General NewsSpeculation

Signs Point to Bradford Starting in 2017

As we shift to offseason mode for the Minnesota Vikings, so begins the long and abundant period of speculation. Foremost on the minds of fans and media members is the quarterback position—namely, who will start in 2017?

Will it be Teddy Bridgewater, the team’s original quarterback who often looked like a budding star before a gruesome knee injury knocked him out for the 2016 season?

Or will it be Sam Bradford, brought in via trade to fill in in Bridgewater’s absence, who went on to throw for 3877 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and an NFL-record 71.6% completion percentage?

On Tuesday, Mike Zimmer provided some clues in his year-end press conference. There were no big revelations, because a.) coaches are rarely forthcoming with that type of thing, and b.) there are still eight months until the 2017 season begins, and a lot can change in that time. But reading into Zimmer’s comments, we can safely assume that at this point, he believes Bradford will be the starter.

The question that has always weighed heavily is the health of Bridgewater’s knee. The injury was extensive, with a torn ACL, a dislocated kneecap, and other ligament damage, so we knew all along there was no guarantee he would be ready by the start of the 2017 season. Zimmer’s comments Tuesday would seem to indicate he isn’t confident Bridgewater will be healed in time:

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“It’s different with everyone, actually, with this injury he’s had it’s different with everyone,” Zimmer said. “I mean they went back and had whomever has had this injury, they’ve studied it. How long it takes to come back, how long it hasn’t come back. They’re all different. There’s no exact injury where it’s all the same, like talking about an ACL, well there’s lots of those and they’re all the same.

“This one there is really no exact, some are with nerve damage, some are without nerve damage. There’s just so many variables with this particular injury. … I do know this that Teddy is a guy that will do everything possible to get back as soon as he possibly can get back and he’d be a guy I’d never bet against.”

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Again, there’s nothing definitive here. But it’s telling that Zimmer never once mentioned that he expected Bridgewater to be ready for 2017, or that he’s “on track,” or “ahead of schedule,” or any of the other cliches coaches often use. He was asked numerous times about the injury, and was given ample opportunity to sell hope. He didn’t. This from a man that certainly knows as much about Bridgewater’s rehab as anyone. Zimmer knows where the knee is at, and when asked about it, he chose to essentially say “all injuries are different,” followed by a platitude about Bridgewater’s heart and work ethic. That says, to me, the knee still has a long way to go.

The other factor here—that some didn’t expect—is that Bradford played very well in 2016. His accuracy, poise, and decision making behind an awful offensive line amounted to what Zimmer called a “remarkable” season:

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“I think Sam has played great this year,” Zimmer said. “I think he has earned the right to be the starting quarterback.

“Sam has done remarkable with the things he’s done this year with all the things he’s had to do.”

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The key phrase here is “earned the right to be the starting quarterback.” Notice Zimmer didn’t say he earned the right to compete. He essentially said he won the job. That, combined with the uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s knee, indicates the Vikings’ starting quarterback in 2017 will most likely be Sam Bradford.

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Sam Neumann

Sam Neumann is a freelance writer and lifelong Vikings apologist. He has seen his share of Vikings-related heartbreak, but believes we are united by the hope that one day that norse ship will come in. Sam is the author of three books, including the New York Times Bestseller Memoirs of a Gas Station. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and has had it with Broncos fans. You can follow him on twitter @NeumSamN.

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11 Comments

  1. It seems unlikely Teddy will be ready by July or August. Means Bradford is the guy. That…sucks, but what can you do? Have limited options.
    It’s not that Sam is terrible, I just don’t have any confidence that he can get it done.
    I’m praying for Teddy’s speed recovery! Bradford would be a good backup.

    1. Like you said, moot point if Teddy isn’t healthy. I think Bradford is about as good as you can do as a long-term fill-in, and if/when Teddy is back, I’m sure he’ll get the opportunity to compete.

  2. I think Bradford can be a Top 10 QB with the right personnel around him. We’ve got the beginnings of a good receiving corps but need to vastly improve the OL and the running game to give him and the team a shot at winning the whole thing.

