What a difference a day makes.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings were well on their way to competing for an NFC championship; on Wednesday, the playoffs might be a pipe dream.
That’s what happens when you lose your starting quarterback to a torn ACL, as Teddy Bridgewater did in practice. He will miss the entire 2016 season.
“If we had done this yesterday, I might have told you I think the Vikings are going to play the Steelers in the Super Bowl, and it wouldn’t have been homer announcer guy,” Vikings play-by-play voice Paul Allen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I legitimately would have laid out, at least from a Vikings standpoint, about seven reasons why I think it can happen. I can’t exactly tag the team with Super Bowl expectations not knowing what the quarterback situation is going to look like, but it’s not like it’s a raggedy team. It’s still a pretty good team.”
But it’s not as good without Bridgewater, who brings more to Minnesota than the modest 17 touchdowns (14 pass, three rush) he scored last season.
“Everybody genuinely was saddened because of how much everybody likes Teddy,” Allen said. “If you look at his career, when he had to fill in for Matt Cassel at New Orleans – in a season the team did not have Adrian Peterson – what he went through that year and how he fought through it and never complained was impressive. Last year, the offensive line protected him poorly basically the entire season and he never complained about that. Teddy is just such a good, even-keel guy who is a sponge when it comes to learning what they want to do. For those of us close to the situation, to watch him this offseason add some velocity to his fast ball, fit things in tighter windows and just naturally improve in his third year – Bridgewater was sitting on a big season.”
The former first-round pick tore his ACL during a non-contact drill.
“The pall that was cast over Winter Park was eerie,” Allen said. “The players who were next to him, they knew it was bad and it was season-ending. You had a lot of guys circling around him, praying, Zimmer ended practice, and you had some F-bombs dropped as players headed off to the locker room. In my 15 years of calling games for this team, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
With the 23-year-old Bridgewater on the shelf, the Vikings will turn to 36-year-old Shaun Hill, who has played in just 16 games over the last five seasons combined.
“Shaun’s not stupid,” Allen said. “Shaun, physically speaking, is not as gifted as a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL. But Shaun worked with Norv Turner in San Fran, he’s been here for a couple of years and Shaun, in being a scholar of the game, he’s not going to try to do things he can’t do. Shaun’s not going to be the guy who’s going to jump in there and be like, Okay, well, I got to be Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles or whomever.’ He’s going to do what he’s asked to do, and he’s going to do it well. It may not be as explosive as they thought it was going to be, but nevertheless, Shaun’s not going to torpedo games.”
The Vikings open at Tennessee on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. ET.