Teddy Bridgewater has been billed as the NFL’s best backup quarterback, the heir apparent to Drew Brees, a former playoff quarterback in Minnesota and the highest-paid No. 2 signal-caller in football.
The Saints gave him a guaranteed $7.25 million contract for this season. They also threw in incentives that could push that figure to $12.5 million if disaster struck.
And strike it did last Sunday at Los Angeles Coliseum, when Drew Brees went down with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He’ll be out at least six weeks.
Officially, Teddy Time for the Saints began at the 3:29 mark of the first quarter against the Rams. Unfortunately for Sean Payton’s rhythmic, Hall-of-Famer-run offense, Teddy Time was Too Terrible over the next 56:31.
One could argue Bridgewater’s performance was understandable considering it was his first meaningful, pressurized action in the 1,342 days since Blair Walsh duck-hooked that 27-yard field goal in the Vikings’ playoff loss on Jan. 10, 2016.
One could argue it’s borderline miraculous Bridgewater is even playing considering the gruesome left knee injury he sustained simply walking back to the huddle during a light practice in August 2016.
However, one also could argue Bridgewater showcased the same flaws he fought with before the injury. He was too conservative and too quick to check down or throw the ball away. He lacked deep-ball accuracy. As he dinked and dunked, nine Rams defenders packed the line of scrimmage and the Saints’ offense ground to a halt.
In other words, Teddy, it’s time to take more chances because playing it overly safe isn’t going to work. Just like it didn’t work in last Sunday’s 27-9 loss.
The Rams were beatable that day, too. Jared Goff, the highest-paid player in the league, was off his game. Sean McVay’s high-octane offense was sputtering. And what should have been a momentum-shifting — and potentially game-changing — fumble return for a Saints touchdown and a 10-3 lead became just another officiating blunder to go against New Orleans.
In eight possessions, Bridgewater moved the Saints an average of 18.9 yards. There were four punts and one turnover on downs. There were “drives” that went minus-12 and minus-2 yards.
Bridgewater missed all of 2016 and attempted only two passes while mopping up in a 34-7 Vikings win in Week 15 of the 2017 season. He threw 23 passes for the Saints in 2018, including 22 in a Week 17 start that came after New Orleans already had secured its seed for the postseason.
Bridgewater is expected to start Sunday at Seattle. However, Payton told reporters this week not to assume Taysom Hill — the 6-2, 221-pound do-everything athlete — is the No. 2 quarterback behind Bridgewater.
“We will approach this game with two quarterbacks and we’ll see where we’re at with it,” Payton said. “We will have the right play relative to what these guys are going to be doing.”
Bridgewater seemed a little startled when a reporter asked if he thinks he’ll start Sunday.
“I mean moving forward, I hope so,” he said. “But no, I think being able to play last week, and I’ve been the backup here. But whoever is out there, whether it’s me or Taysom, we expect to lead this team and do what’s right.
“At the end of the day, Taysom isn’t Drew, and I’m not Drew. And we know that. He’s the standard.”
Bridgewater went on to say he doesn’t have to do anything exceptional within the team scheme. That everyone just needs to be the “best version” of themselves.
Yeah, but Teddy, buddy, it’s also time to spice it up a bit. Come out of that shell, trust your game and take more chances.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: email@example.com