Images courtesy of Vikings.com

Hating Brett Favre wasn’t a choice; it was an innate fire, burning brighter with each loss to the man in the green and gold No. 4 jersey. Deadspin’s Drew Magary put it best in 2008 when he wrote:

“I have spent the past 15 years nursing my blind hatred for Brett Favre.” 

Blind, unwarranted, inexplainable. Why did we spend so many years rooting against Brett Favre? Was it because we watched the organization struggle with quarterbacks like Daunte Culpepper, Brad Johnson, and Tarvaris Jackson under center? Was it because Favre succeeded where the Vikings had so tragically failed — the Super Bowl? Or, was it because Favre took the Vikings to new heights in 2009, only to bring them crashing down with one ill-advised throw across his body?

The collective hate is a metaphor for the longstanding Vikings-Packers rivalry, which started in 1961 and has only become more heated in recent years. All-time, the Packers lead the series 58-49-2, with Brett Favre accounting for 17 of those wins. Some not-so-fond Favre memories include the Antonio Freeman miracle catch in 2000, the last-second touchdown heave in 1999, and his record-breaking touchdown throw to Greg Jennings in 2007.

Simply put, Brett Favre spent the majority of his career bringing pain and suffering upon the Vikings. His path of destruction, though, was a path to one of the greatest careers in NFL history. Favre has thrown and completed the most passes (10,169 and 6,300), thrown for the most yards (71,838) and trails only Peyton Manning in total touchdown passes (508). With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise that Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings’ quarterback of the future, aspires to follow in Brett Favre’s footsteps.

Say what?

Before the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Bridgewater sat down with Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press to discuss his 2014 Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award. During the interview, he was asked to describe the quarterback he most wants to emulate, and the answer shocked many:

“If I could be like any other quarterback that played in the National Football League, I would have to say Brett Favre is the guy,” Bridgewater said. “Besides the injuries and the hits and everything, he had a pretty successful career. He’s a hall of famer for sure, multiple Super Bowls, and that’s something that I look forward to doing.”

Fans will latch on to the Green Bay connection, but Bridgewater’s most important words come at the end of the statement — “Multiple Super Bowls, and that’s something I look forward to doing”. Bridgewater is in Minnesota to win Super Bowls, to bring the Vikings their first championship, and to avoid the spotlight. He’s a celebrity in the Twin Cities,  a quiet leader on the field, and a quarterback off to one of the best starts in recent rookie quarterback history.

“Hopefully, I can win more Super Bowls (than Favre),” Bridgewater said. Hopefully, he throws less interceptions than Favre as well. The “Gunslinger” is the all-time leader in interceptions thrown, having misfired on 336 passes in his career.

Can Bridgewater emulate Favre on the field? Below a look at the two quarterbacks side-by-side in their first years in the NFL. For the purpose of accuracy, I’ve skipped Favre’s first season with Atlanta, as he appeared in just two games and threw four total passes. The statistics come from Bridgewater’s rookie season (2014) and Favre’s second and third seasons in the NFL (1992 and 1993).

Year One

 Bridgewater - 2014Favre - 1992
Games Started1213
QB Record6-68-5
Completion %64.4%64.1%
Yards2,9193,227
Touchdowns1418
Interceptions1213
Rating85.285.3

I was born in 1992, far too young to witness the beginning of Brett Favre’s career with the Packers. I was in diapers when Favre joined the team in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, but looking at the statistics reveals a similar start to Bridgewater’s rookie season in Minnesota.

In nearly the same number of starts, Bridgewater and Favre completed over 64 percent of their passes, with Bridgewater finishing just a tad higher, at 64.4 percent. Their quarterback ratings are almost identical, with Favre’s 85.3 rating just edging Bridgewater’s mark of 85.2

Where the quarterbacks begin to separate is in passing yards, with Favre beating out Bridgewater by more than 300 yards. That season, Favre threw for 3,227 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt on 471 attempts. In comparison, Bridgewater threw for 2,919 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt on 402 total attempts. The numbers aren’t drastically different, but Favre was asked to throw the football much more in an offense that averaged just 3.7 yards per rush in 1992.

