The only franchise quarterback in the Vikings’ long history is Fran Tarkenton, who was the primary starter over 13 seasons from 1961 to ’66 and 1972 to ’78. Since then, the Vikings have struggled to find a long-term solution at that position, but it seems like they might have the answer in second-year starter Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings’ struggles at quarterback have been well-documented. After Tarkenton, the next longest streak of seasons as the team’s primary starter belongs to Tommy Kramer, who started nine or more games seven times between 1979 and ’86.
In the past 20 seasons, the Vikings have used 18 starting quarterbacks. The longest streak of consecutive seasons as a starter over those 20 years is Daunte Culpepper’s run of six seasons, from 2000 to ’05. Without question, the Vikings have not had a franchise quarterback during that stretch.
That kind of inconsistency has hurt the franchise. By comparison, the Packers have used only five starting quarterbacks in the past 20 seasons, and three of those five played in 2013 when Aaron Rodgers was injured.
Yes, the Vikings have to believe Bridgewater is finally the kind of player that can become a long-term leader at quarterback. Last season the rookie started 12 games, completed 259 of 402 passes for 2,919 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, getting better with each game.
Despite his somewhat slow start, he still finished with an 85.2 passer rating, which is the highest of any Vikings quarterback since Brett Favre’s 107.2 in his record-setting season in 2009 when he took the team to the NFC Championship Game.
Bridgewater talked recently about changes he has noticed so far this season around the club.
“It’s a totally different team,” he said. “Nothing in this league stays the same, so it’s a team that’s excited to play and we can’t wait to get out there.”
Bridgewater’s best stretch last season was his final six games, when he threw 10 touchdowns to six interceptions and completed 122 of 177 passes for 1,440 yards.
Bridgewater said those results came from good game planning, which he believes will carry into this season.
“I was able to go out there and just play my game,” said the 2014 first-round pick, the 32nd overall selection. “I wasn’t thinking too much, I was just going out there and executing at a high level.
“And you know that’s due to having to remain a student of the game. Our coaching staff does a great job of game planning around our skills and that allows us to go out there and play fast.”
Likes his weapons
Bridgewater is excited for the upcoming season, knowing he will have a lot of weapons at his disposal, including the return of former MVP running back Adrian Peterson.
“We’re glad to have Adrian back,” Bridgewater said. “He’s a guy that works hard. We know what he brings to the table, and I’m excited for him going into this year.
“He’s a pro, and he’s a great guy and a great mentor, also. Watching him come into work every day and watching how he carries himself makes everything a lot easier. Those guys, [running backs] Jerick [McKinnon], Matt [Asiata] and Joe [Banyard] are also glad to have him back.”
Another big part of the offense is going to be the tight end position. Bridgewater says Kyle Rudolph, who caught two passes in the first preseason game from Bridgewater, is going to be much improved now that he’s healthy.
“He’s like a new player right now,” Bridgewater said. “Everyone talks about Adrian and [wide receiver] Mike Wallace, but Kyle when he’s healthy is like a new player out there.”
And how has Bridgewater liked having Wallace as a new No. 1 receiver? “I like Mike a lot,” he said. “He’s a fast guy, and everyone knows what he’s capable of doing. We’re glad to have him and add some speed to our lineup, which already has some great talent.”
Still, the most important key to success for Bridgewater and the offense will be the play of the offensive line, which needs to stay healthy.
“There’s a big difference, you need to have all your guys healthy,” he said. “Those guys are doing a great job of communicating with each other and communicating with me and understanding what the coaches are asking.”
• According to the gambling website Bovada: Peterson is third among all NFL players in the MVP odds at 12-1. The only players in front of him are two quarterbacks, the Packers’ Rodgers at 5-1 and the Colts’ Andrew Luck at 7-1. Peterson didn’t play most of last season, but that clearly hasn’t hampered the feeling that if the Vikings are going to make the playoffs, he will have to be a big part of it — which explains why his MVP odds are so high.
• Former Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel apparently is the early front-runner to start for the Bills. Coach Rex Ryan named him the starter for their preseason opener against Carolina on Friday. … The word out of Oakland is that Christian Ponder is still the second-string quarterback behind Derek Carr, but there is pressure being applied to him by Matt McGloin, a third-year QB out of Penn State.
• A nice honor for Gophers graduate assistant Trevor Olson: He was recently named one of Northern Illinois’ 50 greatest football players. Olson, a Richfield native whose father, Todd, was a football coach at Edina and Richfield, set a college football record by starting 54 games. He played offensive tackle there for three seasons under now Gophers football coach Jerry Kill.
• Former Chaska standout Brad Hand has moved back into the starting rotation for the Miami Marlins. Since July 4, Hand has a 0.52 ERA over 17⅓ innings and opponents are hitting only .136 against him with nine strikeouts. Hand won his most recent start against Atlanta on Sunday.
• Cloquet native and Minnesota Duluth assistant hockey coach Derek Plante is coaching the U.S. Under-18 Select Team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Slovakia.