Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 6-of-8 passes for two touchdowns, 129 yards and one interception in his Pro Bowl debut last Sunday.
The big numbers earned Bridgewater Offensive MVP consideration and surely boosted the confidence of the second-year quarterback. Bridgewater, however, joined a group of elite company just by showing up at the Pro Bowl.
When Bridgewater slid into an alternate spot on the Pro Bowl rosters, he became one of just eight active starting quarterbacks in the NFL to debut in the all-star game during their second or rookie season.
Two of these quarterbacks are playing in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning appeared in his first Pro Bowl during his second season in 1999. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton played in the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2011. Three others have also matured into franchise names – Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton.
Bridgewater, Raiders second-year quarterback Derek Carr and Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Jameis Winston were all selected as alternates for this year’s Pro Bowl to account for the final three.
Aaron Rodgers picked up his first Pro Bowl honor in his second season as a starter, though it was his fifth season in the league.
Despite Bridgewater’s late addition to the Pro Bowl, the experience at such an early stage in his career argues that he could mature into the franchise quarterback the Vikings hoped he would be.
Manning has been selected to 13 more Pro Bowls, Brady 11 more, Newton has three in five seasons and Wilson three in four seasons. Dalton earned a second honor in 2014 and was on pace for another this season before being injured. Rodgers has picked up four more Pro Bowl selections.
The early Pro Bowl debut didn’t translate to instant success the following season for all of these quarterbacks, but history shows it means big things are on the horizon.
Brady threw for 3,764 yards and 28 touchdowns in his third season in 2002, but New England finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl. He would recover to lead the Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004.
Manning followed his first Pro Bowl by leading the league in passing yards (4,413) and touchdowns (33) in 2000 and capped the season with a first-round loss in the playoffs.
Wilson led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title and NFC Championship in the 2013 and 2014 seasons after his Pro Bowl debut.
Dalton’s numbers improved his second season in 2012 with 3,669 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. He also ran for four touchdowns. He led Cincinnati back to the postseason, but the Bengals would lose in the first round again.
Rodgers threw for 3,922 yards and 30 touchdowns, while running for four more before leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title in 2010.
Bridgewater continues to be used as more of a game manager than big playmaker, while these five other quarterbacks have been considered playmakers most of their careers. Bridgewater’s impressive showing at the Pro Bowl could be a sign that he’s capable of much more if given the freedom.
The Vikings have had only three quarterbacks in franchise history – Warren Moon, Daunte Culpepper and Fran Tarkenton – play in more than one Pro Bowl and each did it in back-to-back seasons.
Current starting quarterbacks debuting in the Pro Bowl by their third season or earlier:
-Peyton Manning 1999 (second second)
-Tom Brady in 2001 (second season)
-Russell Wilson in 2012 (rookie season)
-Cam Newton in 2011 (rookie season)
-Carson Palmer in 2005 (third season, but second year in starter role)
-Philip Rivers in 2006 (third season, but first year as a starter)
-Aaron Rodgers in 2009 (fifth season, but second as a starter. He didn’t start a single game before 2008.)
-Jay Cutler in 2008 (third season)
-Andy Dalton in 2011 (rookie season)
-Matt Ryan in 2010 (third season)
-Teddy Bridgewater in 2015 (second season)
-Derek Carr in 2015 (second season)
-Jameis Winston in 2015 (rookie season)