When a quarterback gets drafted in the first round, there is an expectation of greatness. Over the last decade, all four teams in the NFC North have found first-round quarterbacks on their rosters. Three teams have dipped their toe in the first-round pool and the Vikings have done it twice. Chicago gave up first-round picks to get a QB with a little patina on him.
He wasn’t the first. That would be Christian Ponder. When Ponder arrived, he was the new kid on a young block. The Vikings were late to the party. When he came on board in the strike-scuttled season of 2011, he came in blind to a division that had young guns firing real bullets. They had something to prove and Ponder didn’t have any of their skill sets at that point in their careers.
Three years later, the Vikings drafted Bridgewater. He knew he was the fourth-best quarterback in the NFC North coming in. But he came in after Ponder had flamed out and all three of his divisional peers are older and starting to contemplate their NFL end game.
What does Bridgewater have to do to be the dominant QB in the NFC North?
As things currently stand, depending on who you ask, Bridgewater is already the second-best QB in the NFC North. Others contend he is still fourth. As such, you have to look at the three-man competition he’s up against.
We report. You decide. Where does Bridgewater stand against the Big Three that squashed Ponder.
Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood – There’s no questioning the success Rodgers has strung together. In 119 career starts, he has a record of 80-39. Take away his rookie season when Brett Favre exercised alpha male dominance and over the last seven years Rodgers has put up a record of 74-29 as a starter – a winning percentage of 72. An average season is the improbable record of 11½-4½.
Rodgers will turn 33 in December. He belies his age because he spent three years (and two games in 2009) watching Favre do what he does best, but the clock has started ticking. Like it or not, Vikings fans, if Rodgers never plays another down, he’s a potential Hall of Famer. But he’s getting older. Cling to that.
The Curious Case of Jay Cutler – Cutler has been a player that teammates could count on to win just as often as he has lost in his career (which he has proved by posting a 67-67 record in 134 starts). Drafted by Denver in 2006, Cutler was supposed to be the (latest) candidate to be the long-term replacement for John Elway. It didn’t happen. In three years, he started 38 games with Denver. He never had a season above .500, finishing with a starting record of 17-20.
When Josh McDaniel was hired, one of the first things he did was get rid of Cutler and Brandon Marshall – moves that proved fatal. The Bears thought they traded for potentially the best quarterback in the last half-century of Chicago football (check the list of QBs, he actually might be). But taking the Bears to the next level?
In seven years with the Bears, Cutler has started 97 games, posting a record of 50-47. He hasn’t had a winning record since 2012 and, in seven years with the Bears, he has played in just two playoff games and both of those were in 2010.
At age 33, Cutler is 10 years into his career and remains an efficient quarterback – despite playing on losing teams the last three years, he has posted his three best passer ratings the last three seasons. He’s become efficient, but he is what he is – a .500 quarterback who hasn’t played all 16 games since 2009.
Door Matt – When you’re the No. 1 overall pick in the era where No. 1 overall picks were automatically among the highest paid players in the league without playing a snap, the pressure is prevalent. You are the promise of a Super Bowl. Those who win one are “made men” for the rest of their careers. Those who don’t carry that stigma. It came with the giant signing bonus.
Stafford has started 93 games in his seven-year career and has a career record of 42-51. He has had some monster statistical seasons, but that is often the result of throwing too often (almost 1,400 times in 2011-12). Like Cutler, as he has gotten older, Stafford has become more efficient. Since bottoming out in a dismal 2012 season, his passer rating has gone up each year since – peaking at 97.0 last season.
At age 28, he still has a lot of football left ahead in him, but in seven years he has played on just two teams with a winning record and they have been dispatched in the first round of both. If yardage numbers were the measure of a quarterback, Stafford would be a legend – he has averaged almost 280 yards a game. But seven years in, the return on investment has been minimal for the Lions. Without Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, Stafford is entering a new phase in his career and it won’t be with the security blanket that took him a long way to getting to the point he’s at today.
Run into a Packers fan or a Bears or Lions fan and you are likely to hear defensive briefs for what their quarterbacks have to offer.
When the Vikings drafted Ponder, all the cards were lined up against him. In that respect, he didn’t disappoint. He was what he was and nobody from the other three divisional opponents were ever concerned about the day that Ponder would be the best QB in the division.
They can’t say the same about Bridgewater. A case can be made that he has already surpassed Stafford and Cutler. Only time will allow Bridgewater to be superior to the Wisconsin QB. That is a fact Minnesota has begrudgingly accepted since 2010.
Will Teddy ascend to being the best quarterback in the division he is looking to dominate? From the looks of things, it could be possible. It just may take some time.