But when the Panthers released the most important player in the history of the franchise at 30 years old, the news still came as a shock. That they did so in favor of still-unproven five-year NFL veteran Teddy Bridgewater raised eyebrows.
The move was the most significant step of a regime change under second-year team owner David Tepper that includes rookie head coach Matt Rhule.
Rhule spoke with reporters Wednesday and explained the thought process behind favoring Bridgewater over Carolina’s former MVP quarterback.
Teddy Bridgewater ‘knows this offense’
“Cam Newton is a great quarterback and can play in any system,” Rhule said, per ESPN. “In a year like this, especially where we are all kind of in our homes, Teddy is a guy who has been in this offense, knows this offense and had great familiarity with Joe.
“It just made sense to us. But it’s not a comparison to me so much as it is sort of an opportunity for us and we took it.”
Joe, in this instance, is rookie offensive coordinator Joe Brady. And it sounds like the Panthers went with Bridgewater in large part because he knows Brady’s playbook.
Bridgewater played for Brady as Drew Brees’ backup when Brady was an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 2018. Brady spent 2019 as LSU’s passing game coordinator and is credited as the guru behind the Tigers’ explosive offense that led to an undefeated national championship season and crowned quarterback Joe Burrow as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Did coronavirus impact Panthers’ thought process?
It also sounds like Rhule is claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic keeping everyone at home played a role in signing a guy who could fit right into the system. Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million deal with Carolina in free agency, a contract with an annual average that matched up with Newton’s unguaranteed remaining year of his Panthers contract.
A big reason for the Panthers moving on from Newton is because of foot and shoulder injuries that have hampered him for two seasons. But Carolina replaced with a player with his own prolific injury history and hasn’t proven himself as a reliable NFL starter.
Bridgewater with a lot to prove
Bridgewater’s second season with the Minnesota Vikings earned him a Pro Bowl nod, but that was four seasons and a devastating knee injury ago.
Panthers fans are surely hoping team brass saw more in Bridgewater than a guy who knows the playbook when they decided to release the face of the franchise.
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