NEW YORK – After all the talk about whether Teddy Bridgewater could be the face of a franchise, his job now is to keep the face of his new franchise happy.
While a lot of the lead-up to the first round of the NFL draft was about Bridgewater, from here on out it's all about Adrian Peterson, and whether Bridgewater can finally be the quarterback who helps the best running back in football get to a Super Bowl.
"I definitely feel I can be that guy," Bridgewater said late Thursday.
Most rookie quarterbacks are afforded patience in their new town. There is goodwill toward Bridgewater, but patience may be short. Peterson is 29 – old in running back years – and he has admitted to feeling "some urgency" about his future. Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, a former Minnesota defensive end, recently expressed his fear about seeing Peterson in a "Barry Sanders situation" – meaning plenty of highlights but no real playoff success. Let's face it: the best quarterback Peterson ever played with was Brett Favre.
Now Norv Turner is running the offense in Minnesota, and that will mean more pass-catching for Peterson. That's good on his body but potentially risky for his hopes of making a playoff run. If he doesn't have a competent quarterback who can make the right decisions in a pinch, he'll get frustrated quickly.
Bridgewater very much wanted to land in Minnesota. He lobbied to land there because the Vikings have a good offensive line and, in Bridgewater's words, "the best running back in the NFL." He didn't name Peterson and didn't have to. Bridgewater even called Minnesota "quarterback heaven."
Quarterback purgatory is what Minnesota has been lately, with Christian Ponder and a revolving door of backups (Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman, for example) all showing only flecks of promise. It's not hard to stop the Vikings: just stop the superstar rusher. Doleman said "we wasted the opportunity" of having Peterson, and although the past-tense commentary is a bit harsh, it shows how antsy the fan base is about the main and perhaps only reason to buy season tickets.
General manager Rick Spielman was antsy enough to trade up to get the last pick in the first round on Thursday and snag Bridgewater. And while the Louisville product fell like a rock in this draft, he has a good chance to be the first rookie quarterback to start for his new team. Chad Henne is supposedly the starter over Blake Bortles in Jacksonville, and goodness knows what will happen with Johnny Manziel in Cleveland.
"I expect to start when I can show I'm the best quarterback on the roster," Bridgewater said Thursday.
Nicely phrased, but Doleman and the Vikings fans expect Bridgewater to be the best quarterback on the roster immediately. It was Doleman who said Spielman "better get it right this time because he missed it on Christian," and pretty much everyone knows that if the GM whiffs with this pick, he won't be with the team when it moves into its new stadium in 2016.
Peterson might not be either. That's the worry for those hoping to sell the new place out.
Minnesota's fear should also be the league's fear. Once again there was not a single running back taken in the first round of the draft. Peterson's age may signal not only the coming end of a Vikings era, but the end of an NFL era. "A.D." is wildly popular league-wide, and there are some non-Vikings fans who really want to see him on national TV instead of rushing for meaningless yards against Detroit in December.
Teddy Bridgewater is not the face of the franchise. A lot of people hope that remains the case for at least a few more years.