Ragnar was a victim of bad timing.
Asking for $20,000 to watch Teddy Bridgewater play seemed exorbitant.
Had he asked for $20,000 to watch Christian Ponder, everyone would have understood.
The Vikings’ former mascot got a pink slip instead of a pay raise, and is unlikely to be in fur Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Watching a Vikings quarterback play no longer merits hazard pay, but that doesn’t mean we yet know exactly what the locals have in Bridgewater.
His career has already spanned four phases.
He was immediately impressive. Then he slumped. He surged last December. Through two regular-season games this season he has been mysterious. He played perhaps his worst game as a pro against San Francisco, and then played like Good Christian Ponder against the Lions, running well, completing short passes and capitalizing on a strong game from Adrian Peterson. He managed the game and managed it well.
Sunday, the Vikings play the Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium. The Chargers are much like the Vikings in terms of franchise accomplishments. Both teams are frequently competitive. Neither has won a Super Bowl.
The difference between the teams is that the Chargers have had stability at quarterback, in the form of Philip Rivers, while the Vikings have made a series of desperate moves to find a worthwhile starter ever since Brad Childress dismissed Daunte Culpepper’s rehab efforts near that hypothetical Floridian strip-mall Chinese restaurant.
Maybe Bridgewater will lead the Vikings to Super Bowl titles. Maybe he will honor Vikings history by falling apart. More likely than either, he will be a good quarterback for a long time.
Here’s the question Vikings fans should be asking themselves today:
If Bridgewater emulates Rivers, would you be satisfied?
The Vikings chose Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the 2014 draft. He doesn’t project to be a top-five NFL quarterback. To rank in the top five, he would have to become a better player than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo or Peyton Manning and stay ahead of such other young quarterbacks as Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. We haven’t even mentioned Joe Flacco, who has won a Super Bowl, and Eli Manning, who has won two.
Rivers is a former first-round draft pick who has become a prolific passer and a stable franchise quarterback. His postseason record is 4-5. He has given the Chargers stability without elevating a sometimes-good franchise to the Super Bowl.
Would Vikings fans be satisfied with that from Bridgewater?
Bridgewater isn’t going to be a bust. He’s too smart, too diligent, too accurate, too much of a leader. There is no question he’s good enough to be the Vikings’ starter for the long run.
But what if the long run is filled with first-round playoff losses, and the occasional teasing season that leads to a conference title-game loss?
Every fourth or fifth sports fan I meet in Minnesota tells me they gave up on the Vikings after a Super Bowl loss, or a conference-championship loss. For many of those people, the 1998 home loss to Atlanta proved too painful to bear.
That’s the thing about good quarterback play — it’s vital but not predictive. Dan Marino and Rivers never won a Super Bowl. The Vikings have had three quarterbacks produce remarkable seasons in the past 17 years — Randall Cunningham in ’98, Daunte Culpepper in 2004 and Brett Favre in 2009. None made it to the Super Bowl.
Fran Tarkenton made it to the Hall of Fame without winning a Super Bowl.
Many Vikings fans crave the emotional fulfillment only a Super Bowl victory would bring, but championships are mathematically improbable and not always produced by great quarterbacks.
Rivers has completed 65 percent of his passes for 37,299 yards, 256 touchdowns and 125 interceptions. He has taken five teams to the playoffs. He has been durable and at times inspirational.
Rivers is a realistic role model for Bridgewater, which Bridgewater should take as a compliment and Vikings fans may take as a warning.