Turner: Teddy’s a ‘top-flight QB’
While fans are giddy about the possibilities for the 2015 Minnesota Vikings offense with Adrian Peterson back, Teddy Bridgewater entrenched as the starter and Mike Wallace giving the Vikings their most explosive deep threat since Randy Moss’ first run with the team, offensive coordinator Norv Turner made a point Monday to dial back the enthusiasm.
In fact, Turner was so low key it was hard to imagine he’s excited, despite clearly being happy with the potential of the team. When it came to discussing Bridgewater, Turner shot down the notion that Teddy will automatically be better in his second season because of the experience he gained. Turner is a believer that evaluating a quarterback is based more on consistency within games and from one game to the next, not that a lightbulb magically turns on in an offseason. He’s looking for consistency and Bridgewater brought that as last season moved along and he got in a comfort zone as a starter.
“I don’t break it down Year One, Year Two,” Zimmer said. “I break it down in terms of his normal progression. The way he went through the season, we saw him improve dramatically as the season went on. At the quarterback position, there’s always going to be ups and downs. I think the strength Teddy has, he has the mentality, the approach and the demeanor that he doesn’t get affected too greatly by the highs and he doesn’t get affected too greatly by the lows. I just want to see Teddy continue to grow in his understanding and his physical skills and going out and playing.”
When it comes to evaluating a quarterback like Bridgewater, Turner doesn’t care about numbers or passer rating stats – even though they are a strong determining factor as to the effectiveness or lack of it a quarterback possesses. A year ago, the NFL was downplaying Bridgewater’s potential, as evidenced by him lasting until the final pick of the first round. Now things have changed and Bridgewater has become a darling of the media ready for a breakout season.
Turner refuses to get caught up in Teddy Mania because he simply doesn’t respect the opinions of a lot of analysts – many of whom are the same ones that savaged Bridgewater following his pro day and now are singing his praises. Turner’s evaluation of Bridgewater and other young quarterbacks is based on how he sees that player operating in his offense. From that perspective, he thinks Bridgewater is an ideal fit and on the cusp of being an elite quarterback.
“You try not to pay attention to those things or see them,” Turner said. “I see some of the rankings and none of them matter because, obviously, how he plays is the key. I have not been around very many guys, there are only four or five guys I would trust in talking to and evaluating quarterbacks because I don’t think there are many guys that understand what you’re trying to do at the position and understand the evaluation process. That really makes those evaluations less meaningful. The one evaluation we care about is ours and I think based on where we got to last year and where we think we’re going, I think we have a top-flight quarterback.”
When topics changed to the return of Peterson and the addition of Wallace to help make life easier on Bridgewater, Turner downplayed their individual prowess, focusing more on the offense as a unit. If one player is playing at a high level, it will have a natural ripple effect throughout the offense and, although he freely admits both Peterson and Wallace are weapons, they’re important cogs in the machine, not the engine that runs it alone.
“I don’t look at it in those terms,” Turner said. “I think what you need to do is get 11 really good players on the field if you’re going to be a good team. We want to have 15 or 16 starters so we have a lot of guys that contribute. If you have a big-time (player) – one of the best players I’ve ever been around, and certainly one of the best running backs, a runner like Adrian – to me, the number one thing he brings is production. He’s hard to tackle and he’s going to run for yards and he’s going to score a touchdown so that’s going to help our team. Obviously, are there residual benefits for Teddy? Yeah. But that’s not the issue. The issue is how do we help our offense? Wallace is a big-play receiver. He’s a guy that matched up, singled up, he should be productive. I think the production is where I look, and it’s not based on does it help Teddy or not help Teddy, does it help the left tackle, does it help the right guard? Every good player you have helps everyone.”
There has been the belief that, when Bridgewater was pressed into starting duty, Turner reduced the size of the playbook and kept things simple early on – not taking off the leash until later in the season. Turner countered that by saying Bridgewater’s first few starts came against some of the league’s best defenses – groups that routinely shut down or limited opposing offenses.
It wasn’t always pretty, especially early on, but the key in Turner’s view was the incremental progression Bridgewater and his makeshift offense were able to do as the season wore on.
“There were times obviously in the middle where we struggled,” Turner said. “We played some really good defenses and when I look at tape and see some good offenses struggle against the same defenses, I have a better understanding of why. I think we did the things we wanted to do with the group we had. I didn’t feel limited. I thought we had a good chance to win when we went out and played during the second half of the season. We won games on the last play of the game. We won games in the last two minutes. We lost a couple of games in the last two minutes. In that last seven-game stretch, we were certainly competitive.”
It may sound like Turner is more like Buzz Killington than a rah-rah type of guy when it comes to the Vikings’ prospects on offense in 2015. The expectation is that the group will be improved across the board this season, but Turner has been around too long to get caught up in the hype. In fact, he isn’t satisfied with where the team is at. He likes their chances but isn’t complacent about it … and may never be.
“If you ask the players that have been around me, they’ll tell you that it’s never where I want it to be,” Turner said. “It’s never going to be where I want it to be. We have a lot better understanding of what we’re doing. We practice faster. We’re a lot more efficient. We’re not real good right now, but we have a chance to be. We just have a lot of work to do.”
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