  3. He threw for almost 4000 yards, 20 TDS 5 int, with no training camp, no O Line and didn’t play till week 2, he had everything against him that could go wrong, no running game backup after backup getting hurt on the o line,he broke several passing records set by QBS with a full offense including wr,rb, and a full training camp with a full season. I like TB, but I was extremely happy with what Sam did with what he had. He made throws TB couldn’t and I can’t wait to see him with a full camp and the same offensive coordinator. The kid had his best season as a pro and I’m excited for next season with him at the helm. Just think we could of had that POS Kap, or Sanchez. It’ll be good for TB to sit heal and learn for a couple seasons. Not sure what you saw that was so disappointing or why people blame Sam.

    1. 8-8. Does everything have to be perfect for Sam to have a winning season? Has he ever made the playoffs? Teddy is a winner, Bradford isn’t.

    2. I agree Bradford made throws Teddy couldn’t/hasn’t so far in his career. He was the best possible replacement Spielman could have found. Very impressed with him so far.

  4. I really don’t think Bradford has gotten his due. I would understand people complaining if there were a handful of game losing plays that he had, but I can’t recall too many times I was lamenting the guy for throwing a game away. I don’t put getting blind-sided strip-sacked in under three seconds on the QB. Despite the line issues he put a lot of deep balls on the money that I remember falling incomplete last season. As far as his past history winning, the guy has never stayed healthy or had the same coordinator/HC long enough to judge his actual ability to win games. I wasn’t a big fan of this trade when they made it because I think the most important attribute a player has is his ability to stay healthy and on the field, and Sam hadn’t done that yet in his career. I was extremely surprised by the toughness and durability he showed this season and that alone should have fans happy. You combine that with the fact that you need to go back to Favre in ’12 and Culpepper in ’04 to find a QB that had a better season than him statistically, and it’s somewhat shocking to me that fans aren’t more appreciative of what he did this year. Seriously, pull up the Vikings passing stats for the last decade+ and look what we’ve suffered through (and remember that was usually with a top 5 rushing attack in place).
    I am hoping Teddy is able to make a full recovery but it’s hard to say if that will happen. What I do know is that going into next year they only need to worry about finding another veteran backup type option to bring to camp as insurance for another injury. I wish his salary was a little less, but Sam’s $18 million along with Teddy’s $2 is really nothing in today’s NFL landscape for two veteran passers who can win games for you. If they both end up able to play at the start of the season, the Vikings will have the best starting/backup QB situation in the league next year.

  5. I live in Atlanta. If you watch Sam and Matt Ryan they are very similar. For the last 2years the ‘fans’ were screaming to get rid of him. The front office got him a good center and a good tackle. The Falcons have a avg line instead of a crap line. Sam does have a stronger arm then Matt. If the Vikings do the same we will see them next year with a bye. Bridgewater will be a good( Matt Shaub) type backup.

  6. I can’t believe people are off Bradford. To come in a week before the season, deal with 5 seasons of oline injuries, lose your OC halfway through the season and various playmakers to injuries and perform like he did was outstanding. After watching years of horrible vikings QB play (Not really aimed at TB here) we finally have a QB that is extremely accurate, a trait QBs either have or they don’t. I like TB, but Bradford showed me far more this season than what Teddy had to date. Give him a full offseason, beefed up oline and some healthy play makers and the Vikings can make a sustained run next year.

  7. I’m all for Bradford being successful! I’m a Viking fan. But success is about winning, at least for me it is, so in my book he hasn’t been.
    I watched almost every play this season, he made some nice throws, throws Teddy hasn’t made. Has a very good arm…better than TB. But way too many times I saw him, on 3rd down, check down to a receiver that had no chance to get the 1st. Way too many times. Won’t try to make a play. He is not a playmaker. Good QB’s make plays in those situations most of the time. It leads to points. It’s not all Sam’s fault, but he is what he is. A guy who needs a lot of help to win. I believe Teddy will only get better. Not sure Bradford will.
    I read a comment the other day that makes sense to me: Bradford is a better passer, but Teddy is a better QB.

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