All eyes on Teddy Bridgewater, like 98 other QBs since NFL-AFL merger

Between now and training camp, you won't be able to avoid hearing about Teddy Bridgewater being the key to the level of the success the 2016 Minnesota Vikings. He is the latest to be under the microscope, but far from the first.

Much of summer is going to be devoted to experts – real or imagined, local or national – opining on how 2016 is going to be a watershed year for Teddy Bridgewater. Around Minnesota, many analysts have been drinking stein-sized helpings of the Kool Aid being served up by the powers that be at Winter Park.

The Minnesota Vikings have gotten by pretty well in the modern-era of the NFL – since the 1970 NFL merger – 99 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round. The Vikings have accounted for four of those – Tommy Kramer, Daunte Culpepper, Christian Ponder and Bridgewater  and, to date, have no complaints with three of them.

In each of those 99 instances, the expectation has been that the player drafted would be the future face of the franchise. In more cases than not, it hasn’t panned out. When you put the entirety of the list in perspective, it’s rather eye-opening considering how many of them became trivia answers, not Hall of Famers.

Some teams haven’t dipped in the pool much at all in 46 years. The only QB Dallas has ever taken in the first round in that span was Troy Aikman and they have no complaints about it. The Saints haven’t taken a QB in the first round since 1971 when they drafted Archie Manning with the first pick.

On the flip side, Tennessee/Houston and Indianapolis/Baltimore have drafted six quarterbacks in the first round, each enjoying some success (the Colts more than the Oilers).  Several teams have a positive experience (for the most part) with first-round quarterbacks, including Atlanta, Carolina, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, New England, the Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. Others have been a hot garbage dumpster fire, including Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, the Jets, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. The rest have been a mixed bag – for every Jim Kelly and Aaron Rodgers, there has been a Rich Campbell and J.P. Losman.

Here is the full list of first-round quarterbacks since the merger. The players listed are with the current location of the franchise. For example, the Colts include players drafted by Indianapolis and Baltimore, the Cardinals include Arizona and St. Louis, etc. Four quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Jim Everett and John Elway) are listed with the team that drafted them – all four were subsequently traded, including Manning and Rivers for each other. First overall picks are denoted with an asterisk (*).

ARIZONA (3) – Matt Leinart (2004), Kelly Stouffer (1987), Steve Pisarkiewicz (1977).

ATLANTA (4) – Matt Ryan (2008), Michael Vick* (2001), Chris Miller (1987), Steve Bartkowski* (1975).

BALTIMORE (2) – Joe Flacco (2008), Kyle Boller (2003).

BUFFALO (3) – E.J. Manuel (2013), J.P. Losman (2004), Jim Kelly (1983).

CAROLINA (2) – Cam Newton* (2011), Kerry Collins (1995).

CHICAGO (4) – Rex Grossman (2003), Cade McCown (1999), Jim Harbaugh (1987), Jim McMahon (1982).

CINCINNATI (4) – Carson Palmer* (2003), Akili Smith (1999), David Klingler (1992), Jack Thompson (1979).

CLEVELAND (5) – Johnny Manziel (2014), Brandon Weeden (2012), Brady Quinn (2007), Tim Couch* (1999), Mike Phipps (1970).

DALLAS (1) – Troy Aikman* (1989).

DENVER (4) – Paxton Lynch (2016), Tim Tebow (2010), Jay Cutler (2004), Tommy Maddox (1992).

DETROIT (4) – Matthew Stafford* (2009), Joey Harrington (2002), Andre Ware (1990), Chuck Long (1986).

GREEN BAY (3) – Aaron Rodgers (2005), Rich Campbell (1981), Jerry Tagge (1972).

HOUSTON (1) – David Carr* (2002).

INDIANAPOLIS (6) – Andrew Luck* (2012), Peyton Manning* (1998), Jeff George* (1990), John Elway* (1983), Art Schlister (1982), Bert Jones (1973).

JACKSONVILLE (3) – Blake Bortles (2014), Blaine Gabbert (2011), Byron Leftwich (2003).

KANSAS CITY (2) – Todd Blackledge (1983), Steve Fuller (1979).

LOS ANGELES (2) – Jared Goff* (2016), Sam Bradford* (2010).

MIAMI (2) – Ryan Tannehill (2012), Dan Marino (1983).

MINNESOTA (4) – Teddy Bridgewater (2014), Christian Ponder (2011), Daunte Culpepper (1999), Tommy Kramer (1977).

NEW ENGLAND (3) – Drew Bledsoe* (1993), Tony Eason (1983), Jim Plunkett* (1971).

NEW ORLEANS (1) – Archie Manning (1971).

NEW YORK GIANTS (2) – Philip Rivers (2004), Phil Simms (1979).

NEW YORK JETS (4) – Mark Sanchez (2007), Chad Pennington (2000), Ken O’Brien (1983), Richard Todd (1976).

OAKLAND (3) – JaMarcus Russell* (2007), Todd Marinovich (1991), Marc Wilson (1980).

PHILADELPHIA (3) – Carson Wentz (2014), Donovan McNabb (1999), John Reaves (1972).

PITTSBURGH (3) – Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Malone (1980), Terry Bradshaw* (1970).

SAN DIEGO (2) – Eli Manning* (2004), Ryan Leaf (1998).

SAN FRANCISCO (2) – Alex Smith* (2005), Jim Druckenmiller (1997).

SEATTLE (2) – Rick Mirer (1993), Dan McGwire (1991).

TAMPA BAY (5) – Jameis Winston* (2015), Josh Freeman (2009), Trent Dilfer (1994), Vinny Testaverde* (1987), Doug Williams (1978).

TENNESSEE (6) – Marcus Mariota (2015), Jake Locker (2011), Vince Young (2006), Steve McNair (1995), Jim Everett (1984), Dan Pastorini (1971).

WASHINGTON (4) – Robert Griffin III (2012), Jason Campbell (2005), Patrick Ramsey (2002), Heath Shuler (1994).


The full expectation is that the Vikings have what it takes to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season. Much of that hope lies on Bridgewater becoming the quarterback that those around Winter Park believe he can be. If he does, the Vikings will continue a legacy of moderate success – all four of them have led their teams to the playoffs, but not the Big Dance. If he doesn’t, the empirical evidence says he would be far from alone for college quarterbacks who came into the NFL highly touted and well paid and didn’t deliver the goods.

The Vikings are convinced Bridgewater can be “The Man” and many respected national analysts are buying into it. For better or worse, the 2016 success rate for the Vikings will be largely tied to Teddy, as it is with just about any quarterback. The pressure is always intense for those quarterbacks to earn their first-round draft status and the expectations implicit with that kind of draft slotting. Some rise to the challenge. Others slip slide their way into obscurity. Bridgewater will be one of the latest in the Gang of 99 that will be under the microscope. 2016 could go a long way to determining what side of the scale of success he lands on.

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