Sometimes in life, you’re given a great thing, but because you’re not used to it or don’t understand what to do with it, you let it go. We’ve seen this occur on numerous occasions in sports, where a team doesn’t recognize the value of the player and get rid of him via trade or by simply releasing him. The Jets are now facing this same situation with their new quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
Let’s flashback to 2015 where the Jets featured journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback. The team actually turned heads as they headed into the final week of the season with a 10-5 record. Up to that point, Fitzpatrick had a good season with 3,724 yards, 29 TDs and 12 Ints, but he and the team faltered in Buffalo, coming up with a dud of a performance, which cost them a trip to the playoffs. Fitz still had a good season overall, finishing with 3,905 yards, 31 TDs and 15 Ints.
A year later, their QB depth chart consisted of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty and things went downhill quickly. Fitzpatrick regressed and the team finished at 5-11. In 2017 they parted ways with Ryan and Geno, kept Petty and Christian Hackenberg and went out and signed 38-year-old Josh McCown, who actually won the starting job and produced a better than expected season before having his campaign ended by an injury in the 13th game of the season. The veteran threw for 2,926 yards with 18 TDs and 9 Ints but the Jets went 5-11 and missed the playoffs again.
Enter 2018 and Teddy Bridgewater.
Hailing from Miami, Bridgewater was a star at Miami Northwestern High School, ultimately being ranked as the #6 dual-threat QB in the nation by Rivals.com. He decided to attend Louisville where he was the team’s star under center for three years. In his freshman year, he threw for 3,452 yards and 25 TDs with 7 Ints en route to helping the Cardinals win the Big East title and earn a berth to the BCS.
In his next two seasons, Bridgewater continued his success, throwing for 7,688 yards, 58 TDs and 12 Ints. He also helped the Cards win the 2013 Sugar Bowl and the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, taking home MVP honors in both games. In his college career, he would throw for 9,817 yards, 72 TDs and 24 Ints, which is why the Vikings selected him with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
In his two seasons as the Vikings’ starter, Bridgewater amassed 6,150 yards, 28 TDs and 22 Ints, with a completion percentage of 64.7%. While those weren’t placing him anywhere near the elite QBs with names like Brady, Rodgers, Brees or Roethlisberger, he did help the team make the playoffs in 2015.
But then came the dreaded injury in 2016, a non-contact injury that everyone on the field at the time knew was devastating. Even his doctor who performed the surgery felt it was beyond bad.
“This surgery was an absolute gut test, a test of what you’re made of, and I’ve seen it break people down,” said Dr. Dan Cooper. “I never saw it break Teddy down. … Most people have no idea the volume of the workload this kid had to put in. He had a toothpick of a leg he had to rebuild.”
The procedure to repair Bridgewater’s horrific leg injury involved reconstructing his left knee, moving tendons from his hamstring to the lateral side of his knee while also repairing knee ligaments.
“It’s certainly the worst knee dislocation in sports I’ve ever seen without having a nerve or vessel injury,” said Cooper. “It’s an injury that about 20-25 percent of NFL players are able to come back from. … It’s a horrific injury. You’ve torn every single thing in your knee and it’s hanging on by one ligament on one side like a hinge.”
Two years later, after months and months of hard work, excruciating pain and physical therapy, Teddy B. signed with the Jets and is performing well, well enough to be dangled as trade bait for teams in need of a QB, giving the Jets the opportunity to start their rookie QB from USC, Sam Darnold.
But why put Darnold in the position where he has to step right into the fire as a rookie? Why put the pressure on him immediately when you have a good player in Bridgewater who can help you win games now.
Despite missing two years, Teddy B. has proven this preseason that he’s ready to play. And what’s the harm in allowing your rookie QB, and franchise future player, to learn from Bridgewater while he gets up to speed? He’s proven he can lead a team to the playoffs and he’s a better option than McCown, who’s a year older and just recovering from an injury suffered towards the end of last season. Petty is gone and Darnold is a rookie, so why not give Bridgewater the rightful opportunity he deserves and has earned (so far in training camp).
Some might point to the fact that rookie QBs have fared pretty decently in their debut, with players like Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, RGIII and Andrew Luck all guiding their teams to the playoffs in their first year in the league. But those QBs also had really good teams to take the pressure off of them, while Darnold would be starting for a team that has won 10 games in two years. Could he be capable of helping the Jets secure more wins? Possibly. But why risk it when they could go the route of Aaron Rodgers or Steve McNair and let the rookie learn the ropes a little before letting them take command of the huddle full time.
Bridgewater gives you that ability immediately. He’s proven that he can do it that at every level.
The former Vikings QB signed a one-year deal for approximately $5 million, with a guaranteed a $500,000 signing bonus, to play with the Jets. And even though he can make $15 million from non-guaranteed salary and incentives, he still gives the Jets better options under center than the other two QBs, both on the field and as a person that Darnold could learn from.
I am blessed with the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do,” Bridgewater said. “That’s what’s most important to me right now. Just waking up every day knowing that I get to continue to play football.
And he deserves to play football because he really CAN play football. In his first two preseason games with Gang Green, Bridgewater has gone 17-23 for 202 yards for 2 TDs and 1 INT. Darnold has gone 21-29 for 158 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. With the weapons they added this offseason, like Isaiah Crowell and Terrelle Pryor, Bridgewater will have more weapons to work with on the field than McCown did last year, which will give the team even better chances of winning games and getting back into playoff contention.
Let’s also not forget that Darnold only played about a season and a half of college ball at USC, as he redshirted his freshman year and then was named the starter after the team’s third game in 2016. This is eerily reminiscent of another USC QB who had one good season, declared for the draft and then was selected by the Jets with their first-round pick, and we all know how that turned out.
Already trailing 14-0, Sanchez gifted the Patriots a fumble in an embarrassing manner, even by the low standards of the Kotite-era Jets. While Sanchez failed and fell the hardest on the play, the sequence was triggered when fullback Lex Hilliard missed a handoff.
So instead of throwing Darnold to the wolves that will be gunning to administer some “welcome to the NFL” treatment to the rookie, give Teddy the reins and let him do what he’s capable of doing.
I hope the Jets recognize what they have and don’t give Bridgewater away because they don’t know what to do with him or because they’re so enamored with a big time QB prospect that they selected with their 3rd pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. And although McCown played pretty well last season, he’s almost 40, returning after a season-ending injury and is on the books for $10 million. Why mess with a good thing that could yield good results at a better price?
Forget the trade bait. Let Teddy B. play.