Now consider last Friday versus the Raiders, where we instead had Teddy Bridgewater run that first offensive series. Keep in mind that every starter was chomping at the bit to get in that first showing on the field. To prove their immediate worth ... then get the heck off the field to protect their hind quarters for opening day. What might of resulted? We'll never know because our organization once again is in "Protect Your (...) Football Mode". Keep in mind that the Raiders had their starting QB in for 3 consecutive series.
Now imagine the head coach speaking to Teddy, after that first series, regardless of outcome saying, "You did well but there still is allot that needs to be cleaned up ... and by the way ... there's the bench (get used to it)". Sure taking command of how my players appear on the field might be against Pre-Season NFL rules but screw the NFL micro-managing my team as I don't know who my starter is. Hey Commish ... this isn't the Patriots! Then on the second series, Matt Cassel works with the starters to either show you how its done regardless of the result. Either way you'd at least get a honest days work from your starters. The best part of all this head coaching redirection is that there is no re-entry rule in the NFL where Teddy could re-enter on the 3rd & 4th series with the second team as originally planned. What opportunity was missed by not forcing Teddy's hand by playing it safe ... or better said ... as everyone expected?
In regard to Teddy Bridgewater's play, it showed up immediately on the field. There are two prime issues with him. The first is that he has the body of a rookie in that it is not buff and hardened for battle. He might need a full season to develop his physique however don't confuse his frailty with his ability to play and develop. The second issue is in regard to how he handles the rush.
To be direct, it is almost always a mistake to throw on the run even though Teddy's quite adept at doing so. On his opening throw to Jennings on the side line, as he's heading out of bounds, Teddy essentially transformed his targets on the field from the entire field to throwing to 1/3 of the field (the side he's running toward). Throwing on the run is always ... always ... always ... a high risk proposition and needs to be broken in favor of high completion percentages. Tarkenton used to use the role out as a tactic to disrupt the rush however he also understood the key that only Hall of Fame quarterbacks understood. You don't run away from the rush, especially at full speed. Instead you avoid the rush. Teddy has to learn to get just outside the tackle box to avoid the rush, PLANT HIS FEET just outside of the seams, searching downfield for that open target and then release the ball. After all, what was once covered in the pocket is now open, as Tarkenton understood that all scripted defenses eventually break down. In short, you're buying time for a high percentage throw that wasn't available within the pocket.
How many quarterbacks, like Michael Vick and now Johnny Football will use their feet, running from, in many cases ... a phantom defender, to gain yards and possibly a first down rather than to extend the play by avoiding the rush. In other words, you need to learn to throw the ball as if it were the end of your career where all that speed and moves where long gone from your repertoire. How many Hall of Famer's could plant their feet just outside of the seams, taking that brief additional second or two and then hit the open man down the field. As slow as Brett Favre was ... he could do it with the best of them. This is the difference between being a coach, allowing just about anything to happen on the field and being Bill Walsh telling Steve Young that he just made 10 good throws stating, "NOW CAN YOU THROW A CATCH-ABLE BALL". It's the difference between watching something that worked in practice and instructing something that almost always works. In short ... you can't reel in Teddy if he's regulated to your bench but he most certainly can be reeled in if he's directed from the field to the bench. It's a good thing that the Dutchman never did this to any eventual Hall of Famer.
It's easy for someone to say that Bridgewater is not ready, but keep in mind, that was his first opportunity in the NFL. If it were you ... Mr. Sportswriter ... you'd have a brown stain emanating from your hind end. These statements are harmful as if to say that it's ok to sit poor Teddy on the Bench because you want to win games with Cassel ... regardless if the result is an 8-8 season ... regardless of whether you spend every last ounce of Adrian Peterson's available football ... and regardless of where Matt Cassel might find himself next year demanding a very hefty salary. We are not here to win just a few games here and there ... the intent is to develop a franchise quarterback or expose what is just simply mediocre ... so that we can move on to the real deal. To be direct, Teddy will learn nothing sitting on our bench and Matt Cassel is designed to bail our sorry hind quarters out from the fire ... all the while ... being the key to developing that coveted franchise quarterback.
There is something that this franchise appears to have missed in that we've completely overlooked the relevance of why you draft quarterbacks. Both the Packers and the Patriots have the blue print. It is to keep drawing straws until you find the one that you'd like to keep, all the time developing what you have to be used for trading for future draft picks. Maybe Christian Ponder has no trade value whatsoever today but a key event might change that however that might prove to be hopeful thinking ... especially in how we've handled Ponder. "Dude ... your days as an opening day starter are over however you do have value. We'd like to extend your contract by 1 year as our 2015 backup ... and at a decent backup rate." Just because we couldn't afford that 5th year rate doesn't mean that you aren't going to be an exceptional backup in this league with a definite future in Minnesota. How can you expect the rest of the league to value Ponder unless this organization itself values his services? To be direct, the 1 year bird-in-hand is far better than having to demand a future starting role without having an MVP Adrian Peterson. This proactive move wouldn't hurt Matt Cassel ... it enhances both his future and his trade value.
Matt Cassel is under contract for both 2014 and 2015 but we've failed to anticipate both this organizations and Matt's future. After this season, with Ponder under contract, Matt Cassel just might be the most in demand quarterback available for the 2015 season. It is expected that his trade value will be significant (multiple mid round picks) especially if Teddy develops into that franchise role however you cannot make that trade without a proven backup (Ponder) and a new developmental prospect (draft).
Mike Priefer must be looking for another job to state at this juncture that Marcus Sherels has earned a roster spot as our punt return specialist. Why? Marcus needs to be a 5'-10" 175# corner back first and foremost. If he's a liability in that position then we cannot afford to carry him as a specialist especially if the punt returning role can be handled by another player. 6' 200# Adam Thielen's recent performance puts Priefer's statement into question as Adam is now a genuine 5th receiver on this squad. Maybe it's just a jaded observation however when Marcus Sherels made a appearance within our defense, we were certainly in for a long day. Considering the number of safeties on the injured list combined with our recent backfield history (last 3 years) we cannot afford any weak links in our defensive backfield in this pass happy league.
The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: August 11, 2014