The 2014 Vikings were much more successful on the ground, even without Adrian Peterson. A combination of Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, and Bridgewater rushed for 1,804 yards and averaged a healthy 4.4 yards per rush. Because of their relatively balanced attack, and the scheme fit in Minnesota, Bridgewater was asked to do less than Favre and often worked the short to intermediate areas of the field.

Favre, on the other hand, developed a reputation as a gunslinger in his first year with the Packers, throwing 13 interceptions to 18 touchdowns. He danced in the pocket, directed receivers on the move, and often threw into the smallest windows on the field. Part of the problem was Favre’s athleticism and powerful arm; he not only had the agility to throw outside of the pocket, but the arm strength to deliver an accurate pass to any point on the football field. Because of that combination, he often attempted passes shunned upon by offensive coordinators. Below, a look at one of Favre’s fastball completions outside of the numbers (one of the more difficult passes in football):

Favre GunWhile Bridgewater possesses what scouts call an “NFL arm”, he’s not nearly as dynamic with the football as Favre. He can make every throw on the field, but Bridgewater’s game is predicated on anticipation, an understanding of defenses, and timing with his receivers. Favre routinely made plays outside of the framework of the given play, but Bridgewater routinely delivered the football within the confines of Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offense. Below, a look at one of Bridgewater’s best passes from his rookie season:

Teddy Jennings DolphinsHere, Bridgewater delivers a perfect pass to Greg Jennings’ outside shoulder, away from the defender and between the sideline and hashes. While difficult, Bridgewater makes the play easier by using Jennings’ excellent route running to his advantage. Once Jennings fakes inside and releases toward the back pylon, Bridgewater throws the football, ensuring only his receiver can make the catch. It’s a “dime”, and one that sees Bridgewater stand tall in the pocket while reading the Dolphins’ downfield coverage to deliver a perfect touchdown pass.

Favre made these plays throughout his career, but is known to fans as THE gunslinger, the quarterback willing to trust his instincts and “let ‘er rip” against any coverage. Favre was unique in that he toed that risky line, but usually came out on top. So far, in his short career, Bridgewater has shown a natural ability to avoid those risks and succeed within the structure of the offensive system. In college, he thrived in a similar situation, but it’s difficult to imagine Bridgewater changing his habits and improvising like Favre did throughout his career.

Bridgewater and Favre are fundamentally different players. Bridgewater is the epitome of the modern-day franchise quarterback, with sound fundamentals, excellent decision-making, and superior accuracy. Favre, on the other hand, is like an improv comedian, using the ebbs and flows of the defense to his advantage, veering away from the script and taking chances in the most unexpected moments. Both, though, enjoyed almost identical first seasons in the league despite their on-field differences and polar opposite personalities.

Below, a look at the quarterback’s top-four receivers in Year One and Year Two with their respective teams:

Teddy Bridgewater – 2014

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Bridgewater formed a strong relationship with veteran Greg Jennings in 2014, connecting on 59 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns. Jennings was the team’s most reliable target, best route runner, and for the most part, a leader among the receiving unit. Matt Asiata is the only running back among the group, and his appearance is the consequence of a terrible Vikings offensive line last year. Because of the constant pressure, Bridgewater was often forced to get rid of the ball before his routes developed downfield, and Asiata was usually on the receiving end of those quick passes. Jarius Wright, a fan favorite, was the Vikings’ most explosive receiver, averaging 14 yards per catch and making plays all over the field.

Unlike the Packers in Favre’s first year, Bridgewater’s Vikings lacked a true No. 1 receiver in 2014. Charles Johnson came on late in the year — hence his absence from the list — eventually taking Cordarrelle Patterson’s starting spot on the team. In his second season, Patterson performed well below expectations, hauling in just 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown. He displayed poor route running and lacked the physicality he usually displays WITH the ball in his hands.

