The Vikings have a decision to make regarding Teddy Bridgewater. Two decisions, actually. One appears a foregone conclusion, the other one open to debate.
The Vikings face a Wednesday deadline to activate Bridgewater to the active roster, or keep him on the physically-unable-to-perform list for the remainder of the season.
There is no deadline to play him. That’s an important distinction to remember in dissecting this quarterback conundrum.
Barring a last-minute stop sign by the medical staff, Bridgewater will be cleared to join the 53-man roster this week. The Vikings made no announcement Monday on Bridgewater’s status because nothing has to be submitted until Wednesday. But that looks like a formality at this point.
As for when he’ll appear in a game for the first time since suffering a traumatic knee injury, what’s the rush? Other than curiosity and general affection for Teddy as a person.
Everyone assumes that Mike Zimmer faces an agonizing decision over whether to re-insert Bridgewater as the starter or stick with Case Keenum a little while longer.
Zimmer ultimately will make the final call, but Keenum holds the key to that decision. If he continues to play well, he’s the guy. If he starts to struggle, make the switch to Bridgewater.
Is it really that tough of a decision?
If anything, Zimmer is operating from a position of strength here. Keenum has performed admirably in relief of Sam Bradford, probably better than anyone could have expected from a backup.
The offense is functioning well under his leadership. The Vikings rank 13th in the NFL in scoring and their receivers — particularly Adam Thielen — have flourished with Keenum as their quarterback.
No, Keenum hasn’t been perfect and occasionally reminds you of why he’s been a backup. But he also has made critical throws and played winning football, not just rode the coattails of a stifling defense, though Zimmer’s ferocious crew is capable of making every game winnable regardless of who is at quarterback.
Keenum provided a steady hand when the sky appeared to be falling on Winter Park again after Bradford’s knee failed him. The Vikings are riding a positive wave right now, which shouldn’t be taken for granted given the NFL’s unpredictable nature. So why disrupt that good vibe prematurely with a decision that can wait?
That doesn’t mean Keenum has a higher ceiling than Bridgewater, or should be considered a long-term answer. All things being equal, give me Bridgewater. But this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s apples-to-uncertainty.
The long view shouldn’t be part of this discussion. Only the present.
The Vikings are 6-2, the offense is clicking, Keenum and his receivers have found chemistry and confidence inside the team is soaring. Let it play out and see where it goes.
If adversity hits and Keenum regresses, Plan B is an exciting option. Maybe even a better option. Nobody knows for sure, but Zimmer holds that card in his hands if and when that time comes.
The guess here is that Bridgewater will play at some point this season. Just seems inevitable, either due to injury or because the coaching staff wants to see what he can do.
His return would send an emotional charge through the entire organization and fan base. There is not a more well-liked player in the locker room. Everybody is rooting for Teddy to complete his journey back from devastating injury.
The unknowns can’t be answered until he plays. No amount of practice time can simulate completely what players face in games. Rust seems inevitable.
If Bridgewater gets the nod at some point and then struggles or shows he needs more time, Zimmer can always go back to Keenum and feel comfortable. Yo-yoing with the quarterback position is not ideal, but Keenum seems mature enough to handle this situation.
He comes across as someone wise to the business, not consumed by labels, starter or backup. He’s also not one to pout. He just stays ready for when he’s asked to play.
Bridgewater’s return is a remarkable story of triumph, but Keenum has done nothing to compel a quarterback change. That could happen eventually, but no need to play that card before the situation calls for it.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org