Spielman: ‘Growing pains’ part of QB process

Vikings GM Rick Spielman sees signs of progress with Teddy Bridgewater as the team tries to build a complete, long-term solution with Bridgewater at quarterback.

Rick Spielman sees a promising work in progress with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Spielman, the Minnesota Vikings general manager, discussed a variety of topics and players earlier this week as the team prepared for a few days off with their bye on Sunday, and Bridgewater’s performance to date was one of the main topics of conversation.

The biggest takeaway? Spielman sees much of what the public sees when looking at Bridgewater: a poised, confident quarterback that is still developing and learning.

“Nothing rattles the kid,” Spielman said.

It does appear that way. Bridgewater had quick success, endured a rough patch and is now hoping he has seen the worst of it.

While Bridgewater doesn’t rank in the top 20 in most passing categories, he does fit there when the game is on the line. He has completed 55.6 percent of his passes when it’s “late and close,” according to STATS, which is 20th in the league. He’s 16th in the league when it’s third-and-long with a 34.8 completion percentage.

“The one thing you can say about Teddy is, no matter what’s happening, there is a calmness or a demeanor about him that you can’t coach,” Spielman said. “That shows up especially in critical situations in a game.”

Bridgewater’s best game so far was also his first start, when he threw for 317 yards, averaged 10.57 yards per attempt and ended with a 98.9 rating against the Atlanta Falcons.

Since then he hasn’t thrown for more than 270 yards, hasn’t had a game averaging more than 7 yards per attempt and hasn’t had a rating in 90s. But he’s getting closer.

“All of a sudden he starts seeing some different things, and he had to grow through that process, but each week you see him doing things differently, and each week it’s something new that he’s seeing that he’s growing into,” Spielman said.

Coming back from an ankle injury, his next two games featured a combined five interceptions, 13 sacks and only one touchdown, and didn’t have a rating above 60 in either of them.

Since then, however, his last two performances have shown signs of progress. He has a passing touchdown in each of his last two games and no interceptions, has taken a combined three sacks and both of his last two passer ratings were above 80.

He is 3-2 as a starter, with all three wins requiring a fourth-quarter comeback, including the last two needing a score in the final five minutes.

Bridgewater is still learning, for sure. He’s trying to get the ball out of his hand quicker to avoid the sacks, and after a two-game stretch with 13 sacks, he has been sacked only three times in the last two games.

He’s beginning to figure out that sometimes it’s better to run for a first down than force a pass downfield. And he hopes to improve his deep-ball accuracy.

But Spielman likes what he sees from Bridgewater on third downs and against the blitz.

“All those things, there were signs of that in college, and that’s what he did well in college, and I think the more he learns, the more he progresses, it’s just going to continue to grow,” Spielman said. “And I know (offensive coordinator Norv) Turner and coach (Mike) Zimmer are not afraid. They’re going to keep taking those deep shots down the field because eventually that timing’s going to click as well.”

Spielman is hoping that some consistency in personnel (and possibly some additions) will help, too. There is a possibility of getting star running back Adrian Peterson back after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault. And tight end Kyle Rudolph might be available after the bye week, too.

Through it all, Spielman continues to see signs of progress for the rookie quarterback.

“There’s no magic wand that you can just sprinkle: this is what it’s going to look like now and it’s going to be the same,” Spielman said. “It’s a process and you just have to be patient and go through some of those growing pains as you go through this process.”

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