Over the last 24 hours, give or take, Minnesota Vikings fans and pundits have collectively wondered why quarterback Teddy Bridgewater actually stayed sidelined during their 18-11 victory in Seattle. A preseason contest that would normally be given the nuanced “meaningless” label received an electric shock of intrigue by Bridgewater’s absence and head coach Mike Zimmer’s unwillingness to definitively satisfy the mass curiosity.
Zimmer’s mysterious approach to the situation clearly annoyed local members of the media, along with some fans. This approach might be old hat in New England, but it is new to Minnesota, and if it is a sign of things to come then I think it is safe to say that Zimmer’s status as a media darling could be in danger.
Mike Zimmer’s world: The public has right to provide his football team w/ a $1.1 billion profit center but not to know why QB didn’t play.
— Patrick Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) August 19, 2016
The theories have run rampant since Shaun Hill took that first snap, and there were some fun ones, but we are still getting trickled-down information that can help provide some clarity on the matter. We’re going to take a look at what is currently known.
IT WAS NOT DISCIPLINARY
If you were anything like me last night then your first concern was that Teddy Bridgewater had gotten himself into a “personal situation,” as the Vikings public relations team would deem it, like we’ve seen happen so many times before. There is obviously no reason to suspect Bridgewater of any wrong doing, there is no history or pattern to worry about, but I’ll be the first to admit that it crossed my mind.
A comment from a source to Vikings Territory perfectly placed my worries in perspective, however.
“Teddy’s girlfriend owns her own bejeweling business,” said the source last night. “He doesn’t have personal situations.”
If that wasn’t enough, Zimmer openly scoffed at the idea of Bridgewater being punished, and didn’t shy away from setting the record straight on that front.
“You think there was a disciplinary issue with Teddy Bridgewater?” Zimmer said last night. “He’s like the nicest kid in the history of life. It was my decision. Do I have the right to do that?”
Okay, so I think it is safe to say… Bridgewater is not in trouble.
It Could Be An Injury
The other natural thing to wonder throughout the game last night is whether or not Bridgewater was injured. That could explain the secrecy, as the NFL is full of injury secret (they make movies about it), and Zimmer has developed a bit of a reputation for toying with misdirection in regards to injured players.
Bridgewater seemingly put that to rest during an in-game televised interview, but it is starting to look like a sore shoulder may have actually played a part in this whole drama.
Ben Goessling of ESPN reports tonight that Bridgewater was held out due to the sore shoulder. The report cites two sources and says the issue wouldn’t have kept him from playing had it been a regular season game.
The insignificant injury angle certainly seems plausible. I’d be a little miffed as to why Coach Zimmer would feel it necessary to set off a storm of media speculation and fan frustration, but there is no denying that he has the right to do exactly that.
Toying And Tinkering Season
The games aren’t real yet, but the process of constructing a roster is a complex one that can have an impact throughout the upcoming season and beyond. That makes August the season of evaluating chemistry dynamics, tinkering with schemes, and putting players in situations where their ability to swim instead of sink can mean all of the difference in the world.
Perhaps, and this purely speculation, Zimmer and company simply wanted to see how their backup quarterbacks performed on short notice… as that is the primary function of a backup quarterback.
Perhaps a new wrinkle in the pass protection was worth evaluating, but too risky for the starting quarterback to endure in the face of a notoriously ferocious Seattle defense.
Maybe that defense was just too dangerous and this was a case of cold feet and a bad gut feeling. It could have been meant as a message to the offensive line as a while and the lack of trust that currently exists.
It could be that Zimmer was using the last minute decision to pull Bridgewater, whether injury played a factor or not, as a teaching moment for the other players on the roster.
Maybe it was even a chance for Bridgewater himself to sit back and learn another thing or two from the veteran Shaun Hill, who certainly didn’t seem to hesitate and hold the ball as long as Bridgewater did in Week One of the preseason (no statistical stopwatch analysis to back that up – I’m just going off of what my untrained eyes suggest as truth). The far less athletic Hill certainly never seemed momentarily torn between passing and scrambling the way Bridgewater has a tendency to look, and that lack of scrambling and sudden changes in direction might have been a welcomed relief to an offensive line that needs an injection of confidence.
These are all just theories, of course, with other wilder ones out there. I cannot pretend to know if any of these are even close to accurate.
The injury aspect is the only one that has any evidence accumulated, and we may never know the whole truth, but it certainly gave the team a chance to play under unique circumstances – which isn’t terrible experience regardless of whether or not it was intentional.
Zimmer, perhaps emboldened by his new contract extension, likely didn’t make any friends with the local media on Thursday.
And Zimmer, perhaps emboldened by his new contract extension, likely doesn’t care.