Mike Zimmer’s quote above came from August 30th’s press conference regarding Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury that derails many of the plans the Vikings had in the works for 2016.
Now, however, it is the morning of August 31st and the sun has indeed made an appearance today.
As that sun shines on a Minnesota Vikings team preparing for their final preseason game, it reveals a talented young team that is still in the process of evaluating a roster that will surely yield many tough decisions in the coming days.
The backup quarterback situation on this Rick Spielman roster will certainly be scrutinized and criticized by media analysts and fans alike, as is only fair. There will be a certain amount of hypocrisy involved, however, as many of those same individuals practically screamed “heresy!” at the mere thought of drafting another quarterback or signing a guy like Nick Foles.
I’m not here to play the blame game (yet), but I do know that the blame will be coming in hot from many angles soon enough. As someone that reads every comment this site gets, and every social media response that we generate, I would also generalize that Spielman treated the backup quarterback situation through action with about the same sense of urgency that fans displayed through words.
With real life happenings now fully overtaking everybody’s “needs lists” from March, the game has changed on the Minnesota Vikings, and there is still an entire football season ahead. In the aftermath, and with the sun still coming up, here is where I think this team stands:
UNITED BY STRONG LEADERSHIP
Mike Zimmer is in a strong position to really put an early exclamation point on his career as Minnesota’s head coach. He has a fairly well-rounded and deep roster, with very few exceptions, and now has the chance to show that he is a leader of men in the face of great adversity.
Losing his franchise quarterback to devastating injury right before the regular season opener is not going to be easy to overcome, by any means. He is going to have to rally his troops, give the home crowd something to roar about, and maintain focus on piling up the W’s. If he successfully does that, though, and navigates the obstacles with grace and proficiency it will be doubly as impressive as his handling of the Adrian Peterson abuse situation that hampered his rookie season as head coach.
Speaking of Peterson, the entire offense will now presumably need to revert back to him as the undisputed leader of the offense. Considering his many years of experience with putting teams on his back, with carrying the load via superhuman efforts, this could end up being a season that defines his Hall of Fame career more than any other.
There is a lot of pressure on both of these guys, a lot more than there was 24 hours ago, to lead this team to points and victories in Bridgewater’s absence. Whether or not the duo can find the success needed remains unseen, but I do think this is a pair of personalities that are well suited to navigate through tall weeds… and bring their team with them.
CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER DEFENSE
If the Vikings struggle to move the ball well, if they settle for more field goals that would’ve been touchdowns, then this injury places more pressure on the defense to perform well.
There are a lot of unknowns in the sentence above, and I certainly don’t want to assume the worst, but I do think this is a defense that is as talented and deep as any in the NFL today. I think they are this year’s version of last year’s Broncos. And I mean that… I’ve been so excited to watch this defense in regular season action.
The Vikings have about a half dozen guys as backups right now that I genuinely believe would start for most teams. They’ve got youngsters Trae Waynes, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter that really appear poised for a certain amount of greatness this year. They have dynamite game-changers in Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr. And I’d continue on in an effort not to leave anyone out… but you all have been reading Vikings Territory long enough to know all the names and how much talent there is.
This defense needs to feed off of the new batch of doubters, those that think they can’t succeed without Bridgewater, and go smack every team they face right in the mouth before stealing their lunch money and finding their own ways to put points on the board.
GO SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
The Vikings chose not to invest draft picks (Willie Beavers selected over Dak Prescott) or additional funds (Ryan Fitzpatrick was out there forever) into the backup quarterback situation, but now they have to deal with the ramifications of that decision from both a short and long term perspective.
In the short term, the Vikings really only have Shaun Hill and Joel Stave as a healthy quarterbacks at the moment. That will change soon, I assure you, and it might even change before this post goes live. The Vikings don’t want to go into Thursday’s game with the intentions of playing Shaun Hill too extensively, as they’d be a couple injuries away from deciding between a forfeit or playing Jerick McKinnon at quarterback.
Beyond that, the Vikings are almost certainly going to consider free agent and trade options that present an upgrade to what Hill has to offer. Whether or not they find anything is another story, and it is a story we will eventually be telling right here.
In the long term, like it or not, Rick Spielman and company are back to searching for potential franchise quarterbacks. There is no reason not to believe Bridgewater will make a full recovery, as Eric Sugarman expects him to, but there is also no particular reason to believe that knee will ever be fully trusted again. Keeping an eye out for, and starting files on, potential starting quarterbacks for the future simply must be a part of the process now.
The Vikings quarterback situation is back to the state of turmoil it was in prior to Bridgewater’s selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, but miracles appear in the most unexpected of places, and getting our hopes up (and shattered) is all a part of the experience as Minnesota Vikings fans.
At the absolute very least, it will be interesting to monitor where things go from here. After all, the world is still spinning and it is time for the front office to go to work.