Dan Pompei at Sports on Earth describes how the Minnesota Vikings found comfort with drafting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater:
“Physical skills are necessary to play quarterback, but through the years [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner has come to value the mental aspects of the game — learning, communicating and especially visualizing. That’s visualizing where a pass will end up, how a receiver will run a route and what a defensive adjustment will do to a play.
“After the 2007 season, Turner coached the AFC team in the Pro Bowl. One of his quarterbacks was Peyton Manning. As Turner watched a play develop from the sideline, he thought Manning had no chance to make a throw. Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was running a seam route, and the coverage was as good as it could have been. Manning was not going to throw the pass, he said to himself. But he did. And he completed it for a 16-yard touchdown.
“Manning knew the exact spot to throw the ball, and the precise speed with which to throw it, so the defender could not get it and the receiver had a chance. The window in that coverage also was a window into Manning’s greatness. Manning, Turner learned, could feel holes opening on the field. And from that point on, Turner would look for that ability whenever he evaluated quarterbacks.
“As Turner watched the tape of Bridgewater this spring, he did not quite see what he saw that day from Manning, arguably the most accomplished passer in history. But he saw intuitive throws, and a feel for how plays would develop.”
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a man crush on Bridgewater. He’s got mobility inside and outside the pocket, a quick release and he can hit a dime at 30 yards on the run. And above all he plays extremely smart. The only problems I ever gave any credence to were his average arm strength and slight stature, both over blown in my opinion.
Bridgewater was the consensus opt quarterback coming out of the college football season. He fell partly because of a bad pro day but it was a lot more than that. Right about January when the NFL season ends is when coaches start to get involved in the draft process. Smart ones like Turner value Bridgewater’s assets as things you can’t teach. But far more often coaches will look at the physical assets of a Blake Bortles and the improvisation of a Johnny Manziel and become enamored with thoughts of what could be instead of what is.
I love Bridgewater and I hate the fact that he ended up in the NFC North. I watch what he did in a pro-style offense at Louisville and I think I see the potential for greatness. Evidently Turner did, too.