson catches the ball?
- What if Gary Anderson makes the kick?
- What if Blair Walsh makes the kick?
And a bunch of other ones that I’m not going to get into. We’ve done it before, for the most part.
But, there is one from very recent Vikings history that I’m going to address, because it’s arguably the most impactful.
What if Teddy Bridgewater’s leg hadn’t damn near fallen off in August of 2016 when he wasn’t doing anything more than a run-of-the-mill dropback during the last practice before the start of the regular season?
There’s a whole domino effect that comes from this, but we’ll go through it in order.
For starters, I firmly believe that the Vikings damn sure would have been better than 8-8 in 2016. Bridgewater was outstanding in the preseason in 2016, and really looked like he had turned a corner.
Sure, it’s entirely possible that Adrian Peterson still would have gotten hurt as he did in Sam Bradford’s debut as Vikings’ quarterback and missed the majority of the season. But, you know, Bridgewater didn’t share a backfield with Peterson at all during his rookie season because of Peterson’s suspension, and he got better as that season progressed, so I don’t know if that would have been a factor that made a ton of difference.
Oh, and speaking of Bradford, obviously the Vikings don’t make the trade for him if Bridgewater remains healthy, meaning that they they would have had their first round pick in 2017. Who knows what could have happened as a result of that?
In addition to that, the Vikings could have gone out and done even more in the offseason before the 2017 season. Bradford had a cap hit in 2017 of $18 million, while Bridgewater’s was just a shade over $2 million because he was in the final year of his rookie contract. That’s $16 million that the team could have used on. . .well, anything but writing checks to Sam Bradford.
Of course, this also means that there’s likely no Case Keenum, likely no Minneapolis Miracle, and likely no run to the 2017 NFC Championship Game. But, that wouldn’t have mattered. Because I firmly believe that, had Teddy Bridgewater stayed healthy and on the track that he was developing on, the Vikings would have gotten themselves a championship without all that.
You can call me biased or call me a homer or whatever, but the truth is that Bridgewater was on the road to being a star before he got hurt. His detractors like to point out his stats from his 2015 season (such as OMG HE ONLY HAD 14 TD PASSES), but if you watched Teddy Bridgewater in 2015 and came to the conclusion that he wasn’t very good, then you’re a fool. That’s about as politely as I can put it.
Bridgewater had also developed a chemistry with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and the resources that the Vikings could have saved by leaning on a quarterback on his rookie contract. . .which seems to be the new way of doing things in the NFL. . .could have been used on either finding a suitable replacement for Peterson or shoring up the offensive line. The 2017 team was outstanding with a porous offensive line and a journeyman at the quarterback position in Case Keenum, so it’s not a huge leap to suggest that a Vikings team led by a healthy Teddy Bridgewater would have had an outstanding chance of capturing the big, silver trophy.
There are a lot of “What Ifs” in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. But, quite honestly, there might not be one that’s more depressing than how much different things could have been had the guy that the Vikings chose to be their franchise quarterback could have fulfilled that role for more than a couple of seasons.