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Black QB Chronicles: Teddy Bridgewater Dethrones King Cam In Carolina

Cam Newton's slow burn has led to Bridgewater's return to NFL starter.

Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot

In 2018, I wrote a piece supporting Teddy Bridgewater as Jets starter over rookie Sam Darnold. But the Jets wanted to rebuild with Darnold and throw him into the fire rather than allow a veteran to hold down the fort as they continued to dismantle the team under coach Todd Bowles.

So at the end of August 2018, the Jets traded Bridgewater and a 2019 sixth round-pick to the Saints for a 2019 third-round pick.

Cam Newton was three years removed from his 2015 MVP season (which was also the last year Bridgewater was an NFL starter) and Super Bowl appearance but played just 14 games in 2018 due to myriad injuries. It was clear that his body was breaking down and he played in just two games last season.

Newton insisted during Super Bowl week that he would be the Panthers starting QB entering the season. Panthers owner David Tepper, however,  expressed plenty of skepticism regarding the 3-time Pro Bowler’s health, via Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer

It’s a question of how healthy his foot and he is otherwise. And that’s still the number No. 1 overwhelming thing — to see how healthy he is and how we can figure out when he’s healthy or not. And everything comes from that.”

That comment let me know that the Cam Newton Era in Carolina was over. No more dabbing. No more dynamic runs. No more fashion shows and engaging commentary at the podium. With a new head coach and owner in tow, Carolina is moving in another direction.

During the NFL’s free-agent frenzy, our original suspicions were confirmed when the Panthers announced that they have allowed franchise quarterback Newton to seek out a trade.

Newton, who spent eight groundbreaking seasons carrying the Panther’s anemic offense on his multi-dimensional and mighty back is unhappy with how things have transpired and basically called the team liars on IG.

“Stop with the wordplay,” he wrote. “I never asked for it. There is no dodging this one; I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try and play me, or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this; you forced me into this.”

So now, Cam finds himself in the same place Bridgewater was in for the last couple of seasons since returning from injury. He’s a quarterback with a winning pedigree and tons of questions about his ability to perform and physically handle the rigors of the sport.

For the first time in NFL career, he has to search for a job and prove that he can still play in a league that he once dominated on the field, in the headlines, and with endorsements.

There are plenty of teams who will probably give him a holler, but he’ll have to fight for a starting job. His stock is at an all-time low.

Bridgewater, on the other hand, got an opportunity to take over for an injured Drew Brees last season and masterfully orchestrated Sean Payton’s offense to a 5-0 record, highlighted by a 314-yard passing, four-TD game against the Bucs. Bridgewater showed the same poise, accuracy, and mobility that he flexed in his early years as the Vikings franchise QB.

Those five games, combined with Cam’s decline has led us to where we are now. It’s been reported that Bridgewater will sign a three-year $60 million deal to replace Cam as the Panthers’ new signal-caller.

While Teddy hasn’t had the big numbers, or jaw-dropping highlights, of  Cam, Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, he’s what most folks would call a supreme game manager. His intelligence is key, but don’t get it twisted, he can certainly make plays when necessary.

Bridgwater has come a long way from when ESPN analyst Rex Ryan tried to assassinate any chance of a career revival.

It was obvious that Rex didn’t like him, but to say something as ridiculous as “he can’t play” is absurd.

Early Glory

The Miami native was a star at Miami Northwestern High School, where Rivals.com ranked him as the #6 dual-threat QB in the nation. He signed with Louisville and in his three years under center for the Cardinals. he threw for 9,817 yards and 72 TDs with 24 Ints while leading the team to an overall record of 30-9. These numbers are one of the reasons why the Vikings selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

In his two seasons as the Vikings’ starter, Bridgewater threw for 6,150 yards, 28 TDs and 22 Ints, with a completion percentage of 64.7%. While those numbers didn’t make him elite, he did help the team make the playoffs in 2015 and you could see his trajectory as a passer and all-around force was moving upward.

Then came the horrific non-contact injury he suffered in 2016, something that threatened his future career. But he worked through the injury and two years later, he signed with the Jets before being traded to the Saints.

With all of the crappy quarterbacks getting opportunities to start, it was strange to see Bridgewater as a backup in the league the past few seasons when he definitely could be starting.

“People thought he was special. He was always underrated,” said NFL analyst and HOF receiver Cris Carter. “That’s why he had to leave the state of Florida and go to Louisville. He was prolific throwing the ball there, winning a whole bunch of games. Then all of sudden the draft comes around, and people start downgrading him for all these types of reasons that were unfounded.”

Payton, to his credit, not only praised his QB but also invested in Bridgewater. First trading for him and then ignoring the doubters around him who felt that Taysom Hill was the better option when Brees got hurt. Payton was rewarded for his investment, which also allowed Brees more time to properly heal from his hand injury instead of rushing back.

Life has a funny way of working itself out. Just an eye-blink ago, Cam Newton was considered the future of NFL quarterbacks and Teddy Bridgewater was a forgotten prospect whose career was cut short by an injury that many felt he’d never recover from. Now Cam is the question mark and Teddy is sitting at the former king’s table ready to make his own mark and finish writing his own incredible NFL story

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