Brett Favre – 1992
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Favre walked into the perfect situation in Green Bay — starting the year throwing passes to Hall-of-Fame receiver Sterling Sharpe. Sharpe and Favre clicked immediately, connecting for 108 catches, 1,461 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Sterling’s 13 touchdowns were more than the Vikings’ top-four receivers combined, and his 6.8 receptions per game almost doubled Greg Jennings’ receptions per game. Behind Sharpe, Favre looked to tight end Jackie Harris, who hauled in 55 catches for 595 yards and two touchdowns. In most offenses, a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend, and Favre was fortunate enough to connect with Harris early. Favre also benefited from two pass-catching backs, Harry Sydney and Vince Workman, who combined for 98 catches, 674 yards, and one touchdown on the year — the Packers’ west coast system created opportunities for running backs in the short passing game.

Year Two
Teddy Bridgewater – 2015 (Projected)
Depth chart courtesy of Ourlads.com
Depth chart courtesy of Ourlads.com

The Vikings released Greg Jennings this offseason, opting to go younger by bringing in speedy Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace. With the Wallace trade, the Vikings are committing to Norv Turner’s Air Coryell, which aims to attack defenses in the deep and intermediate areas of the field. Wallace projects to start the season outside, where his deep speed will hopefully open up opportunities in the middle of the field for players like Charles Johnson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Jarius Wright will likely replace Greg Jennings in the slot, but fifth-round draft pick Stefon Diggs is a dark horse candidate to win the job. Patterson, who is buried behind the crop of new talent, will need to regain his form in the return game and prove his worth as a receiver during training camp.

Will one of these receivers step up and match the production of Sterling Sharpe in 1993? Probably not, but it’s not hard to imagine an improvement on Greg Jennings’ totals from 2014. The most likely candidate is Charles Johnson, who started his career on the Browns’ practice squad but is now Norv Turner’s clear-cut No. 1 receiver.

Brett Favre – 1993
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Projecting the Future

Over at the Daily Norseman, CCNorseman did an excellent job projecting Teddy Bridgewater’s second season in the league. He studied every quarterback under Norv Turner, breaking down their statistics to formulate an educated guess on Bridgewater’s statistics. Here is a look at the per-game averages he expects from Bridgewater in 2015:

Stats Comp. Att. Yards TDs INTs Rush/Rec. Yards Rush/Rec.TDs Fumb. Y/A AY/A ANY/A QB Rating
Turner Ceiling QB 19.6 31 244.7 1.5 0.8 3.7 0.04 0.5 7.9 7.7 7.1 93.03

If we expand these stats (multiply by 16 and round), we get Bridgewater’s season totals:

Stats Comp. Att. Yards TDs INTs Rush/Rec. Yards Rush/Rec.TDs Fumb. Y/A AY/A ANY/A QB Rating
Bridgewater2015 314 496 3,915 24 13 59 .64 8 7.9 7.7 7.1 93.03

The averages, including yards per attempts and QB rating, remain the same for this exercise. Compared to the 2014 season, Bridgewater projects to be a more productive quarterback in 2015. He will hypothetically throw 10 more touchdowns, just one more interception, and throw for 1,000 more yards. Pretty great, huh?

How does this compare to Favre’s second season with the Packers? It’s an improvement, actually. That season, Favre threw just 19 touchdowns to a league-high 24 interceptions, completed just 60.9 percent of his passes, and finished the year with a 72.2 quarterback rating. His gunslinger mentality hurt his statistics, but Favre was still able to lead his team to a 9-7 overall record.

The Vikings finished 7-9 in 2014, but with improved play from Teddy Bridgewater, may see their win total jump this season. With enough production from their receivers, a retooled offensive line, and the return of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are vying to compete for a playoff spot in 2015. Bridgewater has shown he can perform just as well, if not better than the 1992-1993 Favre, and if he continues to develop under Norv Turner, may bring the Vikings their first Super Bowl title ever.

Let’s ignore the Brett Favre hate for a moment. If the quarterback of the future can endorse his play, so can I. Here’s to you, Teddy Bridgewater — avenge the memories of the 2009 NFC Championship Game and make us forget Brett Favre once and for all.