We can get cute in our assessment of the Vikings as they barrel toward the start of training camp later this week, picking out this player here or that player there who will influence the team’s ultimate 2015 success.
The return of Adrian Peterson? Yes, of course. The play of the offensive line, particularly Matt Kalil? Certainly. The wide receivers … the defensive backs … the linebackers … the pass rush … important, important, important, important.
But if we’re being honest, it all begins and ends with Teddy Bridgewater. Yes, he will not succeed or fail by himself — and yes, the play of the offensive line will have a direct bearing on all of it — but in this NFL, it has been well-established: the passing game is royal and the QB is the king. If the Vikings are going to live up to their scary preseason hype — Peter King had them sixth (!) in his preseason power rankings last month, and yes that’s sixth in the NFL, not the NFC, the latter of which even might have turned heads — their season almost certainly will hinge on the play of their second-year quarterback.
#Ted had a promising rookie season, getting better as the year went along. He posted passer rating numbers above 114 in three of his final five starts, and this was without Peterson and with an offensive line decimated by injury (and to a degree general ineffectiveness). He was fantastic under pressure, a great trait (and rare one for a rookie).
That said, there are still legitimate reasons to wonder just how good Bridgewater will become. I still don’t know if he’ll ever throw the deep out with great aplomb (though I still don’t know if that’s essential). And nitpickers can still question whether Bridgewater is more game manager than game-changer.
The really good news, though, is that we don’t have to wonder this: if Bridgewater is primed for a sophomore slump. If you are caught up in that notion, having had the term drilled into your head for years, know that it does not apply to NFL quarterbacks.
There is a wealth of good reading out there on the subject, but I still recommend this Georgetown analytics piece as prime evidence that the sophomore slump, as it pertains to NFL QBs, is a myth.
In more artistic pursuits, you might find it to be a very real thing. A musician will spend an entire lifetime crafting songs up to the point of releasing a debut album and then spend the next year or two cramming and pressing for the same creativity in the follow-up. Same goes for a writer consumed by penning the great American novel and then wondering after it’s smashing success how he or she will ever top it. Eventually those who truly are greats will work through this anguish and produce a body of master works … but it might take time well beyond just the second effort.
Quarterbacking, however, is a cumulative effort. Everything Bridgewater has done up to this point is applicable in his second NFL season and should, in fact, help him become even better (as did virtually every QB in that linked piece above).
So feel free to worry about plenty of things with this year’s Vikings — and even Teddy specifically. But don’t worry about him magically becoming worse with age.