Mike Zimmer knows his reputation as an often-animated head coach, so he figures there is a good balancing act between his demeanor and that of his rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is the almost-stoic face of calm and poise. Zimmer can tear a blue streak into his players when he isn’t happy with their performance.
“He’s like the anti-me,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater’s presence. “No, he’s very calm all the time. He’s very even-tempered. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen him upset that you can visually see and I have not seen it.”
It’s almost the opposite of what the Minnesota Vikings had the past few years. Former coach Leslie Frazier was the depiction of calm while young quarterback Christian Ponder portrayed the part of the easily frazzled signal-caller.
While Zimmer wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive performance last week, he continued to switch back and forth from criticizing the defense to praising his quarterback. It isn’t empty praise, either.
Bridgewater has proven to be quite the quick learner. His rating has been above 100 in three of the last four games, a string in which he has thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
“Each week we’ve made improvements. (Offensive coordinator) Norv Turner said something to us back in training camp. He told us that, ‘Hey, come December, you’re going to be playing your best football,’” Bridgewater said. “You look at the numbers, I know we haven’t gotten a win the past two games, but we’ve been playing at a higher level. It’s a good sign for down the road.”
Bridgewater is poised to blow past the Vikings’ franchise record for rookie quarterback rating. With one game to go in his rookie season, he has an 84.9 passer rating, far better than second-place Fran Tarkenton’s 74.7 in 1961 and third-place Christian Ponder’s 70.1 in 2011.
One of the keys has been Bridgewater’s poise in the pocket.
“The touchdown that he threw to Jarius (Wright), I mean he had people all over him and shot it in there,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s got a great feel in the pocket. He looks downfield but he’s got that peripheral vision where he sees the guy on the right coming up the field and so he steps up and maybe moves a little bit to his right to buy himself a little bit more time. … And the second thing he’s got – and he does it every day in practice, every day in the walk-through – he goes through his progressions, he throws the ball and then you’ll see him, okay I’ve got a check down here and I’ve got a spot route over here or whatever – and that’s the other thing he’s doing well, too, is when things break down down the field, he’s not afraid to find the check-down and get it to a back.”
Those are all things that speak to Bridgewater’s maturity, study habits and his poise and presence. Still, he, like Zimmer, claims he wasn’t happy with last week’s performance, as the Vikings blew their chance to finish the season with a .500 record.
“I was pretty upset this weekend. This past weekend, it’s one of those deals where we just let a game get away,” Bridgewater said.
“I kept it in. I try not to show it. I just try to remain composed throughout the course of the game. You know the camera is always on you at this position. For me, I just grab a towel, squeeze it, take my anger out on the towel, and just don’t let it show.”
At times, it appears Zimmer would like to squeeze more than a towel. He doesn’t seem to care about shielding his feelings. Everson Griffen said Zimmer was “mad” last week. Sharrif Floyd described the coach as “livid.”
Bridgewater, meanwhile, rarely shows much emotion at all, but his work ethic displays how seriously he takes his job.
In a way, Bridgewater and Zimmer are the new Odd Couple that should be the presence of the purple for years to come. One is the tough-talking head coach. The other is the even-keel signal-caller.
“Maybe we’ll both move to a little closer, maybe I’ll settle down and he’ll get going, I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “I just want Teddy to be him and I’m always going to be me. That’s one thing that the players, whether they like it or not, they know I’m going to be me. They know that Teddy is going to be Teddy – good, bad or indifferent.”
Zimmer: Bridgewater is the ‘anti-me’
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