Opinion

Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater: The Next Brett Favre?

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:

[quote_center]”I have spent the past 15 years nursing my blind hatred for Brett Favre.” [/quote_center]

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:

[quote_box_center]”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.”[/quote_box_center]

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.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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13 Comments

  1. He will never have the arm of BF. I also think and hope he will never develop into the EGO OF BF. But I do think he will develop into the pure knowledge of the D and the O of BF who in the later year like most great ones just smiled and the D cause he knew what they were doing and it was not going to work. I also think he LOVES the game like BF did. I already has good pocket presence and is pretty good at finding the open receiver. He already is a better scrambler and runner. One could make the argument that he already is more mature than BF ever was in his career. Here’s to more SB than BF.

    PS — I am sorry we did not get his catching buddy that went to Miami and get him a true # 1 WR. I am sorry that for all his effort and all around niceness I just do not think CP is going to get past #4 WR on this team. Given all all that TEDDY will continue to find the open receiver most of the time.

  2. Did you really elaborate on Favre’s extra 300 yards being Favre asked to do more because we had a good running game? Yeah, we had a good running game but Norv asked a lot of Teddy. Give Bridgewater that extra game with about 250 yards and we’re talking only a 50 yard difference, ya goofball. I was gonna let it go but then you added that Teddy had more short and intermediate attempts even though his per average was better. I knew you were insinuating that Teddy checks down too much which was a common misconception about Bridgewater’s game all year. I kept reading and that was the definite undertone of the article. In a Norv turner offense it is a very simple philosophy. One or two WR’s take the top off the defense which has very low percentage routes that rarely translate into guys getting open. These guys are the “bait” of the system. If defenses don’t respect these routes then they will burn them. Since the defense has to compensate for these burner routes it ends up leaving the middle of the field wide open for, you guessed it, check downs. That’s why TE’s have such gaudy numbers under Turner. That’s also why AD doesn’t really fit and you’ll remember last off-season the question, “Can Adrian catch the ball well enough in a Norv Turner offense.” It’s because Norv’s system revolves around the “check down.” What did you think it revolved around TE and RB go routes? I have a feeling I’ll be pointing that out to “experts” for years to come.

    I think Teddy wanting to be like Favre is because of Favre’s toughness and competitiveness. I don’t think he was referring to style necessarily as he didn’t mention the “gunslinger” label but did mention the other things. Boo and hiss if you want but I’ve been saying Teddy reminds me style wise of Tom Brady. He doesn’t have the giant arm but he sees the field so well it doesn’t matter. Ever since I watched Teddy destroy my beloved Gators in the 2013 Sugar Bowl I knew he was special. He ran a pro-style offense all over the #1 defense in the nation. He was calling audibles and showed all the leadership that some say he lacks. I’ll go ahead and say it far too early in his career, Teddy is a going to be an elite QB. I’ve never watched a QB develop like he has. He had NO ONE last year. His line was awful, his receiver corp was a joke, he had no defense fearing the running game, and his top target in the system (Kyle Rudolph) was injured all year. Yet, he had a pretty good showing for a rook. Teddy keeps proving the Tim Hasselbeck’s of the world as fools. Don’t be one of them.

    1. I’m with you — Turner asked a lot of Bridgewater, especially within the framework of his system. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Favre attempted almost 70 more passes in those comprable seasons, though. The Vikings were much more successful on the ground and relied heavily on that running game.

      That, the lack of a consistent offensive line, and the theory behind Turner’s offense led Bridgewater to work the middle of the field and the short area of the field. There’s a big misconception between being a “check-down” king and being someone who understands what the defense is giving them. As I state in the post, Bridgewater was successful because he stuck to the framework of the offense and took very few risks — in this case, he understands the value of a check down.

      I’m a huge Teddy Bridgewater fan, and I’ve never doubted his ability to thrive in the NFL. I was pleased by his development last year and expect it to continue this season.

      No need for personal attacks, but I appreciate your take on the article. Thanks for reading.

      1. Sorry, I get defensive over Teddy. Should’ve probably pumped the brakes a bit. You’re the best writer on the best Vikings fan site in my opinion. Thanks for grinding away and keep up the good work.

    1. Steve — mixed up my facts at 1 am this morning, thank you. Released Greg Jennings and traded for Wallace. Story is edited now.

  3. i’ve been out of diapers for all of the vikings’ games, at least so far, and the things i remember most about watching those favre against the vikings years was how much fun it was to watch john randle run around trying to catch favre, then they’d laugh and smile and jaw at each other. it was obvious that they both loved the game and that made it all the more fun to watch. randle even did a commercial back then where he was chasing a chicken around, and i think it had a favre jersey on, good humor. the other thing i enjoyed about playing favre was to see who would get the interceptions from him. you knew they were coming

    to this day, i remember talking to a friend who lived in mn (i had moved to cal from mn by then), a time when there was no internet and vikings news out here was far and few between, and i asked him what the outlook was for our vikings, and to my surprise, he said the word was that the phackers were looking good. i was like, hmm, how can that be? they had been terrible for years. just suckky, doormat, cellar dweller teams. really bad. reeeaalllly, really bad. i mean, they had no relevance at all for many, many, many years. good times, hehe

      1. Thank you calvkc loved that one and I also remember it I am hoping that this will be the beginning of the next rain of Vikings domination for years to come with a solid foundation of defense and a quarterback that can lead our offense. We are a young team on the rise. SKOLL VIKINGS DRINK FROM THE SKULL CAP OF ROGERS!

    1. I noticed someone has ‘Disliked’ your comment. Must be a packer fan (dickweed, all of them). Anyhow, just letting you know, I was long out of diapers, in fact, I was probably drinking a little beer when I saw my first Viking game.

    2. As long as they don’t hit on another HOF QB they’ll be right back in that state soon. Ted Thompson is a terrible GM covered up by his QB’s play.

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