Career of Ex-Viking Comes Full Circle on Sunday

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports.

With the season on the line, the Vikings will travel to Detroit, trying to grasp their last straw to qualify for the postseason. But making the playoffs is a long shot after dropping the majority of games since Dobbs-mania cooled off. We will remember the QB carousel that shaped Minnesota’s season, but in an alternate universe, the QB position would’ve been filled by one guy since 2014.

Career of Ex-Viking Comes Full Circle on Sunday

Career of Ex-Viking Comes Full Circle on Sunday
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It was 2014. The organization had concluded that Christian Ponder couldn’t be the franchise’s future, and with new head coach Mike Zimmer in the building, the Vikings needed to find an answer at the most important position once and for all, something they might try again in 2024.

But Zimmer wouldn’t be Zimmer had he not started his tenure as the head coach with the selection of a defensive player, someone who can be his signature player. That guy was Anthony Barr, who he hand-picked with the ninth overall pick. Indeed, he stuck around with his mentor, Zimmer, until he was dismissed in 2022.

GM Rick Spielman made a move and traded up to make a second pick in the first round of the 2014 draft. Teddy Bridgewater, out of Louisville, joined the Vikings. A passer with great maturity and character, he was the player who was supposed to lead Zimmer’s Vikings after an excellent collegiate career.

Nov 19, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Almost ten years later, Bridgewater will suit up for the final regular season game of his career. The poetic ending will be versus the Minnesota Vikings. He announced his retirement in December.

I was young and I was trapped in this lifestyle thinking that I was a football player 24-7, and when I got hurt I realized that I’m only a football player for three hours on a Sunday afternoon. Outside of that, I’m Theodore Bridgewater, so it just put everything into perspective and it really helped me not even have to think about not being a starter (anymore). It’s like, ‘Man, I still got purpose.’ And my purpose is bigger than the game of football. Football is just a platform that I have.

Everything happens for a reason. Injuries, highs, lows, the success, the failures. It all, it builds character, and that’s what it did for me. Like I never look like, ‘Oh man, what if?’ Nah. Whatever was meant for me, it played out the exact way it was meant. And I’m still with that mindset every day and I’m just really appreciative that I’m in Year 10, I tell everyone this is my last year, so I’m in my final year and I’m just enjoying it all, man.

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The start of his career was indeed looking promising once the rookie stepped onto the field (during the injury-related absence of starter Matt Cassell) without suspended franchise player Adrian Peterson taking the load off him. In 13 games (12 starts), Bridgewater tabulated 2,919 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while adding roughly 200 yards and another score on the ground.

In his sophomore season, Minnesota’s number five racked up 3,231 passing yards, 14 touchdowns (plus three rushing), and nine picks. Pedestrian numbers were enough to guide the Vikings into the postseason with the league’s leading rusher, Peterson, and Zimmer’s emerging defense. He needed a game-manager, and Bridgewater was just that. A match made in heaven.

The young quarterback reached a crossroads. Would he stay the type of passer who doesn’t lose his team any games but also can’t carry them to victories–a game manager– or would he emerge? Early signs in the preseason in 2016 were looking promising.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

But then it hit. The infamous knee injury that no Vikings fan will ever forget, The starting quarterback destroyed his knee because of a non-contact injury in practice, costing him his 2016 season, but fortunately not his career. Regardless, the moment derailed his time in Minnesota.

The Vikings traded for Sam Bradford, who led the team to an 8-8 season. He also looked great in Week 1 in 2017 but went down with his own knee issues, and it became the Case Keenum show for the remainder of the season. Everyone expected him to stumble at some point and open the door for Bridgewater late in the year once he was ready to return, but it never happened.

Kirk Cousins was signed, Keenum left for the Denver Broncos, and Bradford joined the Cardinals. Bridgewater’s odyssey began as he moved on to the New York Jets but was traded to the New Orleans Saints a few weeks later to be Drew Brees’ backup, where he spent two years. After some solid performances in relief of Brees, Bridgewater signed with the Panthers and stayed in the NFC South in 2020, and had a stint with the Broncos in 2021–starting for both franchises–before moving to Miami to be Tua Tagovailoa’s backup.

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The quarterback played in 30 games with the Vikings, starting in 28. He threw for 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. He has produced 75 passing TDs and 15,120 yards in his career.

Bridgewater will have one final ride in the regular season and at least one more in the postseason. Maybe some Vikings fans will cheer for their former franchise signal-caller, a player who will forever be a what-if?

Detroit may pull the starters at some point, including Jared Goff. That would allow Bridgewater to taste the game of football one last time.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt