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Full disclaimer: Several Minnesota Vikings writers at VikingsTerritory and PurplePTSD would have endorsed Teddy Bridgewater’s return to the Vikings at any point from 2016 to 2018 with a full throat. This should not be considered a “we told you so.” Instead, consider it a retrospective commentary. 

On several occasions in 2014 and 2015, there was a budding consensus that the Vikings finally nailed a quarterback draft pick – the first since Daunte Culpepper in 1999. That’s a 15-year gap which is substantial for a team that auditioned the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Brad Johnson, Christian Ponder, and [of course] Brett Favre during the period. 

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Bridgewater was momentarily the “we got it right” selection. The Ponder stench was deodorized. The rookie from Louisville, Bridgewater, was just 21 years old and played like a seasoned veteran in some late-game segments. 

It was short-lived. Very short-lived. Bridgewater was freakishly injured right before the 2016 regular season commenced, and the Vikings final hurrah with the iconic Adrian Peterson was in jeopardy. Minnesota instantly traded the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford, an experiment that was also abruptly abbreviated by injury.  

Once and for all, the Vikings sought a signal-caller renowned for durability. So, they paid Kirk Cousins in gold bars to join the franchise. Since his arrival, only Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady have thrown for more passing yards and touchdowns than Cousins. 

While debate curiously [still] persists on whether Cousins wasthe most sensible solution, Bridgewater was afforded a fresh start in New Orleans and then Carolina. It is now evident that had the Vikings opted for Bridgewater’s services during the 2018 offseason, that choice would have rendered an underwhelming verdict.

15 Passing TDs in 2020 – in 15 Games

Teddy Bridgewater delivered 15 touchdown passes in 15 games with the Panthers in 2020. There was a time in the NFL – like 40 years ago – when that would be sufficient. That time has long passed. For Bridgewater to maintain this pace, a defense reminiscent of 2000 Baltimore Ravens or 2013 Seattle Seahawks would be mandatory. Those don’t grow on trees. 

Indeed, 2020 was a single season, but Bridgewater produced a similar amount with the Vikings in 2015 amid the team’s second-to-last NFC North triumph. Hell, he did the same thing during his rookie campaign: 14 touchdowns in 2014, 14 touchdowns in 2015, 15 touchdowns in 2020. 

This is a pattern. 

NFL teams cannot routinely find success with a quarterback at a 15-touchdown clip. Perhaps the Vikings may have thrived with their 2017 defense (most quarterbacks would have) andBridgewater at the helm. Or perhaps he will throw more than 15 scores with a team in 2021. But those are severe what-ifs and maybes to entrust a franchise’s well-being.

WRs Galore in Carolina

Bridgewater appeared to have unlimited potential in 2014 and 2015 – assuredly his progress would escalate, right? We probably got that wrong. 

Former Ted Heads would love nothing more than to blame the system in Carolina. For a receiving corps in Carolina, however,Bridgewater has a cornucopia of weapons. D.J. Moore is dynamic and a Top 12 wide receiver in the league. Curtis Samuel is a Swiss army knife in the mold of Percy Harvin or Deebo Samuel. Robby Anderson was added from the New York Jets last year, and he is a very astute WR2. 

Bridgewater may have lost Christian McCaffrey early on in 2020, but that should have equaled more touchdowns passes – not less. Think of 2018 when the Vikings decided to throw the football more than usual with Dalvin Cook hurt. Kirk Cousins was on pace to shatter his career-high in everything before Mike Zimmer stepped in and terminated offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Losing McCaffrey should have been a blow to the Panthers enterprise on the whole, but this should have allotted Bridgewater a wide-open forum to showcase his passing talents. He didn’t do that, and the team finished the season with a 5-11 record.

Vikings Needed Volume Passer in 2020

The Vikings might have had some playoff visits with Bridgewater in 2017, 2018, or even 2019. That is a revisionist scenario in which the answer is unobtainable. Yet, what about 2020? The team fought roster turnover and injury from the onset. A miserable 1-5 start skewered any enthusiasm associated with the team. 

After the bye week, though, the team rekindled. Dalvin Cook went on a tear, and the quarterback that Minnesota did choose in 2018 threw 35 total touchdowns. Both Cook and Cousins’ playmaking was requisite in temporarily revitalizing the season. Bridgewater’s 15 touchdowns per season are not a blueprint to overcome a leaky defense. A trashy defense absolutely demands a high-octane offense to bring the team closer to a .500 record. Cousins helped achieve that. A Bridgewater-led Vikings team in 2020 would probably finish worse than the 2020 Panthers — who won just five games.  

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Belly Kilmer
1 month ago

Nice article. It’s debatable if this was Cousins’ best season in Minny. After all, he made the Pro Bowl the previous season and was among the top 3-5 in NFL MVP odds for much of that season. There also was the playoff victory and its eye opening final drive.

One other minor point is the article makes the point that Cousins was on track to surpass his career performance in every statistical category before Zimmer fired John DeFilippo. Not sure that’s the case. As an example of one key measure, Cousins threw for 5,000 passing yards one of his seasons in Washington.