Terry Bradshaw didn’t think Teddy Bridgewater would be all that good of an NFL player coming out of Louisville, but Bradshaw admitted that Bridgewater’s rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings impressed him.
“He seems like he really understands the game, doesn’t panic, cool in the pocket, which is most important,” Bradshaw said while attending an awards ceremony to honor Bridgewater as the Pepsi Rookie of the Year before the Super Bowl. “Smart, got rid of the ball quickly. Very impressed with Teddy.”
Bradshaw’s predraft assessment of Bridgewater was muddled, he said, because he wasn’t sure what to expect from a Louisville product in the NFL.
“So many flaws are covered up in college offenses and he’s not that big a guy,” Bradshaw said. “Too much time to throw. Maybe it’s Louisville, too, like Louisiana Tech, I just wasn’t impressed with him. So when Minnesota drafted him I didn’t give it any thought. But I knew he was going to (offensive coordinator) Norv Turner and Norv Turner is awesome. Teddy has earned accolades from me and that’s good because there are a lot of guys that I really liked that turned out to be nothing. Nothing! Nothing! Absolutely nothing!”
Bridgewater got thrust into a starting role in his rookie season when veteran Matt Cassel was lost for the season in Week 3, when he suffered broken bones in his foot. Bridgewater went 6-6 as a starter and ended up with the third-highest completion percentage from a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Dan Marino, who like Bradshaw is a Hall of Fame quarterback, needled Bradshaw’s assessment, but Marino followed Bridgewater’s pre-NFL career a little closer.
“I don’t know him, but I followed him a little bit in high school because I like to do that in South Florida and Louisville and he’s a tough kid and had a lot of success,” Marino said. “Teddy played well. I think as a rookie anytime you continue to grow from your first start until the end of the season, which it looked like he did.”
Despite his predraft intel on Bridgewater, Marino admitted he wasn’t sure how Bridgewater would perform in his first season, especially since he was going to a team that had a losing record the year before.
Bridgewater got his first opportunity to play when Cassel was injured against the New Orleans Saints. Standing on the other sideline that day was Drew Brees, who could contend for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too, once his career is over.
“I thought he handled the situation very well,” Brees said of Bridgewater’s initial regular-season outing. “The next week they played Atlanta and he played fantastic and I guess he had the ankle and missed the next game. But overall I thought he was very consistent and seemed to play pretty smart football. It was probably a difficult situation, too, with Adrian Peterson and everything. He didn’t have him to rely on. Obviously that’s an important thing for a quarterback. They always say a quarterback’s best friend is a great defense and a good run game. I’m sure he would miss a guy like that. I thought he handled the situation very well. It’s not easy to do.”
Bridgewater finished his rookie season completing 259 of 402 passes (64.4 percent) for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 85.2 rating. He had a rating above 84 in each of his last six games, including three above 110.
“He’ll grow, get better, smarter,” Bradshaw said. “The main thing is to be smarter. They’ll commit to him, so now they’ll build around him.”
Still, Brees indicated that it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that Bridgewater will make a big jump in his second season. It’s not always that easy.
Brees started only two games as a rookie with the San Diego Chargers in 2001. His next season, he started all 16 games, but in 2003 his completion percentage, yards per game and passer rating all dropped from his previous year.
“It’s kind of a trap, a little bit, especially if you have success your rookie year,” he said when asked about a quarterback’s second year as a starter. “I think the tendency, human nature, is that you relax a little bit and feel like you’ve kind of arrived. That’s not the case. This game is so difficult and there’s always something to prove; there’s always another challenge around the corner. I know each team has a lot of aspirations to do great things.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike Zimmer. I think he’s going to do a great job with the defense. I think Teddy’s focus should be on just constant improvement, being a great leader, both with what he says but more importantly with the way that he carries himself and how he works. That will speak volumes for his team and puts him in the best position to succeed.”
Bridgewater impressed Hall of Fame QBs
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