Early on in Sunday night's Vikings rout of the Giants, Teddy Bridgewater passed a modest but still significant passing yardage milestone: 3,000 yards in the 2015 season.
No big deal, right? Well, it probably shouldn't be. After all, 21 other NFL quarterbacks already have reached that mark this season, while seven are past 4,000 yards. Last season, 22 QBs threw for at least 3,000 yards and 11 threw for more than 4,000.
Daunte Culpepper used to routinely reach the 3,000-yard mark with the Vikings. He got there in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004 — the last of which being the season in which he shattered the team record (still standing) with 4,717 passing yards. In all, a Vikings quarterback has reached the 3,000-yard mark 16 times.
But in the 10-season span between 2005 (the year Culpepper blew out his knee) and 2014, just one Vikings quarterback made it to 3,000 yards: Brett Favre in 2009. Yes, as the NFL grew increasingly pass-happy (there were just 14 QBs who threw for 3,000 yards in 2005, while the number has been at least 20 every season this decade), the Vikings went in the opposite direction.
There are multiple reasons, of course, for this yardage shortfall. At the head of the list is inconsistency at the QB spot since Culpepper's injury, which has impacted the Vikings year-to-year and, more specifically, within seasons.
It's been rare for a Vikings quarterback to play a full season (or close to it) in the last decade, because of injuries and ineffectiveness. Favre did it in 2009 and topped 4,000 yards. Christian Ponder did it in 2012, though he came up just short of 3,000 yards at 2,935. The fewer games your primary QB plays in a season, the less likely you are to have a 3,000-yard passer.
The quarterback shuffle speaks to the Vikings' decadelong search for a permanent quarterback solution post-Daunte. Tarvaris Jackson and Ponder were failed draft picks. Stopgaps like Gus Frerotte, Matt Cassel and Donovan McNabb were not particularly effective placeholders. Favre had one magical season, and that accounts for the one 3,000-yard season before Bridgewater cracked the code this year.
Bridgewater did it this season despite being criticized on many occasions because his stats didn't measure up to others. Two big statistics matter quite a bit, though: He's 10-5 and on pace to start all 16 games.
Having a quarterback reach the 3,000-yard mark is a given for two-thirds of NFL teams these days. For the Vikings, it's cause for celebration — a modest benchmark, sure, but a signal that for a nice change of pace they have stability at the position.