Despite an impressive start to Teddy Bridgewater’s rookie offseason, Mike Zimmer is going into training camp with Matt Cassel as the No. 1 quarterback. But Zimmer isn’t committing to any quarterback long-term, resolute to let their performance in training camp and the preseason dictate who should be the starter when the regular season opens.
Zimmer said the practice reps to start training camp won’t be completely even, but he isn’t going to start treating anyone – the veteran Cassel, the rookie Bridgewater or the 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder – as the unquestioned starter as training camp kicks off Friday.
“In my mind, I have Cassel as the No. 1 quarterback going into camp. I don’t have a starter in mind yet,” Zimmer said. “They’re going to determine who the starter is on the practice field about how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games.”
Cassel took most of the first-team reps throughout offseason practices and Ponder was the clear loser, but Bridgewater also started to receive some quality snaps with the starters during portions of the offseason.
Bridgewater appears to be a legitimate competition for Cassel’s status as No. 1, and the rookie spent the last month critiquing his film from minicamps and organized team activities in May and June.
“I’m big on correcting my mistakes. While we’re here in training camp, my biggest goal is going to be to not make the same mistake twice,” Bridgewater said. “I was able to watch the film this past month that we had off and try to continue to get better off what happened in the OTAs and minicamp.
“I watch everything. You can learn from a good play and you can learn from a bad play. With the bad plays, I train myself not to make that mistake twice. With the good plays, there’s always something you could do better, whether it’s your footwork, your drop-back. I’m always trying to find ways to improve.”
Running back Adrian Peterson would just like the Vikings’ revolving door at the quarterback position to end. When he started his career, Tarvaris Jackson was the starter and Kelly Holcomb the backup in 2007. Then it was Gus Frerotte and Jackson. In 2009, it was all Brett Favre. In 2010, Jackson and Joe Webb split the three games that Favre couldn’t play. Then came Donovan McNabb, the start of the Ponder era, and then the transition to Cassel with a brief, epic failure of an appearance by Josh Freeman.
In other words, Peterson has been through his share of quarterback instability with the Vikings.
“It’s not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn’t played well, but that’s why you bring guys in, you improve as an individual and you try to take steps forward,” Peterson said. “From what I’ve been able to see from Christian and Matt, those guys have done that and that’s the approach that they’re taking. That’s all you can really ask.”
Peterson called Cassel “our guy,” but said he’s confident the coaches will pick the best quarterback for the team.
General manager Rick Spielman said all the quarterbacks have improved and put in the time to learn the system being implemented by offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and Spielman reiterated that Zimmer will have an open competition for the positon. Realistically, however, the competition is likely down to Cassel and Bridgewater.
“Teddy has been very impressive,” Spielman said. “He’s still a young quarterback. He’s going to have some growing pains as we go through this, but he’s been extremely impressive in his approach, not only what he’s doing on the field, but what he does off the field, how hard he works and how hard he’s studying to learn Norv’s system.”
Zimmer said he wants every player to compete for every position, but the most scrutinized position will be the one that hasn’t seen a three-year starter since the days of Daunte Culpepper.
Zimmer reiterated he isn’t afraid to play a rookie quarterback, but he also said he isn’t afraid to make a change if he believes he made a mistake with his first starter.
“If we do make a mistake, pick the wrong guy … then we’ll try to fix it at that time. That’s part of adjusting,” he said. “I have no problem playing a rookie quarterback, or a ninth-year veteran or a fourth-year veteran. We’re going to do what we think is best collectively as a group. I’m lucky as heck to have Norv Turner here to help with this decision.”
Ultimately, quarterbacks, coaches and general managers are all judged on wins. Therefore, the quarterback that gives the coach and general manager the best chance to be attached to a winning record is the one that will start.
“In a perfect world, I want the best quarterback,” Spielman said, “and we want the best quarterback that’s going to help us win ballgames.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Zimmer assesses his quarterback quandary
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