The primary focus surrounding Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater this offseason has been the increased emphasis on throwing the deep ball. Everyone, from fans to his coaches, wants to see him attack defenses downfield more this season and a lot of people seem to be tying his success doing that into the success the Vikings team as a whole will have in 2016.
It is Bridgewater’s third year in the NFL and he has proved that he has the ability to win games in the NFL – he has a 17-11 regular-season record as a starter, but he has never really had to put his team on his back and win many games himself. So how does one measure his growth?
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t really know the answer to that question because he believes the most important thing a quarterback can do is win games, which Bridgewater has clearly done.
“I don’t know how you measure how much of a step you take. I still go back to great quarterbacks win and that’s the thing that this guy does. He’s a winner,” Zimmer said. “Whatever it (his record) is, he wins games and to me that’s the most important thing.”
Another important aspect of a quarterback’s job, though, is being a leader for his team and becoming the face of the franchise. While the face of the Vikings’ franchise is still running back Adrian Peterson, Bridgewater is becoming the offense’s leader out on the field and he seems to have truly embraced the role as he now enters into his third season in the NFL.
A quarterback needs to be able to control the huddle and make sure every player in it respects him and listens to what he has to say. It can be an intimidating experience for a young player when they are surrounded by a bunch of veterans, but when Bridgewater was asked about the experience, he was nothing but smiles.
“It’s great. You walk in that huddle, and all 10 guys, eyes are on you, and it’s silent,” Bridgewater began. “And talk about having total control, I love it ... (John Sullivan) may be talking before I get in the huddle, talking to the linemen and things like that. (Charles Johnson) might be talking to the wide receivers. Adrian and the backs and tight ends might be talking, but when I step foot in that huddle, it’s all silent. They’re all tuned in, and that’s one thing I like about these guys.”
It wasn’t always like that for Bridgewater, though. He went through a learning experience his first couple years where he would watch the veterans on the team and how they ran the huddles, especially those on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’ve been able to sit back and watch Chad Greenway, the way he leads the defense,” Bridgewater explained. “Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph, those guys have command when they walk in those huddles. It’s the same on the offensive side of the ball.”
But the young quarterback made sure to do more than just watch those veterans command their huddles. He would pick their brains about how to go about it and what goes into commanding the respect of those around you.
Joesph had the locker right next to Bridgewater during the quarterback’s rookie season, so the two had those conversations. He wanted to learn what it took to be a great player in the NFL, so he would talk to and learn from the defensive leaders on the team.
“My rookie year my locker was next to Linval Joseph,” he said. “And every day I used to just talk to him, just pick his brain and things like that, and Everson Griffen is another guy that I talk to. When you watch those guys every play, those never take a play off. They’ve worked extremely hard and they’re vocal guys and they have that mindset that they’re the best in the league at what they do. So, just watching those guys the way they compete, the way they prepare before games, you know it just motivates me to be just like those guys.”
Bridgewater said that there was not really one specific thing that stood out to him because there were so many things he learned from Joseph and the other veterans on the defensive side of the ball. He just tried to be a sponge, take in everything they taught him and then use it on the field and in the offensive huddle.
While many people want to judge Bridgewater’s progression this season by the way he throws the deep ball, or the statistics he puts up, it’s important to remember that there is more to playing the quarterback position than that. He has spent his first two seasons learning how to become a leader for his team and now he seems to truly love that role as he heads into his third season.